GREENSBURG — Critics have been split over “Robocop,” a remake of a beloved 1987 film of the same name directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Peter Weller.
As such, I went in uncertain what to expect, but walked out convinced that the original’s acclaimed status has significantly damaged the perception of this update. Taken on its own merits, “Robocop” 2014 is an impressive piece of filmmaking that takes the story of the original film in new directions, adding nuance and detail to the characters and the narrative, and delving further into themes only hinted at in the 1987 film.
Of course, “Robocop” 1987 is regarded by many as a satirical masterpiece that skewered the culture of consumerism, violence and greed for which that decade is largely remembered. The satire is largely missing from “Robocop” 2014, and I suspect many approached this film expecting director José Padilha (in his English-language debut) and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer (working from the original script) to emulate – if not entirely recreate – the original’s biting social commentary.
Padilha and Zetumer though, armed with the considerable tools of modern CGI and an impressive cast, instead take “Robocop” in a unique direction.
The basic story is still here, with Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) wounded and maimed by corrupt cops in his department and left an invalid, all his limbs amputated and his body burned to a crisp.
Enter OmniCorp, a multi-national robotics corporation headed by shady billionaire CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), a man obsessed with spreading OmniCorp automatons across the globe as a kind of universal, peacekeeping army.
For all its success though, OmniCorp has yet the break into the domestic market. Sellars wants badly to replace domestic police forces around the United States with OmniCorp robots, but the US public has so far refused. With Murphy, Sellars sees a chance to crack the market – a chance to combine the efficiency, speed and cold precision of a machine with the conscience, compassion and humanity of a human being. He’s convinced such a creation will create an opening for his robots in the US, and he’s right.