(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)
The original RoboCop film had a feel for the dystopia of a futuristic world. It was set in a Detroit of the future, more violent than it already was and also bankrupt. The Detroit of 2013 in the real world did file for bankruptcy. Rightly so, the new film eschews any need to artificially create dystopian artifact. It feels more like the present world minus all the state of the art machinery and computer systems. But all this again credits the more fun original remake for being astonishingly prescient. The reboot is more ambitious choosing to comment on corruption, machine vs humanity, capitalism etc. But it begs the question whether these are organic to most films reflecting today’s reality or is it a conscious effort to highlight them.
It starts with Samuel L. Jackson’s hammy performance, playing a pro-robots television presenter doing a demonstration of the systems for the public. He throws up Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to make his point and we shift to a poor pretender for Tony Stark in Michael Keaton’s Raymond Sellers, head of OmniCorp that is making those machines. He is under pressure to put a man inside a machine to repeal an act that’s standing in his company’s way and decides to do exactly that when Officer Alex Murphy is grievously injured. These are some of the best parts of the film even if a tad overdone. We go behind the scenes with Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) transforming Murphy to RoboCop and this film spends more time with him – his training, his coming to terms with his new body of alloys, his psyche and his family. The earlier film did away with the family angle but this one keeps it very much central providing some emotional core to the story. The old one only makes a passing mention of baby food etc to sustain RoboCop’s organic parts while this one goes deeper into his system and his response to them. While this remains a positive, it goes on for too long. You just want to watch RoboCop catching criminals and ending crime and this part takes too long to arrive.
RoboCop ultimately turns into the film that takes more than it can handle. It also annoyingly becomes an “America-is-the-Greatest” movie with Samuel L. Jackson’s character becoming a parody done bad after a point. There are some noble intentions strewed over especially at the start but after that the action is a little too late to arrive and when it does it is uninspiring.