By Muhammad Muzammal
Although unnecessary and not without its flaws, director Jose Padilha’s “RoboCop” is a satisfying remake of the 1987 sci-fi movie. The film is a pleasant surprise, considering the poor blockbusters released this year (“I, Frankenstein,” “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” and “The Legend of Hercules”).
The year is 2028 and OmniCorp, a multinational conglomerate for the creation of robots, sends drones to fight overseas for the United States. But back home a bill blocks OmniCorp from replacing law enforcement officials, weakening the company’s domestic sales.
In a clever move to repeal the anti-robotic bill, the CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton), decides to blend both man and machine and give the American people a hero to root for.
This figure will be Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) a morally righteous, tough cop from Detroit, who, on one unfortunate evening, suffers multiple injuries from the rigged explosion of his car.
Murphy soon becomes the new test subject of Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), who transforms the former cop into a new, different type of being — a conscious human with robotic body parts.
It is here where the film brings up provocative, ethical arguments. Is it right to take away a person’s humanity in order to create a better, safer society? The debate of security vs. privacy is exemplified when Dr. Norton lowers Murphy’s dopamine levels, thereby decreasing Murphy’s emotionality and making him more of a killing machine than a savior.
There is also a fictionalized political program within the film named “The Novak Element.” Host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) implies that indeed, lives are worth saving even if the hero is essentially a vegetable. This argument is repeated throughout the entire film.
The movie disappoints in its action sequences. Unimaginative, hard to follow and too dull, the scenes fall flat. The sound editing makes the scenes blaring and deafening, drawing comparison to Zack Snyder’s debacle of a climax in last year’s “Man of Steel.”
Consider the scene where RoboCop is in a warehouse fighting wanted men. When the battle between RoboCop and the criminals ensues, the film becomes too cacophonous. We are left with flying, noisy bullets and human grunts.
But “RoboCop” is not a bad film. Part of its success is that it throws allegorical and timely ideas at the audience. One can’t help but compare the drones overseas in the movie to the drones that are currently residing in parts of the Middle East. With that in mind, the film can be forgiven for its poor action techniques.
Kinnaman is a very accurate choice for RoboCop. Through the actor’s emotionless and unpretentious demeanor, Padilha finds a leading man who is very similar to his role — a cybernated human.
The movie also has decent melodrama. The relationship between Murphy and his family makes for a few tender scenes and creates a conflict for RoboCop. Even if his emotional levels are low, can Murphy the human overtake his robotic side and love his family? Not only is “RoboCop” emotionally intriguing, it is also intellectually engaging and, for the most part, character-driven. That’s admirable, not to mention rare for a reboot.