Whilst completely compelling in its own right, RoboCop has inevitably faced criticism due to the fact that it is a remake of the 1987 cult classic. Some have asked whether it was necessary to remake such a classic – my answer was no. But the updated version is a good science fiction film IF you can try and forget about the original whilst watching it. Spoilers to follow.
Starring Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy, a cop who is hurt beyond repair by criminals with a vendetta, RoboCop gives us a plausible glimpse into the future. Modern technology isn’t that far away from that depicted in the movie and it is entirely acceptable to believe that at one point, in the near future, scientists will try to merge human and technology. For me, that is why the reboot works so well. In 1987 all of the science fiction elements of the original would have been exactly that – science fiction. But now it is almost reality.
And so Alex becomes a cyborg with the help of OmniCorp, a corporation that has developed robotic soldiers to help maintain the peace in foreign countries. Again, this draws parallels with recent wars in Iraq and Pakistan. The Dreyfuss Act is in force, preventing OmniCorp’s drones from being used in the US because of similar reasons listed in I, Robot – robots have no conscious, so why should we give them control over life and death? The company’s CEO, Raymond Sellars (played fantastically by Michael Keaton), finds a loophole in the law which enables him to fuse flesh and metal to create a robotic soldier, with a conscience, which will be allowed on US soil.
The scenes following Alex’s transformation are bleak to behold. Alex inevitably tries to escape and we learn that OmniCorp have complete control over Alex’s life. This poses questions as to whether scientists should be allowed this power. A particularly shocking scene sees Alex stripped of his robotic appendages to be left with a half destroyed head, a hand attached to metal and lungs encased in glass, pulsing sickly away. It makes for hard viewing.
The first half of the film, whilst engaging, does drag slightly, but the second half more than makes up for it. It’s action-packed, with plenty of gunfire and death, and the science fiction elements take a backseat. But as OmniCorp prepare to take RoboCop before the waiting public, Gary Oldman’s Dr. Dennett Norton shows trepidation. He controls Alex’s life entirely but he doesn’t want to. This half also poses the notion of corrupt police officers and politicians and to what extent the government goes to in order to hide it. It’s something that will clearly be happening in real life and this is another reason why the film is so relevant for the present day.
Another positive element of RoboCop is the involvement of Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan as Alex’s wife and son, Clara and David respectively. We see, albeit not enough, the impact that Alex’s new life has upon them as OmniCorp increase their control over Alex and prevent him from seeing his family. There are plenty of emotional scenes amongst the three of them, particularly when Alex has his personality stripped completely, blanks his family and guns a man down in front of his young son.
Of course, the film isn’t completely without problems. As I’ve already said the pacing is somewhat of an issue, as is the dodgy camerawork in some of the more fast-paced scenes. Samuel L. Jackson is particularly underused as Pat Novak and it’s a shame because Jackson is an actor that pretty much everyone loves. There is a scene that is reminiscent of Snakes on a Plane and it got laughs aplenty from the audience, but aside from this Jackson’s role is reduced and a major let down.
The film ends with the possibility of a sequel, which I hope happens, but if it doesn’t the film could be left as a standalone. If fans of the original can try and forget it whilst watching this one then perhaps a further film is a possibility. After all, not all remakes are rubbish – just look at Rise of the Planet of the Apes.