Thursday, February 13, 2014

Robocop (2014) - Movie Review

MGM and Columbia Pictures has brought back a cult classic science fiction character in hopes of creating another blockbuster franchise and, thanks to director José Padilha, Robocop looks primed and ready to blow through the competition. The movie stars Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jay Baruchel while Joel Kinnaman takes on the title role.

A few years from now, Detroit will look and feel a lot like it does now and a lot like it has for many years with the one exception of being the home to the Omnicorp robotics company. Having supplied automated security forces around the world, owner Raymond Sellars (Keaton) has is sights set on the U.S. market which is currently blocked by legislation against the controversial robots being used as domestic peace keepers.

Meanwhile, detective Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) has found himself in the middle of a crime wave that threatens to take over the city and, when he digs a little too deep, is targeted for elimination. After a car bomb leaves Murphy on the brink of losing his life, Sellars and his team of scientists step in to make an offer that could not only save the young man, but could be a game changer in Omnicorp's fight with the government. What they may not realize is how, even though science can turn a man into a robotic police officer, they may never be able to fully control the man who's heart still beats inside its near indestructible casing.

When the idea of rebooting Robocop first got thrown around, the resounding response from fans was...why? Especially when it was announced that this new, shiny version of the cult classic story would get a glossy, and box office friendly PG-13 rating as opposed to the R rating of the more hardcore original. Now that I have seen the reboot, I have to say that, while the basic story is there, this is an entirely new take on the character and I honestly enjoyed every moment of it.

Director José Padilha does a great job of toeing the line between playing it safe for mass appeal and leaning towards the darker tone of Paul Verhoeven's take on Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner original story. If you haven't seen Padilha's Elite Squad movies, I highly recommend that you check them out as soon as possible and you will quickly see why he was chosen for this particular job.

I firmly believe that we as movie goers are very fortunate to be at the beginning of an era where special effects companies seemingly have no limitations on what they can put on a movie screen. Everything looks so clean and photo realistic that I never once felt taken out of the story because some random cartoon looking robot felt out of place in the dirty street of Detroit. Visually, the movie contains a very interesting mix of futuristic, Star Trek style clean and the old, worn down reality that we know the city of Detroit to actually look and feel like right now.

The other highlight of the movie is the perfectly placed cast. I haven't seen Michael Keaton this inspired in a long time, Oldman is pitch perfect as usual, and we also get the added bonus of a very animated Samuel L. Jackson who chews up every scene he's in as TV show host Pat Novak. I wasn't sure how anyone could fill Peter Weller's shoes, but Joel Kinnaman is surprisingly good as Alex Murphy and also very believable encased in the Robocop armor. Thanks to this rock solid cast, I never once felt like this movie was heading down knock off territory although there are some very clever and entertaining nods to the original.

I would never say this version of Robocop is better than its predecessor as they each take the character and story in a slightly different direction. Where Verhoeven created something very unique and special during its time, Padilha has the advantage of more advanced technology and a bigger budget to work with. Either way, I would be very surprised if Robocop doesn't clean up at the box office while becoming the first surprise hit of the year.

While Robocop is available in some IMAX theaters, I'd say don't bother as none of it was filmed using real IMAX cameras. Want to know more about IMAX and how it works? CLICK HERE


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