Fanboy Flick Pick: Rebooted RoboCop Settles for Second-Best...Which Is Good Enough

By Luke Y. Thompson in Movies
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

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As a scientist ironically named Dr. Norton, Gary Oldman's job is to debug the latest in law enforcement and make him ready for action - when it turns out that Murphy's human conscience slows down his insta-kill reflexes, the doctor's orders are to add new safeguards into the brain that keep him from worrying about such trivialities as due process and bringing 'em back alive. But will Murphy's inherent humanity be able to overcome such things? That's an important question when he can wirelessly hack every traffic cam and database in the city, much like the lead character in the upcoming video game Watch_Dogs. This Murphy is less Jesus than Frankenstein.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, this is a movie about drones. It opens with scenes of U.S. occupied Iran, which now resembles a Terminator Judgment Day, as androids and chicken-walking ED-209s roam the streets as flying killer-bots patrol the skies. Conservative talk-show hosts like Jackson's Novak, and venture capitalists like Omnicorp's Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) rail against the American hypocrisy of deploying such things overseas while banning them stateside. Unlike in the original, the powers that be are not quite so ruthless as to transfer the best and brightest new cops to the most dangerous neighborhoods in the hope one will become cyborg-fodder, but they are convincing enough to get Murphy's wife to sign off on saving him, even as organs in a machine body. Yes, there are Tin Man references, but they are mostly sarcastic, thank Oz.

Though the movie is PG-13, the violence is sufficient here that it would have earned an R in prior years, though it's certainly not as blood-soaked or boobie and profanity laden as Verhoeven's. You won't see executives snorting cocaine off of hookers, but none of the action sequences feels lacking, exactly. There is an overall look of relative cheapness, like this could have been shot in any Canadian metropolis today rather than future Detroit, but this could, in its way, be more accurate - the future often looks more like its preceding years than our fictions would have us believe.

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Who knows - for this generation, the new RoboCop might be the action movie they dig and grow up to see the satire in. It's too bad the movie itself doesn't trust that fact enough, ending everything with a reminder, in so many words, that in case you didn't get it, this movie was about drones. Finishing an otherwise entertaining flick on such an annoying note risks undercutting any accumulated good will - you want people to exit the theater feeling good, and Verhoeven's final "Murphy" line sure as shit did that, leaving you to worry about the morality of violence much later when you thought back on it.

I know RoboCop. RoboCop is a friend of mine. And 2014 remake...Well, at least you're no RoboCop 2. Seriously, the black mayor in that was the original Jar Jar.

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