When I saw the trailer, I have to admit I got kind of excited. I’m a big fan of the original and thought it was ahead of it’s time in some ways. It was also a film that pulled off a lot without having an immensely gigantic budget like this new version did ($100M, yes, 100 million dollars).
Unfortunately the reboot turned out to be a huge flop when it hit theaters and even with the budget, the effects, and yet another role for Samuel L. Jackson, it doesn’t hold up against the original. The story is the same pretty much – Alex Murphy is cop who’s betrayed and ends up at death’s door and the new cyborg / robot / cop program is his only hope. Problem is, there isn’t much of him left to work with as he’s been brutalized by his attack. Here’s one of the areas where the remake goes in a not-so-great direction…
In the new version, the only think left to Alex Murphy is his brain (mostly), his head, his lungs, and part of a hand. At one point, this is revealed when his armor is removed. The scene this visual includes is weird and uncomfortable. It made it hard to root for him, you just kind of wish they let him die. In other words, they took the body decimation thing too far. The rest of him is a robot and yet his wife wants him back without question and just “wants their old life back, just like before”. Really? Is she supposed to be that delusional?
Another problem here is that the villain in the film is not greatly defined as it gets kind of wrapped up in politics and deludes who the bad guys are. The film centers more around Murphy and the struggle with his identity and less so on a villain everyone can latch onto. The first version of the film had Kurtwood Smith who made a great nemesis along with his gang. He made you root for Murphy where here it gets distracting by just how bad off this new version of Murphy is.
The action sequences are pretty good and the effects are beautifully crafted. I would’ve like to have seen more action along with some more subtle things that went with his gadgets as well. Overall though, there’s plenty of eye candy that’s fun to watch. You can see where a lot of the budget went.
The rest of it went to the talent probably, in addition to Jackson, the lineup includes Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, along with the lead Joel Kinnaman. All the actors were strong, although I don’t think Kinnaman had the same charisma that Peter Weller brought to the original. Weller managed to make a robotic man personable and interesting. Kinnaman seems to be missing the same spark but was decent.
I’d say make up your own mind on this one and at least check it out once but don’t go out of your way to do it.
reviewed by Sean McKnight