You know what’s so interesting about the early comparisons I heard critics using with this movie? They weren’t talking about the original Robocop from 1987. Many were comparing it to the Total Recall remake recently. Weird.
When the original Robocop came out in 1987, Michael Keaton was filming Beetlejuice. He’d play Batman a few years later (and the announcement of that casting upset many as much as the recent announcement of Ben Affleck as the caped crusader).
Keaton is one of those ‘80s stars we don’t see much these days, so it was fun to see him play the bad guy running OmniCorp, a company that builds robots for security purposes.
This remake doesn’t use much from the original. That can be good and bad. It doesn’t have the same satire as the original, but it does have a better cast, better acting, special effects, and they left out the scene with the bad guy snorting coke off the breast of a hooker (perhaps because The Wolf of Wall Street beat them to it). This version is a lot less violent, but arrives at a perfect time – when there’s controversy about drones, war, and how to handle criminals. It’s a pleasant surprise that the movie never gets preachy about the politics and moral questions that arise.
It’s always a blast seeing Samuel Jackson on screen (right, Sam Rubin?). He runs a show called “The Novak Element” which looks like something you’d see on Fox News. With his straightened hair, twitchy eye, and that voice that wants to strike down upon thee criminals with great vengeance and furious anger. Most of the world seems to be using robots to keep the bad guys in check, but the U.S. is reluctant. Not sure why, as the robots could easily be taught to read the Miranda Rights or anything else. But hey – you get a few of these robots malfunctioning and you have another HAL on your hands.
OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton), who has Jay Baruchel doing market research, figures that the U.S. might accept these robots if they were part man – and could make decisions a robot can’t. That might mean not shooting at somebody with a child nearby that could be hit by crossfire, etc.
Alex Murphy, a Detroit cop (which sounds like an ‘80s hybrid of all the Eddie Murphy characters), is played wonderfully by Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman. He gets injured on the job and most of his body is damaged. We get one of many amazing visuals. We see his lungs, heart, and brain being kept alive…and a robotic suit created on top of that.
Gary Oldman, figuring the Robocop suit looks enough like Batman, brings his brilliant acting to this movie. He’s the scientist in charge of putting a billion dollars into the Iron Man…errr, tin man, suit. And aside from the fact that the cop spends more of his time thinking about his wife (Abbie Cornish, wasted in the housewife role)…everything works well.
It’s interesting that we don’t always like Sellers motivations for creating the guy, but we can understand it. He never goes over-the-top yelling at everyone around him to create the perfect machine. The same with Oldman’s Dr. Dennet Norton character. He’s not some mad scientist that’s merely pushing the limits of the human mind. He wants to do the right thing, but also wants to see the limits of this technology. Oh, at this point, I should probably mention it takes place in 2028. Another pleasant surprise being, it’s not some post-apocalyptic future.
TV actor Patrick Garrow is good in his small role as the head drug dealer; and as always, Jackie Earle Haley knocks it out of the park as a designer/head of security for OmniCorp. He never really warms up to the idea of a human inside one of his robots.
There were so many interesting scenes in this movie, it made the film perfectly paced. One of those involve a dream that Robocop is having when he first realizes he’s “trapped” in that suit. Of course, watching him run out of the factory reminds you immediately of the soldier running in his new body in Avatar.
Since it’s in IMAX, the loud volume of everything was annoying at first (am I getting old?). Yet, it soon drowned out the sound of babies that various parents brought to this movie. It’s far from being a kids film, but people just don’t want to pony up for a babysitter and don’t care about disturbing those around them…or that their young children are being exposed to a rather violent film (though not as violent as the original).
The movie loses points for having a shaky-cam in so many scenes that weren’t necessary. We don’t need to see a couple eating dinner and the camera shaking everywhere…or Keaton explaining the importance of getting something done in a board meeting, with the cameraman shaking like he’s nervous that he’ll lose his job.
The movie gets those points back though, for using the Dutch band Focus’ great song “Hocus Pocus” during a battle scene, and ending the movie with The Clash’s version of “I Fought the Law”…and the law won. And this one, won me over.
It gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.