Written by Guest Contributor: Jefferey Pinkos This is late in coming. Sorry, I’m new.
RoboCop 2014 isn’t RoboCop 1987. That merits some mention. José Padilha’s remake sidesteps the messiness of Paul Verhoeven’s original, the sneering tone and the giddy violence. The original confronts audiences with the beastly dehumanizing effects of Reagan-era law and order and the rule of private industry. The remake is, or tries to be, a serious and emotional meditation on drone warfare and prostheses. Trouble is Verhoeven’s messiness gave his RoboCop a heart, and Padilha’s own messiness takes away from the points he tries to make.
RoboCop 2014 changes focus from the original, which employed Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) as the main source of action with the occasional diversion. Here, RoboCop 2014 introduces a set of previously unseen characters, the creative team behind RoboCop which includes CEO Michael Keaton, the sensitive prosthetics guy Gary Oldman, and a bunch of hangers on that don’t warrant mention (including you, Jay Baruchel; jk jk we’re good). RoboCop gives OmniCorp executive class equal time to Joel Kinnaman’s workable performances as Alex Murphy badass cop / Alex Murphy badass RoboCop. They explain situations. They explain that, oh, his emotions. They explain that, puts some sedatives here, damn it. Their scenes explain what’s going on with Alex Murphy while nodding to their overriding concern, that if this fucks up they will have less money. These scenes are fairly economical as plot delivery devices.
Because Padilha pushes Murphy’s story to the side, or thinking it required some sort of bionic exposition suit, what he gives us is scraps of stories. Cops are gun-running. The mob guy orders a hit. Dude blows up. He gets revenge in, like, ten minutes, like it was nothing, like it was going to the Starbuck and picking up a quad-pump espresso. It was that simple. That story is negligible to the story Padilha wants to tell; just a means to an end. What he cares about is family drama. We get a dozen scenes of weepy family stuff (who seem to only exist to give the dude pathos; that said it is the greatest gift a family can provide). We get a banality of evil story in the OmniCorp exposition group, that shoots to a climax with Michael Keaton on a rooftop, with a gun trained on Murphy’s stupid pathos family, that feels unearned.
Is he evil because he’s ruthless? Is it the notion of self-interested, ambitious Tea Party jag off Randians are just dicks? That could reason out why Sam Jackson’s conservative scenes exist in the first place. But no, there’s no cohesion. Alex Murphy is a knight treated like a pawn, not just by OmniCorp, but also by Padilha’s treatment.
Someone online noted that Padilha’s thesis statement for RoboCop 2014 is a early, plot-less scene where Gary Oldman the prosthetist watches on as a patient with a new bionic hand plays the guitar beautifully before inevitable fumbling. The patient’s emotions are conflicting with the bionics, and he needs the emotions to play. It is a frustrating limbo he exists in. Murphy undergoes the same procedure for his entire body. The dialectic between life and artifice. The beauty and terror of being human. It’s a shame that story wasn’t told.
Again, sorry, this is late coming in. Either you’ve seen it, or you won’t. If you have, yeah, sorry. If you haven’t, continue doing that.
Director: José Padilha Writer: Joshua Zetumer Studio: Sony Pictures Release Date: 2/14/14