I was seven years old when I first saw the original Robocop movie and when I heard that studios were going for a reboot, I was immediately skeptical, seeing as remakes of other popular blockbusters like Total Recall, Nightmare on Elm Street and Dredd added nothing new to the franchise. The trailer did not spark any interest whatsoever seeing as there was a bevy of A-listers who signed up for the project. At first, I saw this as a sign of overcompensation, but curiosity still got the best of me and I finally went to the cinema myself to see how it fared against its predecessor.
The storyline was pretty similar to the 1987 Sci-fi. Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, The Killing), a Detroit cop was seriously injured after an attempt on his life by corrupt policemen in the pocket of powerful crime lord,left him with serious burns, amputation and blindness on one eye. With his wife trying to save what’s left of her husband, she agrees to enlist him in the Robocop program, in an attempt by Omnicorp, a multinational conglomerate involved in the supply of robot drones to circumvent the law and put their robots in the streets for law enforcement purposes. But when Murphy’s humanity gets in the way of mechanically functioning like the droids, Omnicorop CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) orders Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to do whatever it takes to make Alex as good as the robots, even if it means deactivating the essence of his humanity.
I must admit that despite my initial reservations, this Robocop reboot was not too bad. The style was much different from the original, as were the designs, which were now understandably sleeker and minimized compared to the original Robocop’s bulky robotics. The action sequences also seemed like video game segments, lighter, faster and scored with cool background music, but there was always that nod to the original with the way the droids looked and functioned. Even Robocop himself was presented in his classic costume, (but later upgraded to tactical) so there was an obvious attempt to win over the fans of the original movie while introducing Robocop as a hero to a new generation. Alex’s partner in this version was also named Lewis like the original but Lewis in 1987 was a woman named Anne and 2014 Lewis was a black guy named Jack. Anne played a bigger role in the movie than her 2014 counterpart.
What I felt was lacking in this version of Robocop was a main villain that would totally get audiences on the side of Robocop. Aside from Jackie Earle Haley (Rick Mattox), there was really no real competition or challenge for Robocop, mainly because the movie focused too much on the ethics behind putting a man on the machine and the politics surrounding it that it became more of a weird family drama than a Sci-Fi action movie. I wanted 2014 Robocop to be a badass from the start but I must admit that it took him a while before he was able to figure out what was going on and override his program. And what was it about Omnicorp’s power to shut him down anytime? Totally unfair, and uncool. If it were me, instead of a biased news anchor, I would have cast Samuel L. Jackson the main antagonist, or set him up to be the bad guy in a potential sequel. That would have upped the cool quotient of this reboot.
All in all, Joel Kinnaman managed to pull off his first big ticket starring role, and Director Jose Padilha managed to come out with a passable reboot. Its always a challenge to surpass a classic but in this case, I think Robocop did well enough as a solid standalone. And for me, not ruining the franchise is already considered a victory for all concerned.