Regardless of whether you're aware of the fact or not, action films can have messages that audiences can relate to. While some of them are only about the huge explosions, - I'm looking at you Transformers franchise - others have actual social commentary that go along with the violence. A perfect example of this is the 1987 classic known as RoboCop. It caught the attention of moviegoers everywhere with its shocking depiction of brutal and graphic violence. However, it was anything but pointless. In fact, it created a conversation about how violent we are as a society, and how politics affect it. This sci-fi action motion picture has become a favorite of many film buffs around the globe, so it isn't very surprising that Columbia Pictures wanted to create a remake in order to capture that excitement. Does it still work on the same level, even despite its watered-down PG-13 rating?
In 2028 Detroit, crime continues to keep this city hostage. When policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) begins to investigate one of the biggest crime bosses, he becomes critically injured in the line of duty, leaving his wife (Abbie Cornish) and son (John Paul Ruttan) wanting anything to be done in order to keep him alive. The multinational conglomerate OmniCorp has been trying to get robot officers on the street, but have been blocked by political laws. They take this opportunity to create a part-man, part-robot police officer in order to get this law changed.
Before I get started, I want to make it perfectly clear that RoboCop actually isn't a complete disaster. Since this is rated PG-13, it takes a bit of a different approach with its social commentary. While it isn't nearly as powerful, it still have an effective message underneath it all. Rather than creating a discussion about the violence, it's more about the outrageous level of power that corporate companies have on our politics and daily life. Quite a bit of the running time is taken up by displaying the amount of power that this company has in the world, and how they sway news reports and even try to change laws. While this message still works, it isn't as effective as the social commentary on violence. If this is the message that writer Joshua Zetumer wanted to convey, perhaps he could have pursued this under a different name than trying to reboot the RoboCop that we know and love.
This isn't the only major difference that has been made, as it spends more time on the man himself than the original did. A lot of focus is held on Alex Murphy, as he tries to cope with what has happened and the mission that he has been employed on. However, there isn't a lot of time spent on the crime-filled streets, as the audience sees a lot more tests occurring in the lab and the how everything is affecting his family back at home. Even though some might appreciate this approach, I had difficulty connecting with both Alex Murphy and his family. It all feels far too forced, making it incredibly difficult to naturally get involved in the relationship change between this man and his family. Even though I can't get behind this decision under the name of this franchise, they should have approached this in a less predictable way. Unfortunately, it feels too much like a distraction from the main plot, rather than an addition to it.
The generic bits don't end there, as it starts to drag the further you get into the film. This is when a lot of the storytelling is ripped off of the original, but in a much less exciting fashion. Since you won't be able to account for a lot of the action itself, one of the best portions of the film is when reporter Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) brings the nation up to speed regarding the most recent developments in the attempt to get robot law enforcement on the streets. While these are surely entertaining bits, RoboCop unfortunately has the need to constantly over-explain everything. Regardless of who is on screen, the characters are constantly explaining every little bit of what is happening. Writer Joshua Zetumer should have found better ways to deliver story disposition without making it come out through the dialogue. This is lazy storytelling that comes across as an insult to viewers' intellect.
Even when considering that this is a big action flick by one of the major Hollywood studios, it features a pretty great cast. Joel Kinnaman is surely a recognizable face. He works in this role, but don't expect this to stand up to his previous representations. While I had a difficult time sympathizing with him, he makes the character feel more real than the screenplay lets on. Perhaps the most impressive representation to be found here is Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton. Whether he's trying to calm Murphy or is lecturing the antagonist on what he's doing, Oldman is entirely convincing as this brilliant doctor. Michael Keaton entertains in the role of Raymond Sellars, as do his team Liz (Jennifer Ehle) and Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel). Clara Murphy herself might not be the most natural character to come along lately, but Abbie Cornish does a good job in breathing some life into the wife of Murphy. Samuel L. Jackson brings some decent humor as Pat Novak, as he delivers the charm and wit that we have all come to know from this great actor.
When I say that RoboCop is truly an extremely watered down version of the original, I truly mean it. This PG-13 action flick sports the generic violence that one would expect. You've seen all of this before. However, the visual effects team has clearly put a lot into the look and feel of this motion picture. Fortunately, the film is very crisp and clean, as the CGI is blended extremely well with the real elements of the picture. You might have noticed in the marketing campaign that RoboCop's look has been given a more futuristic look. While I will always prefer the original look, this sleek robot design still has its appeal. However, the absolute star of the film would have to be the audio design. Every step taken by RoboCop and every bullet fired is clean, loud, and aggressive. You'll definitely want to have the audio cranked up for this one.
While I wouldn't classify RoboCop as being good, it's a little bit better than expected. The filmmakers took the film in a different direction, but that could have been done without the name of this franchise attached to it. I simply can't put aside the fact that this should have been rated R. The motion picture is filled with generic PG-13 violence that will leave you disappointed, even with lowered expectations. If you're a huge fan of the original films, then you'll enjoy the few references that are made. However, even when the film is trying to be sympathetic and emotional, it still comes across as being quite stiff. RoboCop has the emotional impact of a robot and it won't stick in your memory for long. Rent it.