By Caitlin Fien
On Feb 12th, the remake of the original 1987 RoboCop was released into theaters. Having not seen the original, I went into the movie expecting to see a film filled with action scenes and a robotic policeman. While the movie, directed by José Padilha, did have very intense action scenes and slick, smooth design elements, it chose to focus on the emotional human nature of the man behind the suit.
The movie clearly tries to make a political statement about the future that lies in robotics for America and the world. In the year 2028, the battle droid creations of Mr. Raymond Sellars, CEO of the multi-billion dollar robotics company, OmniCorp, are deployed in foreign countries. These robots that promote ‘safety’ replace the human soldiers and are supposed to save thousands of lives in war-torn nations. In reality America has forced the world to submit to their robo-bullies that feel nothing, even if they kill a child or an innocent person. In the opening scene, Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) is a radical conservative who hosts a Fox News-esque show that spreads propaganda from the Pentagon. He promotes the use of robots in America and ignores the liberals who offer counter-arguments. The problem for him and like minded individuals are those darned liberals and their bills in Congress that outlaw robots.
The billion dollar company, OmniCorp, is looking for a way around the Dreyfus Act, which prohibits the use of drones on U.S. soil. Sellars wants to ‘put a man inside the machine.’ This is where Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a cop from Detroit, almost fatally injured by an explosion, comes into the picture. The company approaches his wife, and wanting to keep her husband alive, she agrees. He then becomes property of a company and this head, lungs, esophagus and one remaining hand are encased and held together by a shiny black suit.
Alex responds to the situations with slower processing speeds in battle than the drones, due to the time his brain takes to make decisions on a human scale. His brain is altered and his dopamine levels reduced, making him almost exactly like a robot, just with organic parts. The human emotions inside him cause him to override the system and he begins investigating his own attempted murder, which leads him to corruption in the police department. He also begins to feel love from his family and the hatred towards the corrupt company that tries to shut him down once he is no longer profitable.
The movie poses the questions of who is in control, the man or the machine. As technology increases, the reality of robots existing in society with humans comes closer into sight. The fear of robots held by many people throughout the film conflicts with the benefits of the RoboCop, who is seen as a hero in the public’s eye. It seems to highlight the things that could go wrong with the technology rather than the things that could go right.
The acting is not bad; in fact, the supporting actors are very effective in their roles. My favorite character was Dr. Dennett Norton, played by Gary Oldman. His portrayal of the doctor conflicted by doing what is morally right and doing what will bring his creation glory really showed the error in human judgement that is always present. This error is what allows humans to not be ruthless machines. I enjoyed Oldman’s performance, while the lead, Kinnaman, did nothing to impress me. It may have been how silly the suit made his face look, but he seemed to lack the right emotion at the right times.
I am not a fan of movies when you can tell exactly how long it will be before the movie ends. Its ending was rather predictable, and when the lights of the theater came up, I was left wondering ‘why?’ Why was it necessary to make this movie? While it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been for a remake, there was nothing special about it. Worse than being a bad movie is being just an alright one, and RoboCop left me with nothing but the taste of mediocrity in my mouth.