"Robocop" Review: Craig's First Take

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I’m surprised to say this but as a second coming of 1987’s “Robocop”, this movie ain’t that bad. Sure it’s unnecessary and it doesn’t approach what made the original so much fun but really nobody needed Kreskin to tell us that was going to happen.

While the basic format is still intact, there’s a technological updating here that makes for interesting viewing, as are some of the questions posed. Here drones fly over the heads of countries abroad while robots patrol down below, robotics have moved past the point of just filling in for a missing limb (how about a missing body), and when it’s announced that the police department is unveiling its new Robocop, it’s kept secret about as well as the unveiling of the new I-Phone 100. It’s a much more tech-savvy and tech-happy world and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer fills that in nicely (you kinda expect this Robocop to come with his own I-Pad charger, but oh well, maybe next model).

Joel Kinnaman (Detective Holder on AMC’s “The Killing") takes over for Peter Weller as Alex Murphy, a Detroit cop blown to bits, this time investigating some corrupt cops. This catches the eye of Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), who appears to be trying very hard to be the Steve Jobs of putting human cops out of work (he is currently in a political battle with a congressman to get the robots he has patrolling abroad on to every street in America).

From there even if you haven’t seen the original, the title basically tells you where this is all going. Alex is officially “Made in China” by a doctor of robotics (Gary Oldman) and trained in the art of video-game style shoot-outs. The action isn’t great here, the generic PG-13-ness is a far cry from the gore and brutality of the original. What’s worse is that everything seems to be played so straight- there’s not much humor, the villains hardly take on the same lunacy or much personality at all, and the city of Detroit isn’t a drug-fueled cesspool but actually is surprisingly tame. There hardly seems like much to clean up and the revenge never feels nearly as sweet this time around.

But this “Robocop” is a much more thoughtful piece of work and I appreciated director Jose Padilha's team's work here for that reason. The scientists controlling Alex are really into the “Clockwork Orange” part of their jobs and so his brain and consciousness are consistently prodded, doped up, and altered and soon a question of Alex’s free will in all this comes into play. A Glenn Beck-like tv host (Samuel L. Jackson) who talks about Omnicorp like he has stock invested in it also brings up interesting points about security.

The cast all does well here, Kinnaman especially as this experimented-on guinea pig. Just you have to go into this one with more of an interest in the topics at hand than a hope for some excitement. Probably for most that will be a disappointment. But this kept me interested, and at least tried to separate itself from its predecessor, so I gotta give it points for trying.