I remember watching the original RoboCop when I was just a kid. It was fascinating as an action movie, but obviously the bigger themes of the movie were overlooked. Now, with this reboot of the franchise, I’m able to look at the concept with a different lens. I expected very little, after pretty forgettable reboots lately like Total Recall.
The gist. We meet Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and his partner (Michael K. Williams from The Wire), as they are getting close to bagging a bigtime criminal. Well, before they can get close, Alex’s car is rigged to explode and he nearly dies. Gigantic tech corporation Omnicorp (headed by Michael Keaton) decides to save him and turn him into a robot, mostly to boost public opinion of robotic police officers. However, this causes a few problems, mostly as Murphy tries to negotiate his orders and his feelings. The movie also stars Abbie Cornish as his wife, Jackie Earle Haley as military strategist for the robots, and Gary Oldman as the scientist who tries to help Murphy adjust.
A lot actually works here. This is a case where going in with low expectations likely helped me to enjoy this movie.
On a superficial level, this movie really works as an action sci-fi shoot-em-up movie. The effects were much better than I expected, aside from a few bad greenscreen shots. And even though the film is rated PG-13, the action was really enjoyable. I found myself grinning through most of the movie, which is a definite good sign.
On a deeper level, this movie brings up some really interesting questions and does a great job at trying to answer them. I started to tear up a bit when Murphy visits his son for the first time after his accident. The action in this movie is balanced well with some intense and dramatic moments. Some critics have faulted the film for dragging in the earlier sections, as Murphy is trying to adjust to being a robot, but I appreciated these moments, both as a character piece but also in a world-setting aspect, to help us understand the world we’re watching.
Overall, some solid performances from Joel Kinnaman (who I’m unfamiliar with prior to this), Michael Keaton, and Jackie Earle Haley. Gary Oldman is also a standout, giving us a complex character who is second-handedly doing horrible things but with good intentions.
I couldn’t help but think as I watched this movie… This would be an incredible videogame. An open world Detroit that you could travel via an awesome motorcycle. First-person shooting with all sorts of high tech gadgets. And then an Arkham Origins style detective mode to solve crimes and track down criminals. That game would be stellar, if done right.
What doesn’t work?
Not much really… The movie is a little predictable, though the path they take to get there is an interesting one. Also, the CGI failed at a few points, mostly in the slower moments. For example, a conversation between Keaton and Oldman was clearly greenscreen and whenever RoboCop walked around normally, his suit looked incredibly computer-generated.
If you want something entertaining and you want an action movie, RoboCop might do the trick for you. It’s not going to wow anyone or win any awards, but RoboCop is a solid choice if you just want some fun shoot-em-up action and maybe a few interesting dinner topics following the movie about ethics.