RoboCop (2014), by Albert W. Vogt III

Remakes.  Re-imaginings.  Reboots.  Whatever it is that you want to call the process of taking a popular film from back in the day and retelling it as you desire, there is one way of describing it that you cannot deny: unoriginal.  There will be those that argue that the way it is done is unique in some ways.  Take, for example, RoboCop (2014).  Sure, instead of a hyper-violent Detroit that is supposed to be roughly ten years from now, we get a Motor City that looks like it could be anywhere right now.  Part of the appeal, if I may use that term, of the 1987 version is that it painted a dystopian future that could only be solved by the marriage of man and machine.  What they did with this new one, well, I am not quite sure.  Tonally speaking, it never truly settles.  As such, you are left with a bland action-sci-fi flick that had me wanting to nod off in the middle.  Or I am just getting old.  That could be it.  RoboCop!  Why, back in my day. . . .

The faux commercials of the original are replaced in this new RoboCop by a news program hosted by Pat Novak (Samiel L. Jackson).  Think Fox News, but with fancier, science-fiction graphics to manipulate.  He is also a shill for OmniCorp. The story Pat is featuring shows the company’s new robot soldiers pacifying the city of Tehran, Iran.  It soon gets cut off when a group of suicide bombers attack.  Ever trying to spin an opportunity to his advantage, OmniCorp’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) uses this to promote his products, saying that had those been real soldiers they would have been dead.  This is important to Raymond because he wants to do the same thing with law enforcement officers across the United States.  Standing in his way is Senator Dreyfus (Zach Grenier).  He is responsible for a law prohibiting the use of robots as law enforcement officers in the United States.  If only they can find a suitable candidate for OmniCorp’s head scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton’s (Gary Oldman), work of creating cyborgs. . . .  If you have seen the first ones, you will know that this is Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), though instead of being a junior patrolman, he is a detective.  He and his partner, Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), are on the case of a local crime boss, Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow).  Alex and Jack are working undercover, trying to get closer to Antoine.  Unfortunately, just as they are about to make another step in this process, they are sold out by corrupt cops among the Detroit police, and Jack is critically wounded in a shoot-out.  A shaken Alex returns to his wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish), and son David (John Paul Ruttan).  Later that night, though, a car alarm that will not turn off brings Alex to his vehicle only to have it explode in his face.  This is how he ends up in China . . . in the RoboCop suit.  I wish English grammar had a better way of writing a pause for ironic dramatic effect.  Alex becomes the way to circumvent Senator Dreyfus’ law because he provides the human element in the decision-making process that Raymond sees as a weakness.  He also basically bullies Clara into agreeing to the procedure.  When he comes to in his new, um . . . threads(?), Alex takes one lap around his laboratory and manufacturing environs before he is shut down.  When he is brough back online, he tells Dr. Norton that he would rather die than let Clara see her husband in this state.  Yet, Dr. Norton convinces Alex that this is what she wanted, and it is the only way he can see her again.  As such, Alex commits himself more to the training regimen, which involves making him more machine than human.  Though Dr. Norton says that he needs more time, Raymond pushes for RoboCop to be revealed to the public, hoping that it will sway the remaining opposition to overturning Senator Dreyfyss law.  Naturally, on the day this is supposed to happen, Alex has a breakdown when they upload all the criminal data of the city of Detroit into his brain and he is overwhelmed.  I will give you a moment to make your jokes.  Done?  Moving on, the solution that Dr. Norton comes up with involves making Alex even more into the robot part of the title.  This becomes doubly successful when within moments of standing before the adoring public for the first time, he spots a man wanted for murder in the crowd and apprehends him.  This is trumpeted as proof that OmniCorp’s plan works, and Congress moves to vote down Senator Dreyfus’ law.  Meanwhile, Alex’s brain is slowly beginning to shake off the effects of Dr. Norton’s work, and he begins taking down those responsible within law enforcement for what happened to him and Jack.  Publicly, OmniCorp spins this as another victory, but privately they decide to pull the plug, as it were, on Alex.  This means informing the public, and Clara, that Alex has had a psychotic episode and killed a fellow cop.  Dr. Norton tells Raymond that he will go along with the plan, but then makes sure that Alex gets loose before RoboCop can be shut down.  From there it is the expected final battle between RoboCop and OmniCorp.  Alex has to fight his programming at the end that is preventing him from shooting Raymond and saving his family, but he gets the job done.  We end with an angry Pat, mad that he did not get his way.

As often happens with films that are not done well, with RoboCop, the more you think about it, the more it falls apart. One of the biggest departures from the original to this one is the prominence of Alex’s family.  Here, it is done to underscore the conflict over whether to think of Alex as still human, though this, like most things in the movie, is mishandled.  Before, it was as simple as to whether people knew him as Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) or RoboCop.  Either way, as long as there is living, thinking human tissue within, Alex Murphy is a person in the Catholic view.  Beyond this, there is only one other moment of note.  It comes as they are tinkering with Alex’s brain, trying to make it more compliant to their instructions.  When they encounter resistance, somebody asks whether it could be caused by a soul.  What a concept, no?  Mankind has long wondered where in our bodies would reside that which is meant to be Divine. Traditionally, people think of the heart.  A strong case can be made for the brain, too.  It does not matter in the end where it is.  As long as a person has it, Catholicism will tell you this is a human being.  And as a member of the human race, Alex loves his family.  That is all we need, not the rest of this stuff.

Given the fact that they made this new RoboCop, I am somewhat surprised that they have not come out with a sequel. Actually, this is a good thing.  Those who made it took their swing, and missed.  Granted, they earned a bunch of money in making it, which is what often leads to a franchise, but as of yet this is done.  Good riddance.


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