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RoboCop 2014: Murphy Is a Real Boy After All

After his wife confronts him with troubling news about his son, Murphy starts a chain of events that enables him to confront key sources of crime and corruption

Where we left RoboCop 2014‘s story last Saturday, Alex Murphy had passed his training and was on his way to returning to his wife and son. But because the police department decided to download all of their criminal records into Murphy’s mind right before a press conference, Murphy had a seizure when he saw his own attempted murder.

Out of desperation, Dr. Norton lowered Murphy’s dopamine levels so he would no longer experience his regular emotions. Murphy thus becomes a crimefighting machine and he is kept from his family, not that he really notices their absence:

He doesn’t notice his family’s absence, that is, until his wife confronts him on the street and tells him that their son has been scared ever since he returned. This news at last strikes a chord with RoboCop, so he drives off and checks the school’s security footage. There he sees his son running back to a van to get away from a mob of people:

Dr. Norton, who’s been observing Murphy this entire time, lets Murphy break protocol. He thus watches him do something interesting. Murphy returns to his house, where he begins replaying his own attempted murder over and over again. For reasons Dr. Norton cannot explain, this experience raises Murphy’s dopamine levels back to normal and he rushes off to find Vallon, the mobster who wanted him dead.

Murphy achieves his main goal

Murphy finds and kills Vallon and checks the fingerprints on all the guns, which allows him to identify the corrupt cops who’d been giving Vallon the stolen weapons.

Murphy confronts the cops, and they rat out the chief. He then tries to confront her as well, but before he can get a confession, Mattox shuts Murphy down, turning him off like a light.

The decision was unnecessary, and it was probably motivated more by Mattox’s contempt for Murphy than by anything else. But Sellars, the CEO of OmniCorp, is quick on his feet: He uses the media to say that Murphy was so skilled he managed to root out the corruption in the police department — which is ironically the truth.

Here is where the movie fell apart for me

Up to this point, I’d really enjoyed watching Sellars as a villain. He’s charismatic, and there are times that it’s easy to forget he’s supposed to be the stereotypical, cooperate-bad guy. But because the plot needs to happen, Sellars makes the stupid decision to kill Murphy.

The writers try to justify this decision by having Sellars’ team express concern about Murphy discovering the truth. But what truth are they talking about? So far, the worst thing Sellars has done is keep Murphy from his family, which is bad. But considering that Dr. Norton had removed Murphy’s emotions, it’s easy to understand why Sellars would want to keep Murphy away from his wife and son until they could come up with a solution. And now that Vallon is dead, Murphy’s horrible memories have been dealt with, so there’s no reason to keep him from his family. Sellars’ choice to kill the RoboCop is an unnecessary escalation that only happens so the writers can reach the climax of the film.

After deciding to murder Murphy, Sellars brings Dr. Norton into his office to try and bribe him. Dr. Norton has been wracked with guilt this entire time, so when Sellars speaks with him, he pretends to go along with the bribe, but then immediately goes to his lab to wake Murphy up before he’s shut down for good.

Dr. Norton is able to rescue Murphy in time. But rather than allowing Dr. Norton to go to the media, Murphy rushes off to deal with Sellars himself. At the same time, Sellars has a meeting with Murphy’s wife to tell her the bad news, but shortly after he tells her that her husband is dead, he learns that he is still alive. He has Murphy’s wife and son brought to him while he’s waiting on a helicopter to rush him to safety.

RoboCop Murphy arrives and fights some giant robots, the famous ED-209s, as well as Mattox, the man who trained him:

For some reason, the writers decided to have Murphy’s partner Jack save him both times, and I found this annoying. I understand bringing Jack in to help Murphy with Mattox since he’s the last villain RoboCop must face before he can confront Sellars. But having Murphy saved twice in such a short span of time felt redundant.

At any rate, Murphy finally confronts Sellars on the helicopter pad, but Sellars has yet another surprise waiting for him. The CEO is wearing a bracelet that prevents Murphy from harming him. Mattox had one of these bracelets as well, which was why Jack had to come in a second time and save Murphy So Murphy already knows he’s in trouble. Sellars grabs a gun and points it at Murphy and his family, while he struggles to lift his arm.

The CEO then starts to gloat as he points the gun back at Murphy, but wonder of wonders, Murphy is able to lift his arm and shoot Sellars first. Of course, Sellars shot only wounds Murphy, while Murphy’s shot takes out the corporate villain.

After Sellars’s death, Murphy spends time with his family while he prepares to go back out on the streets. Dr. Norton testifies before Congress and, as a result, although the Senate repealed the Dreyfus Act, the president decides to keep the current law in place. The movie ends with a humorous monologue by Pat Novak, (Samuel L. Jackson) which is really more of a temper tantrum than anything else.

Overall, RoboCop 2014 is one of those films that’s enjoyable but also forgettable. I liked it, but I can also see why it failed. The themes about family and even the implication that the love of family can overpower a computer’s programming are good. But they’re weakened by the fact that Murphy says little to nothing about his family. His motivation as a character seems mostly focused on finding Vallon, who is only seen a few times throughout the movie.

The political commentary is on the nose, even if it has aged well, but the ending completely falls apart. This was disappointing because Michael Keaton’s performance as Sellars was wasted by lazy writing toward the end of the script. But I’m a sucker for a firefight, so the movie isn’t all bad in my view. If you’re so inclined, give the remake a try. It might just be worth your time.

Here are the two earlier segments of my extended review:

RoboCop 2014: A good movie hampered by bad timing. The 2014 remake of RoboCop is considered a failure by most. I disagree. It has its problems but it is pretty solid in many respects. The film implies the existence of the human soul, as that seems to be pretty much all that Alex Murphy has left as he begins a new life as a robocop.

Does a lack of empathy make you more efficient? RoboCop (2014) tests out that thesis when Murphy, now a robocop, is matched against actual robots. With all of the city’s criminal records downloaded into his mind and his dopamine levels nearly zero, Murphy meets the press…

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

RoboCop 2014: Murphy Is a Real Boy After All