Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Treading water at the very surface of RoboCop, there is an idea. A dense concept, ready and willing to provide no dearth of dissection for any eager student of philosophy, psychology, political science, physics — hell, any of the Ps. To simplify the idea on hand: What separates man from machine? It's a question that is not just teased by the basic premise of José Padilha's remake of the 1987 sci-fi staple, but asked outright by many of its main characters. And then never really worried about again.
We have principal parties on both sides of the ethical quandary that would place the security of our crime-ridden cities in the hands of automatons. Samuel L. Jackson plays a spitfire Bill O'Reilly who wonders why America hasn't lined its streets with high-efficiency officer droids. Zach Grenier, as a moralistic senator, gobbles his way through an opposition to the Pro-boCop movement. We hear lecture after lecture from pundits, politicians, business moguls (a money-hungry Michael Keaton heads the nefarious OmniCorp...) and scientists (...while his top doc Gary Oldman questions the nature of his assignments while poking at patients' brains and spouting diatribes about "free will"), all working their hardest to lay thematic groundwork. Each character insists that we're watching a movie about the distinction between human and artificial intelligence. That even with an active brain, no robot can understand what it means to have a heart. But when Prof. Oldman tempers his hysterical squawking and Samuel L. Hannity rolls his closing credits, we don't see these ideas taking life.
In earnest, the struggle of rehabilitated police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) — nearly killed in the line of duty and turned thereafter into OmniCorp's prototype RoboCop — doesn't seem to enlist any of the questions that his aggravated peers have been asking. Murphy is transformed not just physically, but mentally — robbed of his decision-making ability and depleted of emotional brain chemicals — effectively losing himself in the process. But the journey we see take hold of Murphy is not one to reclaim his soul, although the movie touts it as such. It's really just one to become a better robot.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Meanwhile, RoboCop lays down its motives, and hard: Murphy's wife and son (Abbie Cornish and a puckish young John Paul Ruttan) lament the loss of Alex, condemning his dehumanization at the hands of Raymond Sellars' (Keaton) capitalistic experiments, and sobbing out some torrential pathos so you know just how deep this company is digging. Weaselly stooges (Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle, and Jackie Earl Haley) line the OmniCorp roster with comical wickedness. Overseas, killer combat bots take down peaceful villages, unable to work empathetic judgment into their decision to destroy all deemed as "threats." And at the top, figures of power and money like Sellars and Pat Novak (Jackson) speak the loudest and harshest, literally justifying their agenda with a call for all naysayers to "stop whining." Clearly, RoboCop has something to say.
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And when it's devoted to its outrage, RoboCop is terrifically charming. The buzzing political world is just a tiny step closer to ridiculous than our own; the pitch meetings at OmniCorp are fun enough to provoke a ditching of all the material outside of the company walls. And one particular reference to The Wizard of Oz shows that the movie isn't above having fun with its admittedly silly premise. But it loses its magic when it steps away from goofy gimmicks and satirical monologues and heads back into the story. We don't see enough of Murphy grappling with the complicated balance between his conflicting organic and synthetic selves. In fact, we don't see enough "story" in Murphy at all. First, he's a dad and a cop. Then, he's a RoboCop. But can he also be a RoboDad? With all of its ranting and raving about the question, the film doesn't seem to concerned with actually figuring out the answer.
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If you're reading this before watching the Season 6 finale, I'm going to warn you now to close this page. Don't be mad if you're spoiled on things otherwise. So ... many people were probably left sitting there muttering to themselves: "What just happened?" Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) is dead. Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) is dead. There's no more Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), what with him being shot in cold blood by Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam). What direction can this show go in with so much of the original cast gone? It's a big shift. It's going to probably start off with Jax in prison and the kids in state custody. Unless Jax's mother, Gemma Morrow (Katey Sagal) is able to get her hands (more like claws) on them. She wound up in the arms of Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie), the man who inadvertently set off the whole last chain of events.
While the show has always been fairly grim, this is probably the absolute darkest and most violent I have ever seen it. There was that stunning scene with Gemma skewering Tara with a fork-like instrument. (I admit that I had to turn away about two seconds into that, it was that bloody.) Then Juice Ortiz (Theo Rossi), who had been condemned by Jax, shooting Roosevelt and then covering for Gemma by dumping the evidence. Of course, Jax, who had been spending time with his kids before turning himself in, was found cradling Tara's body by the prosecutor, Patterson. The show ended with a literal wail by Jax before it went to black with the Sons of Anarchy Grim Reaper.
Of course, the show has never been afraid to kill off characters. Clay killed Piney, one of the original members of the biker gang. That was a big one, but before this recent turn of events, I think the biggest one was Opie's death in the fifth season. He was a major figure in the life of Jax Teller, his closest friend, and as Jax wrote in his diary in the season finale, it was his death that really pushed him off the edge into this ball of self-loathing that he had become.
What the show always seems to love to do is offer a glimmer of hope that things will resolve themselves and then have things go wrong. This, though, was not just things going wrong. It was a complete and utter derailment, a catastrophic chain of events that probably left a lot of people feeling numb.
Fans of the show will hope that Season 7 leads to some kind of redemption for Jax. He's going to be in an abyss so deep that only someone like Walter White could comprehend what he feels. They will likely hope that Gemma meets some kind of painful end herself. (The Gemma that garnered any sympathy for enduring that brutal assault in Season 2 is long gone.) Who might extract that vengeance? It might be Jax, finally breaking the emotional chains that his mother holds him in. It may be Nero (Jimmy Smits), her former beau, who saw how dealing with her was extracting a toll on his own life, including the murder of an innocent woman. But the people that the fans should be rooting to have some sort of happy ending are Jax's two sons. They have been through so much too.
There will also be the fate of the SAMCRO bike gang. Will Chibs Telford (Tommy Flanagan) and Bobby Munson (Mark Boone Jr.) be able to keep it going without Jax? What will become of Juice? There will be a lot of threads to sew up in the end.
As for next season, there's going to be two camps. The first is going to be comprised of those who want to rake creator Kurt Sutter over the coals for how it all played out, especially for his seeming desire to keep his wife (Sagal) on the show as long as possible. To be fair, Sagal is an excellent actress in her own right, to the extent that I couldn't see anyone else even close to playing Gemma. The naysayers may see this Season 6 finale as being completely too contrived. Others may opt to take a big-picture view and want to see how it all plays out, given that they have derived so much enjoyment from the past six seasons. Of course, no one will be 100% pleased.
Either way, Season 7 will be quite the thrill ride. Put on your biker helmets and get ready.