Saturday, September 27, 2014

RoboCop (2014)

Note:  This review reveals major details about the movie.  If you haven’t seen the movie and don‘t want spoilers, you may want to wait before reading this review.  (There shouldn’t be many surprises, though, if you’ve seen the 1987 version.)

Remakes are a tricky business.  You’re basically using someone else’s idea and trying to make money off of it.  Yes, there’s safety in knowing that it’s already worked.  However, I’ve never really liked remakes because I always end up comparing it to the original, assuming I had seen the original first.  Total Recall is a perfect example of this.  The 2012 remake is looks nicer, but I would recommend the 1990 version any day.

Likewise, in 1987 we had a movie about a police officer named Alex Murphy who was killed on the job.  OmniCorp got the remains and remade him into RoboCop.  They needed a great new product and they could do whatever they wanted, as they ran the Detroit Police Department and Murphy was legally dead.  In 2014, a new version was made.  Replacing Peter Weller was Murphy was Joel Kinnaman.  I knew I was going to want to hate the remake, but I had to give it a fair shot.

The story is basically the same.  Police Officer Alex Murphy is trying to take down criminals.  When he crosses the wrong one, said criminal attempts to have Murphy killed.  Murphy lives, but just barely.  OmniCorp steps in and offers Mrs. Murphy the opportunity to have her husband remade into RoboCop.  She reluctantly agrees.

RoboCop also has his detractors, most of them criminals.  There are also politicians rallying against drones.  This is what necessitates Murphy’s involvement.  Most voters object to the use of drones on American soil.  However, a human in control of a robot isn’t so objectionable.

RoboCop takes a lot of work and a few unethical choices, but is initially a success.  When RoboCop is first introduced to the public, Clara knows something is wrong with her husband.  He doesn’t respond to her or their son.  However, he is able to apprehend a criminal who’s standing right next to two of Detroit’s finest.  RoboCop also doesn’t bother with briefings; he just goes out and gets the bad guys.

This comes at a cost.  As I said, there are ethical choices to be made.  Dr. Dennett Norton, who is leading the project, has to tinker with Murphy’s emotions.  He has to adjust Murphy’s physiology.  It’s not something he’s comfortable with, but the alternative is failure.  Murphy becomes unstable at certain points.  If RoboCop is to work and Murphy is to live, regrettable decisions will have to be made.

After being put into service, Murphy begins to reemerge.  One of the big problems is being given access to information on his own attempted murder.  He’s programmed not to react emotionally, but eventually goes after those that would have killed him.  In the end, Murphy gets the people that he’s after.

If you’ve seen the original movie, you will probably see most of the movie coming.  As I said, the basic details are the same.  Murphy is killed and comes back for revenge.  His final obstacle is not being able to hurt OmniCorp employees.  (Each movie resolves this differently.)  The movie deals with what it means to have free will.  Do we have it or is it an illusion?

We even get a few of the iconic lines repeated which is nice.  However, there are a lot of differences that fans of the original will notice.  There seemed to be more focus on Murphy.  The original had more focus on OmniCorp and the politics of getting RoboCop made.  Here, we get to see more of Murphy in action.  Speaking of which, Murphy’s memories weren’t wipe, as in the original.

This presented its own set of challenges, like getting Murphy to cooperate.  It also puts an entirely new spin on the movie.  Murphy is ‘erased’ more slowly.  He does make the same comeback, but he’s treated more as a human.  In the original, his family had left Detroit.  Here, he can visit them and even has his wife fighting for him.  It’s almost as if we’re dealing with two different movies.  (Interestingly, this version makes no mention of Detroit’s current bankruptcy.  I thought it was odd how the original seemed to call this.)

I wasn’t liking the movie too much for the first hour or so, but I have to admit that it is a decent movie in its own right.  I’m not saying that I love it or that I like it better than the original, but it is worth watching.

OmniCorp Web site

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