Michael Keaton thinks he’s in a satire
While watching this movie, I could see Micheal Keaton holding up a big sign in the back that said, “THIS IS SERIOUS SOCIAL COMMENTARY. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM LAUGHING OR TEXTING”. I think the original Robocop was more farcical, absurb, and humorous than the Robocop remake can ever hope to be. They might as well have a narrator in this one describing the satire, explaining it to us. The movie desperately wants to be smart. It thinks it is sly and modern, with its “black” Robocop and “ripped from the headlines” story, but it is missing everything raw and ludicrous from the original that made it great. It is missing originality.
Still, parts of the Robocop remake are pretty good. The scene with the guitar player is my favorite scene in the whole movie. This is where Gary Oldman is testing out how some guy’s cybernetic hands perform while he plays the guitar. The guy gets emotional and starts missing some notes, which Oldman explains is interference caused by the feelings the guy is experiencing. The guy looks dumbfounded as he says, “That’s kinda funny, because I can’t play without emotion”. Duh. Gary Oldman looks confused.
This theme pops up later on in the movie; combining tech and emotion, not Gary Oldman being confused. They keep ramming this theme down our throats until Murphy is literally struggling to be human on a rooftop, with the villain shouting at him like a jerk. The guitar scene should have been extended and explored instead of going the more obvious route.
The effects in this movie are really outstanding, but Alex Murphy as Robocop doesn’t look as real or organic as the original. Joel Kinnaman just looks like he’s wearing a suit, all padded and decked out, ready to fight crime like a superhero. Peter Weller looked more appropriate in his make-up and costume, which were worked on by the immortal Rob Bottin. Still, the CGI is perfect.
Gary Oldman or Michael Keaton are probably the best part of this movie. They have good scenes, and when the script fails, they come through anyway. I can remember at least two scenes where Oldman delivers over-the-top dialogue like I remember Gary Oldman doing back in the day, like he’s in JFK or The Fifth Element. Still, Oldman is your typical scientist here, and there’s not much deviation.
On the other hand, Michael Keaton starts out in unfamiliar territory, but ends up as a comfortable supervillain in a pretty stupid regression. The parts of the movie where he is plotting, planning, and being a badass businessman are great, until he starts plotting the deaths of people, namely Alex Murphy, then it went a little too far. He should have stayed in Lex Luthor territory.
Overall, this is a good movie, but it shows its flaws. Also, as a remake, it sets itself up for comparisons, which raises expectations. Everyone was expecting a blockbuster gone-with-the-wind casablanca movie, but we got some average CGI fun. It’s not all that, despite being extremely polished. The editing is not that good and it is somewhat choppy. The dialogue is great, but the themes lack the grit of the original Robocop. There’s the comparisons again. This movie is always going to be second banana, sorry to say, because it doesn’t take any risks.