What to Expect From "RoboCop"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
February 10th, 2014

In 1987, "RoboCop" catapulted into pop culture and secured its place in movie history as a science fiction classic. In 2014, director José Padilha and writer Joshua Zeturner bring the iconic cyborg back to life in their interpretation of the original. Though the new "RoboCop" follows the premise of the original, the film is more than an attempt to remake a classic. Instead, the new movie intends to pay homage to its predecessor while presenting a different philosophical angle. In addition to less satirical social commentary, moviegoers can expect more heart, less violence and slicker visual effects than the original "RoboCop."

In the dystopian city of Detroit in the year 2028, street crime, corruption and corporatization run rampant. In the line of duty, a dedicated police officer is maimed beyond human repair. The unfortunate mangling presents a fortunate opportunity for a multinational conglomerate, OmniCorp, to test a prototype cyborg process. OmniCorp scientists transform Murphy into the infamous RoboCop, a part-man, part-robot crime-fighting machine. Initially, RoboCop Murphy fights crime throughout the city, a task made relatively simple thanks to the physical enhancements provided by OmniCorp's robotics and cybernetics. As the film progresses, though, Murphy comes to battle more insidious threats created by the corporations and surveillance state, in addition to the inner struggle that wages between machine and his humanity.

Officer Alex Murphy is played by Joel Kinnaman, best known for his role on the AMC series "The Killing." OmniCorp's chief scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton, is played by Gary Oldman, known for sinister roles in "Immortal Beloved" and "The Fifth Element." OmniCorp's CEO Raymond Sellars is played by Michael Keaton ("Batman," "Beetlejuice"). Abbie Cornish, known for television and movie roles such as "Somersault," plays Murphy's wife, Clara. Samuel L. Jackson ("Pulp Fiction," "Snakes on a Plane") portrays media mogul Pat Novak.

Science and Fiction

The 2014 version of "RoboCop," at times, seems to present more science than fiction. The drones that win wars across the globe in 2028 closely resemble the drone technology of today. Much of the technology utilized in the future Detroit either exists in nascent form or currently is being researched by present-day scientists and engineers. According to production designer Martin Whist, "Everything in the movie is based on reality." For example, current research exists involving the use of sensors in people's brains that allow them to move robotic hands with just their thoughts. The high-powered Taser gun depicted in "RoboCop" is currently under development in real-life research labs.

Identity Crisis

Though his body is severely damaged, Murphy still has significant portions of his body salvaged after his near-death incident. Murphy's emotions remain intact, at least for social situations. The computer installed in his brain turns off the emotions during threats or when RoboCop must intercede in a crime being committed. These emotions eventually become a threat to the OmniCorp programming, since Murphy's emotions manage to override the computer system. Because they make the system vulnerable, OmniCorp attempts to completely shut the emotions off.

This struggle between humanity and automation forges the basis for Murphy's identity crisis. The movie explores the moral implications of human and machine integration. OmniCorp constructed a being that positioned a man inside the machine, and allowed Murphy the illusion of free will, though Murphy ostensibly remained controlled by the scientists' programming. The movie, then, becomes a character study in human identity, questioning what it means to be human. Human identity battles against technological improvements.

Social Commentary

The original "RoboCop" provided satirical commentary on the corporate and militaristic culture of the Reagan era. This new version of "RoboCop" comments on issues in the cultural context of 2014. Among the topics touched upon are issues of privacy in the information age, the use of drone technology, the omnipresence of surveillance by the state, the emergence of a police state and the balance between technology and humanity. Additionally, there are moments of satire aimed at Fox News, as represented by Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of the media mogul more concerned with power and image than actual news or Murphy's plight.

PG-13 Rating

The original "RoboCop" was an ultra-violent film with an abundance of graphical, gory depictions of violence. The film had to cut some of its most graphic scenes in order to obtain an R rating. This modern version of the movie achieved a PG-13 rating, which indicates a significantly reduced amount of blood and violence.

Moviegoers nostalgic for the original "RoboCop" will find their memories of that movie intact. The new "RoboCop" is reminiscent of the original, but it is its own version.