MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Joel Kinnaman as ALEX MURPHY
Gary Oldman as DR. DENNETT NORTON
Michael Keaton as RAYMOND SELLARS
Abbie Cornish as CLARA MURPHY
Jackie Earle Haley as RICK MATTOX
Michael K. Williams as JACK LEWIS
Jennifer Ehle as LIZ KLINE
Jay Baruchel as TOM POPE
Marianne Jean-Baptiste as CHIEF KAREN DEAN
Samuel L. Jackson as PAT NOVAK
Directed by: José Padilha
BY KEVIN CARR
When the remake for “RoboCop” was first announced, I was not thrilled about it. As a child of the 80s, I grew up in the heyday of Paul Verhoeven’s greatest films. He had a brilliant run for about ten years, giving us the original “RoboCop,” “Total Recall” and “Starship Troopers.” Sure, he’s fallen from grace somewhat, but I will always hold his sci-fi actioners close to my heart.
After “Total Recall” was given a neutered (though not un-entertaining) reboot a couple years ago, I didn’t dismiss the “RoboCop” remake out of hand. Even after seeing it back in February and feeling only so-so about it, I was willing to give it another shot.
However, as happens from time to time with movies that I revisit on Blu-ray, it turns out my original opinion was pretty much spot-on.
This remake covers much of the same basic story, in which detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) has been targeted for assassination by a major drug lord in futuristic Detroit. The assassination attempt almost succeeds, leaving Murphy a multiple amputee with no real life available to him. As part of a new technology program, Murphy is given a new chance to live by becoming the world’s first cybernetic cop. However, when his human brain becomes difficult to control, he turns into a danger for the unscrupulous authorities behind him.
Taken in a vacuum, “RoboCop” is a perfectly serviceable techno-action thriller. Without the baggage of Verhoeven’s iconic original film, “RoboCop” is completely acceptable, if not forgettable. For much of the mainstream audience of today, this is good enough. With an original film that is almost 30 years old, “RoboCop” is a bit of a dinosaur that lives forever in the 1980s. (Sure, the sequels, TV series and cartoon were made in the 90s, but those are hardly worth remembering.)
Unfortunately, it’s not able to be watched in a vacuum for someone like me. At every step of the way, I will compare it to the original. And at each of those steps, I felt myself thinking, “Aw, shucks… I wish they hadn’t changed that.”
Gone is most of the biting satire and social commentary. There’s a little bit with Samuel L. Jackson playing a louder version of Bill O’Reilly, but even then, this loses a lot of the humor that permeated the film itself. Gone is the over-the-top violence, though I have to admit that in a post-“torture porn” world, today’s over-the-top violence would probably be a bit too much.
Other changes to the story include the simultaneously overused and underdeveloped family of Alex Murphy. Abbie Cornish isn’t bad as Murphy’s wife, but the character is just weak. His son is worse, which made me realized that the handling of them as flashbacks in the original fit in better with the tone of the film.
A lot of these changes, many of which stem from the fact that the police give a human identity to Alex Murphy from the beginning, just don’t seem realistic or well thought out.
Still, the movie isn’t a total loss. The action is cool, and the new effects are pretty cool to watch, and on Blu-ray the action plays really well… arguably as well as it did in theaters. Yeah, the ED-209 robots are nothing more than bar bouncers in this movie rather than the brilliantly constructed microcosm of the military industrial complex personified down to a bumbling robot, but their scenes have some nice explosions in them.
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD and UltraViolet download capabilities. There’s about five minutes of deleted scenes, along with a 30-minute behind-the-scenes presentation “RoboCop: Engineered for the 21st Century.” Rounding out the special features are short videos presenting the OmniCorp family of products.