Joel Kinnaman - The New "RoboCop" Is Shiny, But Heartless, Say Critics
Some of it works, a lot of it doesn't. Either way, you'd be better off sticking with the original.
So far, despite a rather touching performance by Gary Oldman, a suitably repulsive turn as the villain by Michael Keaton and, of course, the ever impressive Samuel L. Jackson, critics seem to agree that, for the most part, RoboCop fails to provide anything new. Sure, the human-robot morph is now black and he also drives a motorcycle, but other than that, director Jose Padilha has stuck to a somewhat confused and chaotic version of the original. In the age of CGI, Transformers, Avatar and The Avengers, reviewers seem to agree that RoboCop simply fails to hold moviegoers’ shrinking attention spans. It’s a retelling of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – one of the few honest cops left in Detroit gets nearly killed and is then given a robotic second life by a well meaning scientist (Gary Oldman) and a morally bankrupt corporate magnate, who made his millions in robotics. This version also gives Murphy a full backstory – a great life in the suburbs, loving wife and son – which most critics agree detracts from the original’s impact.
Where RoboCop works, it's the performances, not the story, that do it.
The LA Times’ Betsy Sharkey sums it up thusly: “The re-imagined crime, action, sci-fi thriller isn't going for the biting satire of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original, or its extreme violence. The sci-fi side hasn't evolved much. And the thrill? Well, most of the thrill is gone.”
The HuffPo’s Zaki Hasan is a bit more moderate. The first and second acts are alright, he says. It’s the third one, where RoboCop falters and devolves into a mess of gunshots and explosions. Most of all, the newly updated Robo just lacks the human element that made the original so relatable, Hasan says: “A considerable amount of time is spent on Murphy's perspective as he's coached by psychologist Dennett Norton (Oldman) on how to acclimate to his new metal body, but by showing him running and jumping like a superhero (a big upgrade from Robo 1.0), the essential tragedy of his situation is kept at arm's length other than one truly disturbing scene where we see the full, horrific scope of his injuries.”
The Slate’s Rick Bentley raises a similar objection – where this movie trumps the original in terms of scope and CGI, it misses out on its social and political message, as well as on the emotional impact. Bentley wraps it up nicely:“ If you are looking for action, the new version is perfect for you. If you want a RoboCop with more depth, stick with the original on DVD.”