Comparisons to the 1987 classic are bound to happen, especially when the opening scene riffs the original signature tune, however this reboot not only incorporates the expected it executes them in beautiful ways.
I'll buy that for a dollar
In a not too distant future America spearheads 'peacekeeping' operations across the globe with flying drones and bipedal machines. Journalist/puppet Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) espouses the pro-robots-for-American-safety rhetoric via his news program in an attempt to persuade those who are 'robophobic' to repeal the Dreyfuss Act: legislation that prevents robots from bearing arms on United States soil.
Haemorrhaging funds in the current socio-political context, OmniCorp's CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) tasks his senior scientist Doctor Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) with developing the ultimate public relations solution: a man-machine to sway public opinion in OCP's favour.
Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) takes his police work so seriously he becomes a bullet magnet for professional criminals. One notorious felon orders a hit and the next thing you know poor Murphy is maimed. Fortunately, Murphy is the top candidate for OCP's new pet project. With the wife's (Abbie Cornish) approval, and an emotionally devastated son, the RoboCop is created.
The cast are all superb. Gary Oldman steals the show as the doctor who is constantly confronted with moral and ethical decisions that impact the story from start to finish. Michael Keaton's role is like a scarily accurate portrayal of what may go on behind closed doors at Google. Abbie Cornish initially comes across as a blonde damsel in distress however she breaks the stereotype that could have been and strives to be a force to be reckoned with—in the name of transparency, truth and love.
Samuel L. Jackson, while not necessarily apparent from the get-go, becomes the comic relief. His character is a neat satire of Fox News presenters and does an excellent job of providing a little exposition while being ridiculously biased.
Murphy's former partner, Lewis, is Omar from The Wire (Michael Williams). For that fact alone I condone the decision to change the character's gender compared to the classic. The man is cool; he has a scar. My thoughts in the cinema about the gender change brought about this question: would critics be harsh on a female Lewis if RoboCop's wife appeared to be a stronger rolemodel?
The star lead Joel Kinnaman makes a great cyborg hero; Kinnaman's voice is not overtly modulated which helps humanise the role or at least demonstrate the subtle changes to RoboCop's dopamine levels when he is himself and when he is a law abiding zombie.
With a pair of lungs, a hand and his face, Murphy has some powerful moments where the man-machine dichotomy is explored well. At times Murphy is coming to terms with his predicament and the future of his family and then there are times where he circumvents core directives to solve his own murder.
By delving into Murphy's psyche and seeing him interact with his wife and son post operation you can empathise with what the protagonist has lost and what he has left. These scenes also set the groundwork for an epic and well written finale.
Dead or alive, you're coming with me
RoboCop provokes a lot of thoughts, which is excellent for a science-fiction action flick: corporate greed and corruption; political agendas and aggressive foreign policies; abuse of power and privacy. We can relate to these issues because they are a part of our daily lives.
RoboCop is more than a cautionary tale for 'robophobes' though. There is an appropriate abundance of explosions and shootouts. The CGI is immaculate. RoboCop sprinting, side-stepping and firing his pistol with methodical precision while he takes on a warehouse full of androids is spectacular. Look out for the thermal vision.
The pace is balanced well. The 'sappy scenes' punctuate the brutality of a not-too-shabby Detroit.
The tone contrasts Dredd, which is not a criticism. The film could have adopted the grunge-gritty dystopic cityscape however that kind of setting would overwhelm the glimmers of hope that are Murphy's family and would probably make the whole affair depressing rather than uplifting.
If you like action, robots, good writing and Samuel L. Jackson then you must see RoboCop.
When the credits roll you will have 'I fought the law' by The Clash stuck in your head for days.