Posted February 9, 2014 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: “RoboCop” is a tin man with a heart

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Columbia Pictures, Strike Entertainment
Starring Joel Kinnaman, Douglas Urbanski, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Garrow, and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by José Padilha

Philippine Release Date: February 5, 2014
Runtime: 118 minutes (1 hour 58 minutes)
MTRCB Rating: PG

I was too young to fully grasp and appreciate the messages that the original 1987 RoboCop contained; hell, when it came out, I wasn’t even born yet, and I only managed to catch the film about a couple of times on television and home video during my childhood.

Greatly inspired by the gritty protagonists of the late ‘80s – perhaps most notably by the comic book law enforcer Judge Dredd – the original RoboCop tackled multiple themes, such as politics, avarice, self-identity, and the conflict between mechanical efficiency and human emotion. Set in a dystopian reality where flesh-and-blood lawmen were prepped to be phased out by emotionless automatons, RoboCop became a chilling (albeit over-the-top) picture, loaded with socio-political observations and statements far more than what one would reasonably expect from such a production at the time.

I saw how the Alex Murphy of 1987 was gunned down and cyborgized (my parents are wonderful people who respected me enough to know that seeing violence and guns would not encourage me to become a bloodthirsty sociopath), and honestly, I didn’t think much of it. As a child, I only saw him as an armored robot policeman: He looked cool, he shot the bad guys, and he was a hero. True, my young mind may have not realized the true point of RoboCop, but at least he still remained one of the good guys in my toy box.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the new RoboCop movie was made specifically to elicit the same kind of feelings from today’s audience as the ones I felt as a child who missed the point of the original.

And I don’t exactly think that’s a bad thing.

If you loved the original RoboCop’s premise, then don’t fear – while the story has been greatly reimagined, the core idea of RoboCop remains the same: a gravely injured police officer becomes a cyborg policeman, coming to terms with his irreversible situation while trying to fight the very programming that, while steadily taking away his humanity from him, also prevents him from lashing out at the people who have done him wrong.

2014’s RoboCop opts to focus on two things, both of which it does quite well. The almost entirely mechanized Murphy’s effectiveness as a crime-fighter is displayed extensively, and this sleek new RoboCop is quite different from the rather clunky original.

Meanwhile, the film also takes us through Alex Murphy’s journey as he tries to reclaim his humanity, exploring the boundary that exists between man and machine and trying to strike a balance between the two. Additionally, Murphy’s family plays a significant role here, as we see how they’re forced to deal and adjust to the changes brought about by Murphy’s unique new condition. As far as sci-fi films go, RoboCop handles action and emotion like a well-oiled machine.

As for people who are upset about the film’s design elements (such as the color of the suit), it pays to reserve your judgment until the end of the film. Suffice to say, your questions re: RoboCop’s attire (among other things) are addressed adequately.

However, the deeper political messages in the new RoboCop are not as powerful or clear as they were in the original. Scenes featuring Samuel L. Jackson (who plays the role of an opinionated television host) are rather overused in order to advance the plot on many occasions.  Not only does it violate the rule of “show, don’t tell,” it also lessens the impact and gravity of whatever the filmmakers wanted to convey. There is an over-arching issue of robot-enforced security on American soil, but the film’s apparent insistence on presenting these messages in an incredibly ham-fisted manner makes it feel more like a misguided sentiment rather than an insightful statement.

Still, that’s no reason to dismiss the new RoboCop. Much like how Alex Murphy is a mix of man and machine, RoboCop combines pulse-pounding action and heartfelt drama, and becomes even greater than the sum of its parts. Bring your kids along (if you have any) – I’m sure they (and you) will enjoy the film.

It’s a solid two hours of action-packed and somewhat mindless entertainment, and while that may not be the best way to make a statement, perhaps it’s good that the RoboCop reboot decided to take a different approach, choosing not to tread the exact same ground that the original already covered so well almost three decades ago.

VERDICT: 7.5 out of 10 laws upheld

A warm “thank you” goes out to Columbia Pictures Philippines (Like their FB page here!) for the special screening of RoboCop.

Mikael Angelo Francisco