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At the Movies - By Douglas Laman

RoboCop

How I adore robots, those mechanical fixtures of science-fiction. You wanna make a movie better? Shoehorn in a robot and it’ll at least be entertaining. Iron Man, the Jaegers in Pacific Rim and C-3PO and R2-D2 are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to memorable robots on the big screen. But let’s not forget about the subject of this review, RoboCop, who is also a legendary figure of robotic cinema, though I doubt you’d know it after seeing this mediocre film.

For Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), the only good criminal is one that’s behind bars and he’s determined to take one crook in particular that’s responsible for his partner ending up in the hospital. That same criminal winds up planting a bomb in Alex’s car that reduces him to just a few limbs and organs. Luckily, big corporation Omnicorp has a procedure in place that gives Alex not just a new chance at life but also the ability to wear robot suit that makes him unstoppable.

In order for the audience to get behind Murphy’s character transformation from human to RoboCop, we have to want Murphy to survive his ghastly ordeal and make it through all his experiences. This can be accomplished by having some sharp writing and a good actor playing the titular officer, but we get neither. Kinnaman plays Murphy so wooden that there’s little difference between his normal human version and his brainwashed Robocop form. To boot, he spends so much time whining about the suit, and the film presents it in such an antagonistic manner, that it all suffers from what I like to call “The Hulk Syndrome.”

Like the 2003 Hulk movie, the film keeps telling us the main characteristic that makes the dull, underdeveloped main character an action hero (a green monster in The Hulk or a robotic body in this movie) is a bad thing, more of a curse than anything. That’s a fine angle to take, especially if that main character is properly developed and we feel like him controlling it has come naturally (the next two live-action depictions of The Hulk did a fantastic job with this aspect.) But here, the thing that haunted the protagonist is, for some reason, his ally in the finale and we have no idea why. Such messy screenwriting pervades the film, with characters (namely Michael Keaton’s sinister CEO fellow) constantly flip-flopping between personalities and others, such as Abbie Cornish as Murphy’s wife, being underutilized.

That being said, aside from suffering from “Hulk Syndrome” and some sloppy screenwriting, the film is otherwise serviceable, with some instances of imagination coming through. There’s really nothing truly atrocious here, but there’s also little that’s remarkable, either. The cast deserves much of the praise for keeping this film watchable; Gary Oldman, per the norm, does well as a tortured scientist, Jay Baruchel is just there to give Michael Keaton someone to talk to and Samuel L. Jackson (or as I like to call him, “not Laurence Fishburne”) pretty much plays Exposition Man, as all he does in the movie is sum up everything that’s happened so far, though he does deliver some of the film’s funniest moments. Still, these cast members are one of the few aspects of the film to have any ingenuity, making RoboCop a noble, but overall forgettable film.

Grade: C+ (Dead or alive, this movie is a mediocre experience)