This reboot (roboot?) of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 kinetic action classic reprises the concept of man-as-machine and vice versa, this time in the blindingly white conference room of evil conglomerate OmniCorp, as its executives ponder how best to deploy their newest creation. This is police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), so badly injured in the line of duty they have to gather up what’s left of him and encase it in a black suit of steel and titanium. His wife (Abbie Cornish) is duly presented with a new husband who feels nothing but is really good at fighting.
There’s a sort of blithe, breezy optimism at work here, demonstrated in scenes that show the streets of “sunny Tehran” being breezily patrolled by unmanned OmniCorp tanks and jet-black android soldiers. Protesters are lambasted with a response that would make a fascist dictator seem the happier option.
Robots are great. RoboCops are greater. And as self-congratulatory OmniCorp scientist Dr. Dennet Norton (Gary Oldman) insists, “Robots are so interesting because they have no emotions.” Is he kidding? It’s hard to tell. Just like the film itself, he hovers between sneering at human frailty and reveling in robo-tech, but when the chips are really down, the Doc has no answers.