The trailer for the original RoboCop (1987) was the Worst. Trailer. Ever. But after seeing the movie, the trailer made perfect sense: it was a deadpan presentation of a movie that was slightly twisted but highly entertaining. In the quarter century since somebody felt enough time had passed for a new take on an old trope and we have the 2014 version of RoboCop.

The first movie was eerily prescient in depicting an economically-depressed, crime-ravaged Detroit run by corrupt politicians and being scavenged by a corrupt corporation. This time around it’s maybe 2029 or so and Omni Consumer Products is trying to sell its Urban Pacification Units for use on the streets of America. The problem is, the public isn’t comfortable with machines as arbiters of peace. So the company president gets the bright idea to put a “man inside a machine.” All they need is the right “volunteer.”

Again, the right man for the job is Alex Murphy, this time a detective on the trail of whoever is supplying criminals with guns that used to be in the police evidence locker. When he gets a little too close to the source, Something Bad Happens and RoboCop is born.

The new movie lacks the original’s relentless dark humor but it does pay homage to the original script in little “shout-outs” liberally sprinkled throughout. In place of the news updates we have editorials from a Bill O'Reilly-like news personality on a TED Talks-like set; Murphy’s family is more of a presence and his partner, Lewis, is a black guy. Detroit looks a lot prettier this time around (the whole movie is a lot brighter and “smoother” and the (literally) dark and grittier tone of the first. As for Robo him/itself, homage is paid to the original design before being “upgraded” to a sleeker model.

There is also more attention paid to the internal workings of Murphy’s transformation: just how much of the person remains when they’re mostly a machine? What is “normal life” when your life is now anything but normal?

This RoboCop reboot is the first installment in the inevitable trilogy deal that seems to be part of any movie made nowadays. It is thoroughly enjoyable from the opening to the end, despite some slow passages that are not distracting but that will have you kinda wishing for the shooting to start again. But all in all, as the saying goes, I’d buy it for a dollar.

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