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'RoboCop' [2014]

Movie Rating:


When it was announced that Sony would remake ‘RoboCop’, the fanboy community exploded in a fit of rage. There was good reason. Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 trash masterpiece is a perfect piece of subversive satire masquerading as a mainstream blockbuster. There was no way a PG-13 reboot could come close to matching it. However, people forget that the ‘RoboCop’ brand was sullied long ago. The first sequel was OK, the second was abysmal, and both the animated and live action TV series that followed were even worse. Stacked up against the entire franchise, the 2014 edition of ‘RoboCop’ actually isn’t that bad.

It’s probably the third best entry in the series. However, that’s damning with faint praise. Even if this flick isn’t the disaster everyone anticipated, it’s still nothing close to as interesting as the original, and is basically a big ol’ waste of time, money and licensing.

The plot is pretty much identical to the original film. Once again, our hero is Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman from ‘The Killing’). The only honest cop in Detroit, he gets blown up for being a good guy (this time with a far less gory car bomb). The remaining hunks of Murphy are then scraped together by an evil corporation and shoved into the world’s first cyborg police officer.

Michael Keaton plays the evil CEO responsible, Gary Oldman plays the good doctor who makes it possible, and both actors are quite good in the film. The remake even has some of the satirical news reports that made the original flick so memorable. Laurence FishburneSamuel L. Jackson pops up as the host of a Bill O’Reilly-style propaganda news show filled with harsh humor from the mind of co-screenwriter Edward Neumeier (who wrote the original ‘RoboCop’ and Verhoeven’s spiritual sequel ‘Starship Troopers’).

Surprisingly, despite the neutered PG-13 violence, this remake was clearly made by people who understood the appeal of the original ‘RoboCop’ and want to recreate that in some way. ‘Elite Squad’ director Jose Padilha delivers some solid action sequences. Against all odds, this remake almost works. But the key word there is “almost.”

Regardless of the good intentions from the folks behind this reboot, the film still suffers from all of the drawbacks of any remake. The biggest problem with the movie is that there’s really no reason for it to exist. The satirical targets weren’t updated in any way, nor was the subject matter. The same jokes and plot were given a glossy CGI facelift that adds nothing to the material. Worse than that, the tone is completely muddled. It feels like there were two screenplays written which were awkwardly jammed together during production: one jokey version and one Christopher Nolan-style dark and brooding version. Since the two tones never quite gel, the comedy isn’t consistent enough to make an impact and the attempts at drama are undermined by all the silliness.

Then there’s the issue of the constant stream of references to the original ‘RoboCop’, such as a quick shot of the original costume and awkward line inserts like, “I’d buy that for a dollar.” These little winks and nods only serve to remind viewers that the movie they’re watching was done better almost 30 years ago.

So, what we have here is a disposable remake that’s kind of fun while it’s fluttering before your eyes, but ultimately has no purpose. Sure, it’s still a far better movie than expected, but that doesn’t mean it should have been made.


  1. Larry

    I LLOVE the original Robocop. This remake I`m gonna forget about the original and have a good time….SURE it will never be a better movie no matter how you view it. The classic will always be here, even if this remake is “bad”. I don`t care! Just don`t compare them against each other. Just watch it and have a good time….I have never understood why that is so hard.

  2. Timcharger

    What’s with the:
    Laurence-Fishburne(strikethrough)-and-Samuel-L.-Jackson line?

    Philip, you trying to say that all Black men look the same to you?

    Your next review will have a Jackie Chan(strikethrough), Jet Li(strikethrough), no it’s Donnie Yen?!

    Just givin’ ya a hard time…
    …but wouldn’t it have been easier to correct the mistake than highlight and strikethrough?

    • Either they should have rebooted this properly and made it different enough so that it would not have been a 1:1 comparison, or they should have been smart and ballsy enough to do the Robocop we all wanted.

      The fact that they did things like purposely change the color of the hud to Red, Murphy’s death to a Carbombing, and other things just show they did not get the property they were crapping all over.

      That and the fact they had two of the greatest actors to play heavy’s ever and reduced them to caricatures is a wasted opportunity. To think of what Gary Oldman could have done with either of the villain roles from the original script makes mer weep for what could have been.

