The original RoboCop is a legendary movie in its own right. One of the most cherished characters and movies in the history of cinema, the original RoboCop was more than a movie; it was a symbolic piece of art encompassing various emblems, meanings, themes, and motifs. To look into the remake of the cult classic from 1987 objectively and independently would be a tough ask, but I’ll try my best to table an independent commentary on José Padilha’s version of RoboCop. Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop reflected a different time and era. The modern adaptation symbolizes another era and today’s ideal of how a half-human, half-machine RoboCop would fair in dystopian society obsessed with dominance, security, and the perception of power. Verhoeven’s RoboCop was a satire of the highest rank, while this new reprise contains the satirical vibes of the old but reshapes itself as an action drama more than a symbolic satire.
We all know the story here. Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is at death point, but they could save him—if his wife desired—only he would be part human, part robotic. Chief Scientist and Creator of RoboCop, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) takes the responsibility for OmniCorp—the epicenter of robotics military—to create a menace with a heart. Amidst America’s world domination as a superpower and reflecting the predominance of media in America, OmniCorp is running a robotic construction project overseas, whilst installing such military robots around the world, except in America, due to the Dreyfus Act. CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants to use these automated machines for law enforcement in America, which is why he wants his team to create a unified being of man and machine—to gift America its new version of a Superhero. There’s a new man in town, and his name—is RoboCop!
RoboCop theorizes many themes and motifs. The satire on media, journalism, and the manipulative advances of media professionals as evidenced in the Novak Element, Samuel Jackson as Pat Novak—the pro-fascist television anchor, a clear parody on media supremacy and political perception in today’s world. Besides media, the movie sheds light on America’s obsession with world domination as a superpower, while also commenting on the monopoly of capitalism and select, elite business houses. In general, these themes remain intact as the major aspects of this version—making it honest and misleadingly rich in critical studies.
As a mainstream movie, RoboCop is nothing more than a template action movie from Hollywood, primarily aimed at mass consumption and capitalizing on the emotions of a much-cherished franchise in the history of Sci-Fi cinema. The emotional stroke is rather enhanced, with Murphy’s wife played by Abbie Cornish and his son (John Paul Ruttan) featuring largely in the movie. Despite that, it feels the movie lacks a certain emotional zing, and comes off dry and emotionless during many instances, which is somewhat paradoxical considering that the dramatic family angle is omnipresent throughout the movie. This remains one of the trite issues pulling the movie downwards.
Produced as a mellowed commercial movie (PG-13 rating), the actions sequences are pretty impressive and due to a technological leap, the optimal utilization of special effects, the production value and visuals are electric. Suited to today’s political environment of USA and the Western World, some aspects of the story—the mechanical man vs. the human—is much explored in this outing. RoboCop appears much more personal and poignant in comparison to Peter Weller’s immortal act, in which he portrayed RoboCop as a mysterious and enigmatic creature. The remake asserts RoboCop as a more subjective entity; having said that, the character lacks a definitive yoke, whereby the story loses in essence. Consequently, RoboCop is one movie high on externalities and gloss, low on content and assimilation. The most underwhelming part of the movie is the character of Raymond Sellars and the ensuing climax that comes and goes in a whimper contrary to what one would expect—a powerful pinnacle—from a movie of this stature. A poorly written climax, the unconvincing and poorly developed character of Sellars, and an overall loose execution hurt the quality of the movie, even as a standalone.
As a whole, RoboCop is a decent watch, amidst many flaws, and a neat criticism on today’s obsessive mechanized world, where humanity is giving way to mechanics. For students of media and journalism, RoboCop has always stood as a veritable goldmine, and this continues the status quo. However, as a movie, it lacks heart and makes for a detached viewing that is not awe-inspiring but worth watching nonetheless.