Utilizing the framework of Paul Veerhoven’s distinctive 1987 action satire, RoboCop is lifted into modern America’s media flux. Drones and surveillance hang from the multiple dangling plot threads as decapitated officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) dons his cyborg gear.
Spanish director Jose Padilha fiercely strives for an action first approach, opening in a forced future as robots peer into Middle Easterns homes. Driving an early stroke of satire, America’s viewpoint of suicide bombers impacts a PR stunt, straddling cautiously those MPAA approved PG-13 lines.
Safety strikes are led by OmniCorp’s technological side, with a sedated CEO in Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) in charge. Omni’s latest is a kitten compared to Dick Jones who ran the original film’s corporation with a sniveling smile. This leaves room for 2014’s RoboCop to pull an intelligent switch as Sellers loses his humanity as RoboCop regains his own.
Devastated by a car explosion, Alex Murphy turns into Omni’s PR stunt as his half human/half robot frame is trotted out to the public. America, fearful of drones and technology impeding on freedoms, resist the concept of robots manning their streets. Political representatives side with their constituents.
Sending RoboCop onto the streets in an illogically applied (and somewhat terrifying) darkened suit brings in a swell of action scenarios. Robo trains, blasts robots, and shoots criminals cold. The calmer application of a tazer allows for studio approved brutality, and this lack of cartoonish violence does no harm to the integrity of this remake.
RoboCop 2014 is much its own movie, a psychological human story with drip fed allegories about media manipulation, corporate overreach, and other current affairs. Murphy is often unlocked from his visor, allowing Kinnaman’s stiffened performance to break through the robotics. Family is an essential element. Murphy’s wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) begins a vicious anti-PR campaign to recover what is left of her husband, creating a spark in the intentionally numbed RoboCop mind.
This remains a ludicrous concept. Tempering the feature with embedded emotion is gutsy. Between the overlong and hyper exaggerated action situates a story of a man’s remnants, or rather what they mean to his being. Therein lies this remake’s expansion (20 minutes of fattening in comparison to the first), that deeper sense of character to add a workable dramatic hinge to this genuine absurdity.
Somewhere this remake will be lost, drowning in the swell of also ran computer generated robots and record setting bullet discharges. RoboCop lacks a distinctive punch. The desperate urgency to make this character faster and leap farther interlocks with the modern superhero fixation.
Despite being a calmer film in terms of action ratio, the RoboCop of 2014 is undeniably louder, screaming to fit in. To some extent, it does as we salivate for and simultaneously fear technological breakthroughs as media talking heads guide our thinking. But, that’s current, not timeless. It makes the choice to punch up Murphy’s inner mind a wisely plotted decision, something to appreciate whether time forgets these dense metaphors or not.
Note: The following technical critiques are based on location experiences. Such review are not scored should be considered as generalized guidelines given variations in projection and audio systems.
Glitzy without the dirty film remnants of its elder, this sharp and detail driven presentation produces exceptional clarity. Fidelity is powerful in close-ups with medium shots holding to the relentless heft of the cinematography. Colors typically mute themselves with an allotment of powerful primaries (reds especially) to hit the screen as needed. Action is usually draped in brightness from daylight or thick interior lights, with outstanding black levels assisting.
Robocop’s best moment is a shoot-out inside of an abandoned factory where gun shots can ring out with an echo. Sound escapes into the surround channels and appreciable positioning. Shock inducing explosions, particularly the one which forces the creation of the title cyborg. It’s high class stuff.