I don’t know how or why I was allowed to watch the original Robocop film as a kid – if you don’t remember, it’s excessively violent and vulgar – but I totally grew up on it. “I’d buy that for a dollar” was a frequently quoted line in the Hickman home. Like any other fan of the film, I’ve been worried that the remake would go the route of the Total Recall remake, that it would be a one-way trip to unimpressive BlaaLand – but it’s not. With a different tone and style, this new Robocop applies new twists and doesn’t even try competing with the original, which is exactly how it’s able to stand on its own.
Joel Kinnaman (from the twice-canceled AMC series The Killings) plays Alex Murphy, a Detroit City cop in the not-too-distant future. When his body is destroyed from a mob boss’ explosive attack, Murphy’s somewhat intact and barely alive remains are selected as a candidate for a local technology and weapons company’s prototype experiment. With only his head, chest cavity and left arm usable, Murphy is given a robotic armored body that serves the dual purpose of keeping him alive.
In the original Robocop, Alex Murphy was never himself after the attack and bodily upgrade. He was a machine that occasionally viewed flashbacks from Murphy’s life. In the remake, Robocop is the opposite. He’s a man who learns to cope with his machine body. The ethics of the project are questioned. Themes relevant with today’s drones and homeland security are ever-present. Satire is still applied via the addition of a fun role played by Samuel L. Jackson. A nice human element is added. While the trailers and TV spots show loads of action, there’s a lot more character and emotion than action. I can see this scale-tipping blend bothering some, but I found it more than acceptable because it causes Robocop to feel like an origins story for a superhero – not unlike the first Iron Man.
Robocop isn’t the best remake, but it carries a quality higher than what you’re probably expecting. It’s smart, fun, well-acted, visually compelling and likeable – descriptions that you’re not hearing about this weekend’s romantic Valentine’s releases.
(Photo credit: OmniCorp)