One of the unique aspects of sci-fi cinema is its ability to comment. No societal issue is secure. From politics to economy to culture, any subject is open to criticism. The original RoboCop
emerged in a world where technology was rigid and adhered to strict program parameters; smart technology was still in its infancy. The latest RoboCop
addresses some broader issues regarding globalization, and the integration of man and machine.
Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and his partner, Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), are undercover detectives. When a small-time arms dealer is connected to criminal kingpin Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), Murphy can't pass up the opportunity to finally get him of the streets. But Vallon is tipped off about Murphy's plan and tries to have him killed. Barely surviving the attempt on his life, Murphy's wife is approached by OmniCorp with an offer to save him. They've been looking for a hero cop to model their latest robotic technology and convince Americans of a new age of law enforcement, and Murphy is the perfect candidate. However, some unexpected glitches lead to some troubling ethical choices.
The distribution of on-set photos prior to the film's release generated significant negativity regarding the style and color of the suit. "It's too sleek." "Why is it black?" However, these questions are answered and are appropriate design choices within the context of the movie. A lot of attention is paid to the functionality of the suit, including how the organic elements are maintained and how it’s controlled.
Beginning in Teheran, OmniCorp demonstrates the efficiency of its mechanical security. The focus is entirely on the elimination of military casualties rather than the blatant violations of human rights being witnessed. These scenes also call to mind images of the war against the machines in the Terminator movies.
This scene is countered by another in which mechanical prosthetics are assisting people to regain the most intricate aspects of their lives. Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), the man responsible for the R&D that makes these miracles possible, is a peculiar character. At the outset, he is adamant about not compromising his beliefs for the RoboCop project. But as each new complication arises, his resolve quickly fades from weak to non-existent. Suddenly maintaining Murphy’s humanity is no longer a priority if it jeopardizes the project, raising many issues around the melding of humans and machines (and the credibility or purpose of Dr. Norton's character).
Kinnaman's portrayal of the half man, half machine is different than his predecessor's. He awakens conscious of his condition and must come to terms with his new body. His personality is slowly stripped away, creating a different relationship between his character and the audience. Where viewers weren't meant to immediately identify with director Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, they are drawn into caring for him earlier on in this version.
Michael Keaton is the ruthless head of OmniCorp who effortlessly lies to everyone and is ruled by the bottom line, while Jay Baruchel is perfect as the soulless marketing executive who would throw his own mother in the line of fire if it translated to an increased revenue or approval rating. And Samuel L. Jackson plays an outlandish TV personality in the vein of other similar talk show hosts who twist the facts so people see his truth.
This remake strays significantly from the original. But it maintains some of Verhoeven’s satirical touches and dark comedy, while advancing the technology, updating the setting and providing a new perspective.
Director: José Padilha
Starring: Joel Kinnaman
, Gary Oldman
and Michael Keaton