Overview: In 2028, a police officer near death is rebuilt as part man, part robot. MGM/Columbia Pictures; 2014; Rated R; 118 Minutes.
Full Speed: The assignment of the good-to-evil role scale is perfectly cast. Joel Kinnaman stands in credibly as our hero-turned-android, Alex Murphy. Gary Oldman, when called upon, establishes the most concise moral compasses in film today. He fulfills that expectation again as Dr. Dennitt Norton. The CEO responsible for the technology that saves and then ruins our hero’s life is Raymond Sellars, a welcome turn from a recently absent Michael Keaton. And Jackie Earl Haley plays the military tactician whose initial skepticism toward Murphy ends up in a full-on hunt to destroy him. Haley and Keaton are the perfect figures of corporate and militant evil.
Rocket Speed: The movie has two stretches of astonishing sci-fi power. The exposition, wherein we are introduced to this futuristic technology by way of political programming, is as sharply presented an introduction in a movie as I’ve seen this year. And then later, when Alex is awakened, confused, and then disassembled, looking in a mirror at his own body (just a set of glass encased lungs, a spinal cord, a face, and exposed brain), my hope for the film skyrocketed. This scene carried the weight of an existential freight train.
Use Your Brake: Funny that a movie intent on displaying every available scientific metric on-screen would struggle with measuring its own doses of expression. For example: Where Samuel L. Jackson’s Bill O-Reilly-esque avatar establishes the political tone early on, then amuses in the center, his epilogue appearance is bully-ish, forceful, and just plain too much.Another example: Sprinkled in the dialogue, there exists clever and intelligent pronoun signifiers. Pay attention to who refers to RoboCop as “him” and who refers to him as “it.” Further, those who devalue the ongoing life of Alex refer to his initial attack as a “murder,” as if he is not alive within the robo-construction. These are near-brilliant manners of addressing the “What makes life life?” question prevalent in the RoboCop mythology. However, when the movie insists upon presenting the same question through the not-so-subtle tug of war of dopamine measurements, it fails to give science-fiction fans, its most supportive demographic, the intuitive credit they deserve.
The Crash: The action sequences aren’t nearly as well realized as the stretches of RoboCop’s construction. The camera paces and shifts like a party fearfully caught in the crossfire. There is no way to visually make sense of RoboCop’s takedown of the drug factory or his fight with two droids.
Overall: The original RoboCop (1987) succeeded by not nailing with a sledgehammer into its existential and political questions and by balancing the contemplative material with great action. This modern effort falters on both fronts, rendering what is, at times, an entertaining but ultimately pointless remake which adds nothing but an improved suit to the RoboCop legacy.