Let’s talk a little bit about remakes. Many people are getting sick and tired of them to the point where moviegoers in general are saying that Hollywood has run out of ideas. And to certain degree, I agree with them.
However, I will point out that there have been some good remakes (The 2010 version of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan comes to mind.) But there are some remakes that have come out that actually justify people bashing the concept of remakes. The best example of this is the 2012 remake of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall, which wasn’t even a remake of Total Recall at all. It was a really crappy remake of Blade Runner. And another major problem with that remake is that it was released with a PG-13 rating while the original film carried an R rating for its excessive violence (I mean Ahnuld rips a guy’s arms out of his sockets for god’s sakes.)
And the remake of Total Recall shares one other thing with the movie we’re reviewing today: This movie is also a PG-13 rated remake of an overly-violent R-rated movie directed by Paul Verhoeven, who was also responsible for such films as Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers (also rumored to be getting a remake,) and who could forget his crowning achievement, Showgirls. However, without going into details too much further: Let’s get on with the remake we’re reviewing today: Robocop.
As far as the story goes, it does follow the format established by the original 1987 movie which was released as an ultra-violent satirical take on the world of the not-too-distant future (this film is set in 2028.) One thing I do like however is the fact that the remake’s director, Jose Padilha manages to keep the Robocop story relevant to going-ons in today’s world as referenced in the film’s opening where a show called “The Novak Factor,” a Fox-News type show hosted by Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak opens his show with a news story about how America is using robot drones to liberate Iran and cut back on military casualties and has the host praising the drones’ successful thwarting of a suicide bomber attack and believes that the drone program could also work to curb the increase in crime and cut back on the casualties of law enforcement officials.
The drones are actually the product of Omnicorp, whose CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) gets the idea of putting a permanently-injured police officer inside one of the robotic drones to help sway public opinion in favor of the use of drones in American law enforcement and enlists his top scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to find a test subject for their “Robocop.”
Eventually they find their subject after a car bomb placed by a drug lord severely injures maverick Detroit Detective Alex Murphy (played by Joel Kinnaman.) And here’s where things differ from the original: In the original, Murphy (who was played by Peter Weller) was killed by a hitman. Here, he is still alive when he is integrated into the Robocop suit with the consent of his bereaved wife Clara (Abbie Cornish.) And another big difference from the original is that Murphy’s partner Lewis is a man rather than a woman, probably to focus more on Murphy’s family which they weren’t really able to do in the original.
After extensive training that includes tinkering with his brain to suppress his humanity and natural decision-making to make him more efficient, Robocop is unveiled to the public where he immediately wins the public over by arresting a wanted criminal who managed to blend into the crowd. And for a while the crime rate begins to drop. That is until Murphy’s human side begins to override his programming as he sets out to solve his own attempted murder, just like in the original.
There are also some Easter Eggs from the original movie that pop up during the remake: For example the original Robocop theme music pops up occasionally during the course of the movie, most notably during Samuel L. Jackson’s Novak Factor reports. Plus the model for the original Robocop is seen in Sellars’ office. The ED-209, another drone robot that was one of Robocop’s adversaries in the original movie pops up as well. But with some deviations here and there partly to keep it relevant with today’s society, the remake more or less follows the original story pretty well.
The acting for the most part was pretty solid. Joel Kinnaman is a little bit more human in the role of Robocop than Peter Weller was in the first. Once again, I also like the fact that we got to see more of Murphy as a family man in the remake which more or less corrects a mistake that was made in the original films. Abbie Cornish also does a good job for what little screen time she has as Murphy’s wife. However the real performances comes from Gary Oldman as the conflicted scientist who knows that what he’s doing is wrong as far as tampering with Murphy’s brain to make him less human but ultimately redeems himself when he saves Murphy’s life when Sellars orders him terminated. Also Samuel L. Jackson comes through yet again as only he can and here’s where I will give out a little ending spoiler here: He gets to say his favorite word even though it’s bleeped out because he’s on air at the time. I’ll say, if Samuel L. Jackson really was a reporter for Fox News, I would definitely watch. Also Jackie Earle Haley (who also starred in a remake: Playing Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake of Nightmare on Elm Street) is pretty funny as the military guy who trains Murphy and consistently refers to him as “Tin Man.” And Michael Keaton does a brilliant job channeling an evil version of Steve Jobs as Sellars.
The effects are awesome in this movie and as far as the new Robocop armor goes as well as the new capabilities it possesses goes, I was blown away. For starters, the trademark Robocop helmet with the visor only goes down when he goes into combat mode whereas when he is not in action, the visor is up and you can see his face. When I first saw production stills for this movie with Kinnaman in the Robocop armor, I was like “Did he raid Christian Bale’s Batman costumes from Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy?” Again the Batman connections to this movie are enormous (in addition to original Batman actor Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman who played Commissioner Gordon in the Nolan films.) And I also like the idea of Robocop creating a weapon to suit whatever situation he faces rather than relying on only one giant gun that only he can fire. For example, instead of just a gun where he can only kill people like in the original, he also has an assortment of non-lethal weapons including a taser which he uses quite a bit. Plus he also runs and jumps, which is something he couldn’t do in the original.
So I know what you’re thinking and despite the fact that the movie received a mixed reception from both critics and fans of the original franchise, I have to file this remake under “good remake.” For one thing, this movie is a better remake of a Paul Verhoeven movie than Total Recall, especially since this is an actual remake of Robocop rather than another movie that is pretending to be a remake of Total Recall. And comparing it to the original films, I have to say that while it’s almost as good as the original (the prolonged training sequences slow the movie down,) it’s way better than Robocop 3 (the franchise’s other attempt to make Robocop more appealing to a wide audience apart from the cartoon series and live-action TV series, both of which I watched growing up.)
So if you want to see a good remake and are a fan of the franchise and want to see a fresh take on an iconic character, then this movie is for you. I can’t recommend this enough.