I’ve always had a fondness for Paul Verhoeven’s work, since doing my dissertation on his films while in my final year of university. I studied Total Recall , RoboCop and Starship Troopers . What can I say, I love my sci fi. With the direction Starship Troopers took in the subsequent sequels and with the catastrophe that was the Total Recall remake (well, to be fair, if it had used less elements from Total Recall and gave itself a different name, it wouldn’t have got on my nerves as much), I was understandably dubious about the remake of RoboCop that director José Padilha was heading up with writer Joshua Zetumer.
This could be the start of a beautiful friendship
To cut a long review short, I loved it. What, you want to know more? Okay, keep reading. While the original film was action packed, it still felt like the technology had jumped into the present from the future. Besides RoboCop and the amusingly problematic ED-209, there was virtually nothing that shouted “this movie is set in the future” – well in terms of technology anyway. The new movie is similar – it’s set in the near future, that much we can tell. But it does have more aspects which are sci-fi ish. And it’s still: cop meets violence meets cybernetic suit of armour and gets computer in brain.
The secondary characters have expanded, with his partner Lewis played by a a guy that doesn’t get anywhere near as much screen time. Meanwhile, the wife and kid get far more, mostly because this isn’t the RoboCop you remember. While the original barely had any of the original Murphy left in him, the new one is very different. And he’s far more mobile – which is consistent with what’s happening in robotics and cybernetics today in terms of research and prototyping and prosthetics.
I’d buy that for a dollar!
While the new film does seem fairly fundamentally different than the original, with OCP taking a more global position, with certain characters being very different to their counterparts and with RoboCop himself being a very different person, errr, cyborg, it was a worry that the film was going the way of the newer Total Recall . Don’t worry, it isn’t.
Despite the hype of “Robocop’s going to be in black”, that is part of the story, there’s plenty of traditional RoboCop metal to go around. But there are a few bits inspired by the original film that fans will love. From the ED-209’s coming back (and seemingly not as broken – for now), to the line “I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar”, and even the media in the background, it seems like this retelling recognises that you’ve seen the original and would like to remind you that this is a loving update.
It’s far more political than that…
Regardless of how you saw the original, whether it be a modernist interpretation of fixing society by putting an unstoppable robot on the streets or as a nightmare of privitisation gone mad, taking out the human element of society in order to try to establish peace – the remake won’t leave you hanging. It knows companies can be bad (but sometimes necessary in the world in which we live), it plays about with your concepts of what it means to be human, and it does it very well.
And looks at the idea that global companies might be operating in other countries in ways that are very different from how it operates in its founding country – there’s a whole subplot about Iran. This film is very politically aware, but it doesn’t push it in your face. If you want an action film that is emotive, here you are. If you’re wanting something with a bit more thinking behind it, there you go. And the slow realisation that the channel that Samuel L Jackson’s character is on, is actually a startling echo of Fox news style TV reporting is actually harrowing, especially when it manages to get the last word in.
Dead or alive, you’re coming with me
Not only was I pleasantly surprised, RoboCop blew me away. I couldn’t ask for a better modern action film. I’ll definitely be buying it on Blu-ray, and I will be showing it to my sci-fi loving father. Overall, massive thumbs up (even if one of them is robotic…)
RoboCop (2014) is out now in cinemas. Paul and Emily bought their own tickets.