First of all, I'd like to note that this film, upon its announcement, is likely the most undesired reboot among my companions. The original RoboCop ('87) is a cult-classic, and deservedly so, with its dystopian themes, ultra-violence and iconic images and dialogue. So why reboot what is already perfect to so many? Well, because RoboCop is a badass who gets shit done and droves of people pay good money to watch it on the big screen. While this new incarnation does have its flaws, it delivers in many ways as well. But only if you keep an open mind, I guess.
In what is surely the best opening scene this year (though it could have lost about 5-7 minutes), we're introduced to the 2028 Bill O'Reily, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who is turned up to eleven in this performance. He hosts a news show that at this hour is focusing on OmniCorp's line of robots that are policing the dangerous cities around the world in an effort to wipe crime clean. But during the broadcast, a robot shoots a child armed with a knife. Red flags go up for OmniCorp who is fighting the senate to put these bots on the streets in the U.S., with the concern being that these machines lack a conscious. Enter Alex Murphy.
Murphy (Joel Kinnamen, The Killing) is fighting his own battles on the streets of Detroit, trying to bring down a high profile gun runner while also dealing with corruption in his own police department (not original, but we follow). After a near-fatal attempt on his life, Murphy's wife Clara (Abblie Cornish, Limitless) agrees to let OmniCorp rebuild him in an effort to solve their own problems in addition to hers. Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) works in OmniCorps' research department, focusing on giving amputees a second change with the company's robotic technology. He's charged with Alex Murphy's rebuild, resulting in a reveal scene that puts George Lucas's Vader assembly to shame. The end result is Alex Murphy is alive, but he is far more machine than man.
And this is what the film is ultimately about; the balance of the human consciousness. The OmniCorps company wants to appease the public opinion by putting a man in behind the machine, but it just happens that the man still acts like a human. So in a battle of free will overcoming efficiency, the company begins to take away what makes us human. Where this film stands out is the relationship between Murphy and his family, and their fight against a huge corporation. Murphy's wife and child thought they would get their husband and father back, but in return lose more than if he just died.
Of course, behind it all is the charmingly evil of Raymond Sellers, played to perfection by Michael Keaton. The Steve Jobs of war profiteering, Sellers is the one calling all the shots and ignoring the man that is his essentially his product. Sure, he could change the world, but at what cost? In the end, although the film could have benefited from a little trimming and suffers in some of it's action sequences, it comes through with a more developed story that one may have assumed going in. I doubt it will appeal to die-hard fans of the original, but if you have an open mind I think RoboCop has a place in 2014. [B-]
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