Did we watch the same film?
Joshua Zetumer (screenplay)
Edward Neumeier (1987 screenplay)
Michael Miner (1987 screenplay)
In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – 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.
So, the new Robocop… as I was walking out of the theatre, I had my mind filled with themes and questions and I realised that the film does not deserve the hate that it has received. Sure, there have been plenty of films that did not get the praise they deserve(d) (I am looking at you Emperor’s new groove), and although the themes are thrown at the viewer, it’s up to them to grab them and make the best of it. Robocop is not the mindless action flick some people thought it would be: it’s mostly a tale of vengeance and self-acceptance while debating ethics and the human being as a vehicle of blind justice.
The film starts with Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Novak and his program pro- robots showing how robot technology helped the US army with their campaigns and that America did not forget the lives that were taking during war. The opening scene is basically a great sum up of the film itself: Novak as the enthusiastic defender of the robots; the robots that follow orders but do not assess human behaviour and the environment of terror that these machines represent.
It is but ironic that Novak and a represent of the Pentagon talk about safety while the viewer sees the terrified faces of the inhabitants, clearly uncomfortable with their presence. The fact that these machines assess weapons equals’ danger; to kill makes the best opportunity for a group of bombers to make themselves blow up only to show their displeasure with the machines invading their home. It is also ironic that this is how “most Americans” picture most of the inhabitants of the Middle East: suicide bombers ready to literally blow up just to make a statement against the US. And this is when you understand that the film is going to be better than you thought.
To Americans this may be a total flop, after all Robocop opens the wound of an America obsessed with war and protecting their people instead of others. They don’t seem very concerned with sending huge machines to other countries, but they oppose when machinery should be used inside their country. America is not “robofobic” as Novak says, America is aware that robots are not the solution because they are just machines. And this is when Alex Murphy comes in. Wanting revenge for the attack to his friend, he goes deep to search for the one responsible for the attack.
After suffering an attempt of murder, Alex’s condition makes him the perfect “lab rat” for Dr. Norton’s (Gary Oldman) experience. Dr. Norton is Alex’s ally and even sidekick as he strives to balance his professional work with ethics. He wants Robocop to succeed mostly because it was his work and basically Alex is a nice guy who has been through a lot. Norton has to make huge sacrifices to please both Alex (to help him feel comfortable with his new body) and Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), by fulfilling his demands. Sellars is the typical business man trying to make huge profit: he is self-centred, but often presents himself as the good guy who just wants to help the American citizens. He is not bothered by the use of robots and the ethical problems that it will bring to the daily life. He wants to give the American citizens the perfect product by putting a man inside a machine, but often yells at Dr. Norton that Alex needs to be less human and more machine.
Alex, on the other hand, is a classical “I don’t want to be a hero but screw it”. He is just a regular cop with a high sense of justice and in the end he’s kind of just a regular guy whose circumstances made him a hero. He was not born with a power or he shall save the world, but people feel safe when he’s around. Some actions scenes happened too fast, but the plot had a good rhythm overall. Alex is struggling to accept his new body (we feel sorry for the guy when he looks at the mirror after surgery), accept that he is only a pawn in a system that he will soon find out is the one he has to destroy. Give the guy a break, no?
The ending with Samuel L. Jackson… I’m sorry Novak takes the lead to provide the viewer with a typical hypocritical position. He represents the extremists’ self-centred opinions that avoid/oblivion what everyone else thinks, calling the media “biased” while that is exactly what Novak is.
Overall Robocop is a good, solid film, sure it needed more time for you to fall in love with Alex, however Novak and Dr. Norton are solid secondary characters and you can’t help to enjoy what they represent. An extra half an hour to provide more insight of Alex life and maybe more emotion on Joel Kinnaman and it would have been a great film. Maybe we have become so used to Marvel superheroes that Robocop’s character, although tragic, may seem a little flat, however the film surpasses all expectations and even leaves room for a sequel.