Friday Features: 'RoboCop' review

Friday Features: 'RoboCop' review

Credit: Sony Pictures

“RoboCop” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, some sensuality and some drug material. Running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.

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by HAYDEN PITTMAN

WFAA Special Contributor

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 3:17 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 14 at 3:26 PM

This weekend’s big movie release, the remake of 1987’s “RoboCop,” is a typical, special effect-filled, sci-fi action film that has a lot to offer for a fan of this genre. Starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Samuel L. Jackson and more, “Robocop” is made up of multiple action scenes packed with robots, a heavy dose of human emotion, and a wide variety of scientific and technical innovations. This film is lighter on the traditional street crime violenc,e and heavy on large company greed and moral dilemmas.

Before diving further into the plot, characters, and what I thought about this movie, it’s important to realize that this “RoboCop” is not your 1987 “RoboCop.” Although it uses similar characters and storylines, it obviously has vast improvements in technology, special effects, and in most ways, it is a reimagined, reboot film and origin story. To remake any film can be a hard feat, and in my opinion, already sets up the newer film for failure by creating high expectations. In truth, this “RoboCop” could have done well as its own film and not as a remake – possibly even changing the name, but keeping with the same idea and still based off of the Robocop character. That being said, if you can view this version without prejudice and too many comparisons to the original, you’ll be a lot better off.

In this version, Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is a loving family man and good police officer living in 2028 Detroit. In the future, robots and other technology are essential in combat military situations, and with the large multinational conglomerate OmniCorp steering the ship, the idea of applying this technology to domestic use for police forces and more is being heavily considered. For some time, issues of robots vs. humans for specific uses, comparisons of decision-making abilities, etc., arise and halt the continuation of this technology. When Murphy gets too close to police corruption and a connected street gangster, he barely survives an attempt on his life, and visionary OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers (Keaton) sees an opportunity to fast-track the program and find out what happens when they combine a human with a robot. With the help of genius scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Oldman), and the assistance of OmniCorp associate Liz Kline (Ehle) and marketing guru Tom Pope (Baruchel), Sellers and company create an advanced operating system and robot body to host what is left of Murphy, but not without experiencing many issues, system errors, and possibly breaking the law (blurry as there is not much territory for robot-humans).

“RoboCop” has much to offer for tech junkies and will be at least be entertaining for other audiences. The film has a great balance of emotion, action, and drama, and presents the typical superhero/action flick-type comedy using a couple of funny one-liners, a few jokes about RoboCop (e.g. playing a “Wizard of Oz Song” and calling him “Tin Man”), and hit-and-miss dry humor. Joel Kinnaman, up-and-coming Swedish actor, does a decent job as the lead role of Alex Murphy/RoboCop, and the supporting cast was solid as well. Michael Keaton plays an entertaining and average, power-hungry villain, Jackie Earl Haley gives a good performance as a military special force officer, Abbie Cornish plays the perfect level of emotional-housewife struggling to get her husband back, and Gary Oldman is a smart doctor torn between the advancement of science and making the moral decision. Jay Baruchel unexpectedly, yet refreshingly comes into the picture, and most notably, Samuel L. Jackson makes the most of his screen time as an over-the-top celebrity news anchor.

Although I did enjoy this movie, there were several elements that bothered me. I’m not sure if it’s mostly robot/machine-filled action, but the action sequences were average at that. Don’t get me wrong, most everything looks great in the film, but for some reason, the quick, loud clanking of the robots and the constant robot vs. human fights are mild at best. Perhaps it’s because there’s so much going on, but I much preferred the development of the story and use of science/technology than the action. Like any film of this nature, there is a level of corny and sappy, emotional plot points and dialogue, but of any of the crazy sci-fi superhero films out there, this one is closer to plausible as it approaches the genre using large, but not far off advancements in science and technology. There’s not a whole lot wrong with this film, but it’s far from what the 1987 “RoboCop” meant to film and its time.

After watching this version of “RoboCop,” I’m confident there’s a future for films such as this using today’s technology improvements. In today’s age, “RoboCop” is an average, dramatic action thriller, but that isn’t to say it’s not a decent film. Perhaps our society, or even 2028 isn’t ready for a half-man, half-robot, mostly because of the controversy of the system never being perfect. Humans are not as efficient as robots, and there will always be risk with human beings putting their lives forward to protect their country and society. But if this movie says anything, it’s that robots lack the true qualities necessary: compassion and the ability to feel and make choices. This film also shows that there are always other larger factors at work such as the specific agenda of governments, large companies, or anyone with power. Check out the remake of “RoboCop” for yourself in theaters this weekend.

Rated 3 out of 5 stars.

“RoboCop” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, some sensuality and some drug material. Running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.


Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at haydenp@youplusmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.

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