Taking on a remake project of the much-admired 1987 hit “RoboCop” is a tall order. The iconic flick was compelling for its time, with themes of gore, zealous corporate capitalism and oppressive authoritarianism — themes that modern audiences would struggle to connect with. But director José Padilha took on the challenge anyway and successfully brought Detective Alex Murphy into the 21st century.
The plot is not too far off from the original, but Padilha modernizes it. He cleverly sets the tone of the film with a five minute opening scene of US drone warfare in Tehran, patrolling and submitting the public to searches and questioning. The US public is increasingly pressed to support legislation that would approve robotic law enforcement domestically, but they (logically) fear the consequences of machines making ethical decisions. The film also pulls on political strings to remain current, presenting the corruption and weak moral centers of easily bribed politicians and authority figures.
“RoboCop” also makes considerable improvements to the visual effects of the original film — no surprises there — and in casting. The original was over the top, complete with cheesy 80s theme music and two-dimensional performances by the actors. In contrast, the 2014 reboot has actors that deliver: Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish and Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) as Murphy fill out the characters with believable and moving performances. Kinnaman brilliantly flips from emotionally charged cop to vacant and unreachable machine.
With an injection of current events, visually thrilling scenes with help from the latest in film effects and a winning cast, Padilha could hardly go wrong. It’s clear that this time “RoboCop” takes itself seriously — and it’s for the better.
Stephanie Morin is a senior public relations and history double major. This review reflects the view of the writer only.