By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on February 12, 2014

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Dear John Rosengrant
Specialty Suit Supervisor

Dear John,

Black? Really? You're going with black?

This was my first reaction. Even as a first-class spoilerphobe, I couldn't avoid seeing leaked set photos of the new Robocop suit and catching glimpses of all the publicity materials. Good thing, actually. It gave me time to adjust, to breathe, to recalibrate my expectations. At one point, I even got my hopes up; having Elite Squad director Jose Padilha got me thinking this remake might be more than just a needless update. But I now realize that was probably asking too much.

At least, to my pleasant surprise, the first iteration of Robocop's suit perfectly appeased my desire to see robots that actually look like shiny-metal robots. Your more tactical specialty suit is introduced rather quickly though, lest we get too nostalgic. But here's the thing: I actually managed to embrace the new suit. So that's something.

In fact, there was a lot that I kind of dug about this film. The man inside your suit, for one. I've had an unhealthy man-crush on Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman since his turn as the low-key, street-wise detective Stephen Holder on The Killing. He's not asked to stretch his acting muscles here (or any muscles, really), but he's exactly the right man to root for inside the machine--just like the film's tech-hawking villain played by Michael Keaton wants. Apparently, in the not-nearly-distant-enough future of 2028, the U.S. is the "only country in the world" that hasn't legalized un-manned killing machines for local law enforcement. So Keaton looks for a loophole by melding machinery with a near-dead undercover Detroit police officer, Alex Murphy.

But this debate over the use of drone technology is pretty much where the social commentary begins and ends. The brainy ultra-violence of the original is also missing in this PG-13 affair. The only remaining satirical elements come from Samuel L. Jackson's right-wing TV personality (though his primary purpose is to dump exposition on us). He introduces the world by showing us a bot-heavy scene from Tehran (the rusty-but-once-shiny-metal kind), which looks great and seems to be setting up a larger story, but turns out to be little more than a technology teaser for the third act of the film and brief chance to get us out of Motown. After that, cue the electro score and familiar futuristic font. In a serve-and-protect blue rather than white and red. But nothing as boring as, say, pure black.

Oh, sorry.

Don't feel bad, John. After a middling TV series and the diminishing returns of the original franchise, I'm more convinced than ever that the Robocop mythology should get darker. Maybe even his suit, too.


Suiting me just fine,


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