Robocop is flashy, frenetic, and filled to the brink with ideas that it doesn’t quite do anything with. It’s here and there with a bit of this and a bit of that. What’s left is a hodgepodge of what could have been really great, but just ends up being a let down. There are definitely elements of fun throughout and the action sequences are technically proficient, but this remake misses one crucial element present in the original. The original had something to say. This Robocop comes close to saying something and then backs away. Toeing at the line of meaningful conversation without crossing it. Timidity doesn’t suit a story about a robotic superman with a badge.
The story loosely follows the original with a police officer on the brink of death and then merged into a robotic body to deliver justice. The updated version stars Joel Kinnamen, who was very good in The Killing, as the cop who this time is blown up in a car bomb. He has a wife and child whose primary roles in the film are to indicate that he has a wife and child. Gary Oldman is the scientist whose research provides the framework that makes the Robocop possible and serves as the moral compass throughout the film. He stands in a sort of opposition to his boss, played by Michael Keaton, who owns Omnicorp, the company responsible for robotics worldwide. Everyone else is tangential and fairly unnecessary with each actor responsible for bringing one characteristic to the screen and one only. For instance, Jackie Earle Haley is an Omnicorp military man in charge of the robots whose primary character trait is to be a prick to everyone. The script requires him to act that way and so he does even in the face of logic and common sense.
Robocop begins in Tehran where a news crew is filming a puff piece about the wonders of a robotic military. The scene is tense and thought provoking with questions being raised about drone warfare. If the film had kept up the tone and feel of that scene it would have been much better for it. Unfortunately, the film abandons the drone aspect and focuses on Joel Kinnamen’s Alex Murphy. His attempted murder storyline is not nearly as engaging or original. Insanely, the movie gets another chance at an intriguing plotline when it is revealed that Omnicorp can manipulate the brain chemicals in Alex Murphy and can more or less alter his level of humanity. Sadly, this also turns out to merely be a plot point rather than a theme. It seems that just as the film hints that it has something to say it backs off and settles for a ho hum action set piece.
I wanted this to be better than it was and I was left feeling disappointed. It is a fine enough diversion for two hours I suppose, but it could have been so much more. It feels like it got focus-grouped to death and ends up hinting at things without taking stands. While the original 1987 Robocop is no cinematic wonder it had something to say and is still being talked about, whereas this remake hedges too much and will struggle to be remembered as the lights come up. Grade: C