We've got the future under control.
I had some apprehension coming into this movie, I'm not going to lie. See, I saw the old robocop before, and it isn't exactly the kind of movie that easily is turned into a non-R rated film while retaining it's unique feel, and that had me a bit worried. At the same time, I've had two separate friends tell me that it was "not too bad," which in my books means at least worth one watch. Would the corporate machine churn out another sub-stellar cash cow reboot, or would the soul find a way to give us a reincarnation of a classic in modern times?
The world is experiencing peace, brought to you buy America. The good ole USA has drones and unmanned units all over the world, and they keep the peace with a leaden hammer and electric judgement. Patrols are randomized, and citizens are expected to comply - but America doesn't feel safe having such things on it's own streets to keep the peace. How can they trust something that's just an empty husk when their life is on the line? How can something with no emotions really be making the best call when it pulls that trigger?
Omnicorp doesn't like this very much, as that's a whole lot of money they could be making if it weren't for the public supporting a law that prevents the deployment of drones on American soil. Even with good press, and one Sam Jackson newscaster whose feelings are you just can't be a true red blooded American unless you support robots patrolling our streets, Omnicorp doesn't seem to be having much luck with swaying the publics opinions as long as it's simply a machine. Then an idea hits them: why not have a man inside the machine? If they do that, wouldn't the public suddenly love the idea?
Enter good cop Alex Murphy. He might not be the best at his job, but he's a good family man and means for the best. When he starts getting a little too close to a big-time weapons dealer with ties to the police department, they try to off him - leading to Omnicorp taking advantage of the wife to give her pretty dead husband a second chance. Thus, with the power of science is Murphy reborn as Robocop! Constant battles on moral grounds occur as the scientist is continually forced to make poor decisions to please Omnicorp, and when it seems that robo may be doing his job a little too well, things get even more hairy for Omnicorp.
Although the new suit looks much less robotic and more... oh, lets call it "batman-ish" - it still looks rather functional. However, regardless of how thoughtful, intentional, and or well meaning it was meant to be lets talk about one thing: that gosh dang normal hand! There is no physical reason for him to have one non-robotic hand. We could have argued about it better, but numerous "de-roboticized" scenes show that his arm is completely gone, except the hand. You mean to tell me they are wasting time pumping blood to this hand somehow through all those robotics just to take the "we want a human behind the trigger" that seriously? Come on man. That aside, it functions well, and various battle damages accrue on it in a very satisfactory manner. Beyond that, his robotic compatriots get some decent CG work on them as well - arguably much better on the man-sized drones, but in general all things move in a manner that seems natural and well handled.
Action scenes are the main show-stealer here. Yeah, the actors do a pretty good job of their job at acting, but when the action picks up things get downright exciting. It can be fast paced, but in most cases it's still shot in a manner that you never really lose track of what is going on (unlike in some movies). The plot facilitates these action scenes well, never really making them feel forced into the plot and allowing for a natural progression to build.
One could also argue the morals and theories are on the main stage as well - although you could ignore those a lot easier than you can ignore the action scenes. It's a wide range here as well - down to things such as "pulling the plug" and corporate greed. Heck, we could even get into "how far would you go to be safe," and the irony of the media mogul Jackson plays pointing out how corrupt the media is could make almost anybody who catches it crack a smile. Yes, some things (such as greed) play out far more than other bits do, but the acting thankfully never hits a cringeworthy point that detracts from even the more minor elements.
On it's own, not taking into consideration any other Robocop to exist, I can say this movie totally is capable of standing on its own legs. It's well shot, and although some moments feel like beating a dead horse the entire field when put together is a pretty well oiled machine. There are moments in which things can be inferred and reflected on, but those wanting that action will be glad to see that it still exists (even if it's in a PG-13 manner). Of everything in this movie, the only thing that one should really feel annoyed about is the poor romancing scene pre-robo of the cop (I mean, it feels a lot like the actors didn't want to be there that day or something). Totally worth at least a rent - some folks might want to pick it up as a buy as well.
I couldn't forget to make mention of the older movie though, could I? The original movie was notoriously a product of its time. Over the top violence made up for a rather mediocre budget and effects work that they could manage - and it's probably the one aspect that we all remember the most. Without a doubt, the setup to the original felt much more visceral in it's approach, and also gave women a role of empowerment by making Murphy's partner a quite capable female lead. One liner's cropped up and became so well known that many of them are referenced even in this newer take. Although I admittedly love the original for it's own values, I also find it hard to call it better than this modern take - which I can't help but point out really reflects a lot of what's currently going on in the world right now. I feel that the practical effects might help give the original more of a nostalgic attachment for me - I do love me my practical effects - but based on their own merits I have to say my enjoyment of each came for different reasons.