Reboot of ‘Robocop’ ignores its potential

What separates man from machine? “Robocop” gives us this premise and completely ignores it in favor of being a by-the-numbers remake. You can clearly see the restraints being placed on director Jose Padilha by the studio system.

In addition, “Robocop” had to be PG-13. A movie that costs upwards of $100 million including prints and advertising needs to recoup costs, and the broader the age group, the more likely that is to happen. 

It is not just the rating that prevents the ultraviolence that was essential to the original “Robocop” success—this movie feels neutered through and through.

The screenplay bounces around between easy targets like a “The O’Reilly Factor” stand-in starring Samuel “MF” Jackson to not so thinly veiled criticism about the current administration’s usage of drone warfare. 

The movie has all these interesting premises that go completely to waste. For instance scientists historically get a bum rap in these types of movies but you have Gary Oldman (not merely cashing in his paycheck) actually playing an empathetic doctor of sorts who wants to do the right thing. 

To pile on to that, the lovely Abbie Cornish, who should have hit the A-list five years ago, is given absolutely nothing as Officer Alex Murphy’s wife.

This takes us to Alex Murphy, the man (or rather what is left of him after a car explosion set to kill him for investigating dirty cops) who makes up the titular character. Murphy, as portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, is hopelessly vanilla and the screenplay does very little in helping him. He has a potentially interesting relationship with his son. 

In one touching scene after his accident, Murphy meets his son for the first time in months, and learns that his son has waited to watch the Red Wings games that he has recorded for months with him.

After this, the movie says screw it, let’s just show Robocop acting as a one-man, Judge Dredd style officer who single-handedly solves much of Detroit’s police work.

Any talk about OmniCorp will just make me tear my hair out. How is it that a company as supposedly vast and powerful as it is could kowtow so easily politically? 

It takes a two-bit marketing exec to say “Gee, why don’t we market our weapons as products and shove a man in there?”

For all its faults, Robocop is still the type of movie that would play well on Spike on a Sunday afternoon. 

If I had to give it any praise at all I would say it is at least better than the “Total Recall” remake.