In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy - a loving husband, father and good cop - is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer. (from IMDB.com)
1987. The Princess Bride was released; Disney's first big regular afternoon cartoon series, DuckTales, made its debut; Timothy Dalton became the latest James Bond, replacing Roger Moore, for The Living Daylights; Mel Brooks spoofed Star Wars in Spaceballs; and He-Man made his big screen debut in the abomination that was Masters of the Universe. But while I was a young buck eating up the family entertainment, adults were introduced to the futuristic robot cop, RoboCop. The film, rated R primarily for intense graphic violence and also for containing strong profanity, earned several sequels over the years, but was given the reboot treatment in 2014 with a much tamer (in comparison to the original) new direction. With a fresh take on the series, director Josť Padilha gives a new spin on the character, updating it with modern special effects and technology, creating a unique hero in an increasingly more robotic age.
This latest film takes place in the not-so-distant future, grounding it in a tangible reality when America is deciding whether or not to start using robots in the military and in law enforcement. With the idea of robots policing city streets seeming risky, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) comes up with the idea of putting a man inside of a robot to give it a soul with reasoning power and conscience. They have trouble finding a suitable placement however, that is until police officer Alex Murphy is brutally injured in a car bomb explosion. With Alex's severe injuries, he was reborn in 3-month's time as RoboCop.
While I have no knowledge of the previous films to compare 2014's RoboCop to, I found this take to be rather intriguing. It's a bit of an I, Robot with a dash of Transformers and 24 mash-up, but a suprise element to the film that I was not expecting was a significant thematic focus on the ethics of keeping a mostly-dead man alive inside the workings of a mechanical body--and outfitting that person as a soldier. Furthermore, they embed controls in his brain so he can be shut down/reactivated, and even drugged to control his emotional state. Actor Joel Kinnaman, who I was unfamiliar with before seeing this film, is remarkable at capturing the robotic aspects of the character, even though he lacks any kind of charisma. Meanwhile, Keaton and Gary Oldman ooze charisma and personality, being fun to watch in all of the scenes they appear in. But, in Kinnaman's defense, this is very much a birth-of story for RoboCop, and it centers more around the logistics and morality of the idea of taking a hopelessly injured human being and keeping them alive as a robot who is more man than machine, than it is about any one criminal villain. This isn't Iron Man battling someone like Iron Monger or Whiplash; this is about the actual struggle of creating RoboCop and what that means for the man and his wife and son.
Those looking for Transformers or even Iron Man will be gravely disappointed. 2014's RoboCop has the pulse of a drama with a greater focus on adult audiences than anything that exists just purely to entertain. It's got the budget and effects of a blockbuster, but the heart of a more indie film. It asks some serious questions while offering up some incredible visuals and cool action scenes. While it isn't a breathless action film, there are a few big shootout sequences that either involve human law enforcement (like in pre-RoboCop scenes) or RoboCop training against other robots, or later with our hero taking on an entire building full of bad guys. When he finally has to take on some mech tech, it's pretty cool to watch him in full action mode. It's an intense film, however, and while the action sequences themselves don't render graphic outcomes, there are some really graphic visuals that involve Alex himself and what he actually looks like beneath his Robo-shell.
The content can't hold a candle to what I've read is shown in the original 1987 film (seriously, while I haven't seen it, it sounds like there's some truly disturbing violence in it), but some of the stuff you'll see in this 2014 film can be unsettling. When they strip away all of RoboCop's mechanical pieces, we find that the only organic parts of his body are his right hand (a deleted scene explains why), lungs, throat, face and brain. As such, there's a scene where Oldman's character is talking to Alex in front of a mirror and we see his glass-encased lungs, throat and brain graphically active. It's a long sequence and not very subtly presented. If the sight of any of that may disturb you, you'll be surprised that the camera lingers surprisingly long on all of it. A scene a little bit later on shows Alex laying on an operating table with a doctor's blood-tipped fingers holding fine surgical tools to his exposed, bloody brain. This is shown in a couple different graphic views as well. Finally, we see another view of Alex with just his lungs and brain exposed briefly. The car bombing scene where Alex gets hurt is a little intense, and while we don't see his immediate injuries much, they do revisit the sequence later on in the film. We also see some imagery of him bandaged up, missing a leg with scarred skin exposed all over his body while he lies in a hospital bed. There is some language in the film, including a handful of "S" words, an unreasonable amount of blasphemy, a bleeped-out "motherf-----" near the end and a reported audible use of the "F" word (but I didn't notice it, and I'm usually very sensitive to catch them). There's also a brief sensual scene between Alex and his wife where, after putting their son to bed, Alex and Clara begin passionately kissing and he pulls her shirt off, revealing her in a bra as they keep kissing and move to their bed. They're interrupted, however, and the scene never goes any further, but it's sensual enough that it will be awkward for some viewers.
Overall, RoboCop was a pleasant surprise. It's certainly not for everyone, but those looking for a more cerebral action film than a full-on one will find a lot to like about this new RoboCop. And, if nothing else, it's just a lot of fun to see Michael Keaton in a prominent role again, alongside the always reliable Gary Oldman. They definitely assembled a strong cast for this. Hopefully we'll see a follow-up soon to this entertaining futuristic police action drama.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/31/14)
Deleted Scenes (3:59) - There are barely four minutes of deleted scenes. They're all very short with not much being added to the film. The first is an unfinished sequence that briefly shows the Pentagon, with obvious green screen use. The next show Keaton's character explaining that he wants Alex's right hand saved because his father believed a lot could be told about a man's handshake. Next is a short helicopter ride involving the mayor, and then a short scene where Jack talks to the police captain. Finally, we see Oldman's character confessing some of the company's doings to another character.
Omnicorp Product Announcement (3:27) - These are a series of 10 mock commercials that briefly profile 10 different kinds of robots featured in the world of RoboCop.
RoboCop: Engineered for the 21st Century (28:47) - This one is the meat and potatoes of the extras. While it's not super long, it explains how this project came to be, how the director asked the studio about updating it and what they hoped to accomplish. The featurette also covers details like RoboCop's weapons, his motorcycle, little nods to the original film and things they wanted to keep about the original, etc. When they focus on his suit, its redesign and how the first suit Alex wears is a nod to the original, they feature a quick blurb from Michael Keaton as he reminisced about the demands of his 1989 Tim Burton Batman rubber costume, and how he teased Alex about how much easier he had it (even though the new RoboCop suit was still pretty difficult to wear). All in all, it's a good behind-the-scenes featurette.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/31/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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