I can’t describe the plot of this film any better than my co-Goblin Dan did in his recent review of the 1987 original. Therefore I’ve copied and pasted it and improved the special effects.
RoboCop is set in a corporate-run dystopia called America. When a Detroit police officer named Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is killed by a criminal gang, a mega-corporation campagning to have their military drones used on US streets reanimates him as a robot, who’s also a cop. A robot cop, if you will.
This version of RoboCop is similar to Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake in that it falls into the frustrating category of being unnecessary, but also quite good. You can’t fault this film for its quality as a fun action film which also makes you think, but that’s exactly what the original did too.
True, it’s an unnecessary film for anyone who’s seen the original, but I suppose that’s not its target audience. When a film is made almost three decades on, it’s fair to say it will probably reach an audience the original didn’t (unlike, say, The Amazing Spider-Man), so perhaps it’s unfair to judge it as a fan of the original. But how different is it?
While it certainly couldn’t be called a “reimagining”, there are a few tweaks, some of which improve the film slightly. For example, in the original, once Murphy becomes RoboCop he is pretty much a robot for most of the rest of the film. In the new film, he maintains much more of his own psyche, which makes him a more interesting character overall.
Like Oldboy, the addition of Samuel L. Jackson is very welcome, with his perfect casting as an angry right wing news commentator. Gary Oldman is here as the conflicted scientist responsible for creating the cop, Michael Keaton is on hand as Omnicorp’s ruthless CEO, and the brilliant Jackie Earle Haley rounds off an impressive cast. There are some very neat special effects to boot which is, I suppose, the other main point of remaking the film.
But it’s also less tongue-in-cheek. True the satire and sci fi themes are still there, but as a film it takes itself more seriously, possibly because improved effects make it easier to buy into. The sci fi elements are more relevant than ever, with military drones now a harsh reality of modern warfare. The effectiveness of the machinery is shown through the USA’s brutal occupation of a recently invaded Iran, and asks us to again consider the price we place on security.
Enjoyable but unnecessary, this is worth viewing only if you haven’t seen the original.