  3. Chris

    I beleive the strikethrough is an intentional humorous reference to an interview debacle involving Sam Jackson and an entertainment reporter named Sam Rubin a few days back. Rubin confused Jackson with Fishburne and Jackson just let him have it…it’s almost hard to watch…

          • Timcharger

            I know that my post was the result of Shannon’s.
            Time-dated proof. If Shannon didn’t write that, I wouldn’t have followed-up.

            That isn’t to say, someone else might have commented that way, too.

            I knew that you edited and wrote the subject titles to the articles. So I thought Phil might have pointed to you in catching that “error”. I didn’t know about reporter’s mistake.

          • I don’t write every headline, though I did write this one. If Phil had been a little harder on the movie, my original plan was to title the review “Robo-Crap.” 🙂

          • LOL, sadly I called this movie from the first article about it’s production. Even though this director has talent, it isn’t worth getting attached to this albatross. He should have pulled out after the first round of nerd rage.

    • Timcharger

      Larry, I meant, Sammy Jackson gave that reporter a vicious tongue lashing. Too funny.

      It wasn’t hard to watch. It was fun to watch.

  4. I think if someone thinks that a movie should not exist, this person should not be the one to review it in first place.
    I understand and accept the point of view of those who think a remake should not be made, I have a few movies I think this way myself. But what I do not do is to go to the theater to watch such movies.
    This was about the fourth Robocop review I read, and in every single of them I was able to see that the reviewer went to the movie already thinking that the movie would not be good. This certainly does not help in producing a good review.

    • I also found said that there was an original plan to call the movie a crap even before having the review done.
      If there is one thing we must do when going to theater to watch a movie is to do this without strong expectations, either good or bad. For a reviewer, I think this is essential.
      I do not think I will want to read more reviews in this blog, unfortunately.

      • Phil Brown

        I see where you’re coming from. But if you can show me a reviewer who doesn’t have an opinion of a classic film like Robocop, then I’ll show you someone who probably shouldn’t be reviewing movies.

      • João, the comment about “Robo-Crap” was me, as an editor, having a funny headline in mind if Philip hated the movie. I have not seen the movie myself, and we did not discuss this before he wrote the review. Ultimately, Phil did not hate the movie, so we went with a different headline. Had he loved the movie, we would have come up with something more positive.

        As for having no expectations before seeing a movie, I don’t even see how that’s possible, unless you lock yourself in an isolation booth for months to avoid all trailers and TV commercials and other promotion. In which case, how would you decide whether you want to see the movie at all?

        I also disagree that movie reviews should only be written by people who are predisposed toward liking the movie. How boring would life be if every review was, “This is the most awesome movie ever! 5 stars! The best best best best thing I’ve ever seen!”? If you want that, you can find it at 🙂

        • Joao

          Well, I did not mean we should not have expectations at all, actually that we must not have strong expectations (and again, either good or bad). That’s possible to do. When I started seeing movies this way, it helped me to better appreciate them. For instance, in the past, when I had very good expectations for a movie, from time to time I had two results: sometimes I ended up not liking a real good movie because I had so high expectations (only realising that years later) or in the other hand, I ended up liking a poor movie, again, only realising that later, because the expectation harmed my analysis.

          I did not say that the reviewer should be predisposed to like the movie, I tried to mean that it is not good to be predisposed to not like it… one should have open mind, thats it. I insist on the point that this is essential to a reviewer.

          (I am not trying to say that the movie deserves more than 2 and a half stars, I did not watch the movie and what I am trying to say here is not about Robocop specifically)

          • William Henley

            In all honesty, they have gotten BETTER about not doing that. I have honestly seen some reviews there recently that have gotten less than 4 stars on video or movie ratings (well, stuff that is not written by Ken).

            Truthfully, though, if it wasn’t for their screenshots, deals section, and user review sections (I use that for rare titles), I probably wouldn’t go over there at all. Their reviews are awful, and the community-section of their website leaves a lot to be desired. They also don’t do RSS feeds.

