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Blu-ray Review: 'RoboCop (2014)'

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The Film:

Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop” was one of the seminal science-fiction films of the 80s that would go on to influence several movies of the genre, which makes it no surprise that, like many other similarly important works, it eventually became the target of a remake. For this purpose, director Jose Padilha and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer have teamed up to update the classic with a new look and tons of new flashy special effects. However, that’s merely what’s on the surface. Looking into the narrative, we find a pretty similar storyline that centers on a cop, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), investigating a dangerous criminal. When he starts to get too close to the heart of the matter, a bomb is planted on his car, resulting in most of his body being severely burned.

Meanwhile, an intense debate has been raging on as to whether machines should be used in law enforcement, with the head of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), on one side, and a senator (Zach Grenier) on the other. In order to try and provide a more positive image for their side, Sellars comes up with the idea of merging man and machine, leading him to choose Murphy as the subject. With the help of Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), RoboCop is created using what’s left of Murphy. As the experiment goes on, Murphy gains incredible skills, such as being able to access the entire police database that’s contained in his programming and having the ability to pinpoint known criminals and their associates in the city. However, as he digs deeper into the case files, he soon starts on a quest to do something that his programmers did not expect: solving his own attempted murder.

Before watching this remake, I made a purposeful decision not to revisit Verhoeven’s classic (similar to what I did for the recent “Total Recall” remake) so as not to force myself to compare and contrast too much. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the original, so that allowed me to approach Padilha’s version from a fresher perspective. This new take on the story seems to have many of the elements right for such a remake to work, and yet, the whole thing just feels so cold and processed. I don’t mean because of the enormous amount of machines used throughout the film, but because it’s never able to generate any emotion for Murphy or what he’s going through. In a sense, as Murphy’s emotions are turned down (something that Norton is forced to do in an attempt to control him), the audience’s emotional connection is turned down as well until we’re left with something that’s merely a joyless, unexciting, and perfunctory shadow of the classic. As if to cap off these running themes, it comes complete with an overly-long shoot ‘em up finale that becomes monotonous very quickly. It’s a shame too because a lot of the cast was very well chosen, including Oldman and Keaton, in addition to Samuel L. Jackson and Jackie Earle Haley in smaller roles. However, after sitting through the bloated two-hour runtime, it was all too clear that the filmmakers had ultimately failed to show why this needed to be remade at all.

Video/Audio:

“RoboCop” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly good quality. There is the slightest hint of fuzziness to the picture, but it’s nothing so major as to disrupt the viewing experience. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio couldn’t be better, presenting dialogue, score, and every little sound effect in perfect clarity, so you don’t have to worry about missing a single gunshot. Overall, while the video could have been sharpened up a little more, there’s still very little to complain about in either department.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes: About four minutes of scenes that don’t add anything to the story, so they’re not particularly worth watching.

RoboCop – Engineered for the 21st Century: A 30-minute look at the making of the film, featuring interviews with the filmmakers who discuss its themes, weaponry, and Murphy’s mechanical suit. It’s an intriguing and informative featurette that’s worth checking out.

OmniCorp Product Announcement: A completely pointless inclusion that has descriptions of various OmniCorp products, including their robots and weaponry. Easily skippable.

Conclusion:

Jose Padilha’s attempt at remaking “RoboCop” has resulted in an emotionally hollow take on the tale that feels more like an excuse to fill the original story with tons of new special effects instead of taking the time to explore the existential dilemma of its central character. Without the essential emotional attachment to Murphy, the entire project was in vain from the start, turning this into just another big, loud action flick with nothing at its core.

Score: 2.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Stalingrad, The Monuments Men, Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill, Grand Piano, Her, Orange is the New Black: Season One, I, Frankenstein, Final Exam, Evilspeak, Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four, The Legend of Hercules, Dead Shadows, Sorcerer, Copperhead, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Best of Bogart Collection, Beneath, American Hustle

Now playing in theaters: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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