'Robocop' remake succumbs to technology

February 23, 2014

Since it was first announced that “Robocop” was headed to the reboot factory, the collective whining of those holding the original dear went into overdrive.

But anyone who has a serious beef with a new director siphoning oil from “Robocop’s” engine should go revisit 1993’s “Robocop 3,’ or, better yet, the TV series or the animated series that followed the following years (there’s even a blog dedicated to citing all the faults in every single scene of that third chapter).

The original still holds up, largely due to its biting social satire, if not so much for its “futuristic” vision. It was also marked by a level of violence that is a favorite of fans to this day, so when it was announced that this new version was to be rated PG-13, phasers were switched from “stun” to “kill.”

The latest version contains enough carnage to satiate the bloodlust of those lamenting the latter, but those looking for the same pointed commentary found in the original may walk away still wanting to rumble. It’s not that the new version doesn’t have something to say. It’s that its voice is drowned out by the explosions that mark the third act.

Set in the very near future, “Robocop” introduces us to a world in which many battles are fought with robotic technology, saving the lives of countless American soldiers who would otherwise be deployed overseas to wage this warfare. When it’s suggested that these robot soldiers could be used right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., the public balks, which sends their creator, Raymond Sellars, (played by Michael Keaton) back to the drawing board to create a more “friendly” soldier to keep law and order at home (and keep the dollars rolling into his company, OmniCorp.

Dr. Dennet Norton (played by Gary Oldman) is tasked with the duty, and happens to have an unwitting volunteer for the project in Detroit golden-boy cop Alex Murphy (played by Joel Kinnaman), who was literally blown to pieces in a car bomb explosion. What’s left of him gets fused with some scrap metal, and thus, our hero is born.

This update manages to string together elements from the 1987 original, but is able to create its own road down which to travel, and is bolstered further by a seasoned cast of accomplished actors.

Samuel L. Jackson is also on hand as a Bill O’Reilly-esque personality who is clearly on the side of the corporations, which makes for entertaining sidebars, but they are far too infrequent to drive home the points the film hopes to make.

In fact, all of the mildly interesting new insights of the film are essentially blown to bits by the conclusion, which detonates in a mushroom cloud of CGI special effects. It’s ironic, in a sad way, that a film that ultimately celebrates the human element trumping technology would ultimately succumb to it at the end.

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