  5. I plan on seeing this soon because I personally would like to see what RoboCop can be from someone else’s perspective. I don’t get why people trash RoboCop 2 so much – I thought it was a solid sequel and I loved the stop motion mayhem at the end. RoboCop 3…yeah…total crap.
    Anyways, as a huge fan of the original, I admit it’s going to be hard going in without the original stuck in my mind. It’ll probably be like when I saw Star Trek Into Darkness – I literally cringed during that film in the theater and I almost walked out. However, when I decided to give it another shot – I pushed Star Trek II out of my mind and viewed it as it’s own stand alone piece….I ended up liking it much more from that view point.

  6. I agree for the most part with this review.
    Keaton and Oldman do really well in their respective roles, but Murphy/RoboCop spends the movie looking agitated in a confused manner- possibly due to an ever-changing script.

    Spoilers ahead:

    There are hints of an interesting story, but without OCP owning the cops or the street thugs, the plot runs outs out of gas early on. That Murphy/RoboCop would be interested in getting the guys that attempted to kill him (with an awkward car alarm bomb at his plush residence) seems to initiate the third act of the movie for reasons that must have been left in another version of the script. What’s left is a superhero movie (complete with shock bullets) that includes a drawn out origin but no villains.

  7. onaccountof

    I felt the same way with the new remake of “Total Recall”. It was ok, kinda fun to watch, but it dosn’t hold a candle (not by a long shot) to the original. I would rewatch the original before the remake anytime.
    It just seems with these new remakes, that most of the “emotion” has been taken out of these movies, and replaced with more “action”, and that just dosn’t work.

    • Yes the story for that really did not warrant a remake, so it amounted to a redo with prettier people and better special effects without Verhoevens great directing.

      So I guess I will see this the same way, on VUDU rental.

  8. Chris

    Yeah the new Totall Recall made me wanna throw things at my TV, somehow they managed to suck every bit of fun out of the original and give us a boring, emotionally uninvolving CGI turd of a movie.

    I’ll check out the remake this weekend probably, the supporting cast is great! Oldman, Keaton and Jackson in the same movie? Sold.

  9. Drew

    The new ‘Robocop is a worthy remake. It manages to stand on its own two (metal) feet, just enough to get a pass. In many ways, it is actually vastly superior to the original. Although the sum of its parts are perhaps worse than some of them, looked at individually. It’s a very different film than the original, rather than being the same movie, but with modern visuals. The way that the ethical — particularly medical ethics — issues are depicted represent one of the elements of the film that is quite a bit better than the original. The ethical issues at hand are handled much better, and with more intelligence than the original film was able to offer. It’s interesting that it ends up being smarter handling of the moral dilemmas at play that is a superior aspect of the remake, when you would think that if it offered anything better than the original, it would be slicker action and dazzling visuals. The fact is, the action sequences featured in the remake are one of the elements of it that are a little bit disappointing, and possibly inferior to the original. The action scenes in the remake are a little bit too stylized and lifeless. At times, they feel robotic — pun intended — and like they are on auto pilot. The bloodless violence is also distracting. However, I will say that the remake makes you realize how gratuitous some of the gore in the original film was. Essentially, neither film offers a solid balance, or walks the line. The original is needlessly bloody and ultra-violent, but the remake is in need of some authenticity added to the gun fights. Everything about the action scenes feels neutered.

    The themes of political corruption and corporate collusion are the elements of the remake that are not handled nearly as well as they were in the original. And frankly, these aspects — or more accurately, the jarring lack of them — and the poor execution of them, is the film’s biggest failure. Overall, the remake has to be considered a decent and mostly worthwhile homage to the original. The problem is that this is also the reason for many of its shortcomings. It would have been much better, functioning as a completely unrelated movie. However, it is an extremely disparate film, in comparison to the original. It’s a re-imagining, rather than a remake. And one of the best things about it is that it ends in such a way that the potential sequel is in a much better position to succeed, than the sequel to the original ever was.

    Gary Oldman brings more to the table, from an acting standpoint, than anybody brought to the original. He’s utterly fantastic. Michael Keaton fluctuates from very good to egregiously awful, which is not unusual for him. The fact of the matter is, the most signifcant problems with the new Robocop are that it’s handicapped by its PG-13 rating, and that it is stuck functioning as a remake, and thus, tries to hit certain plot beats, to its detriment. If it would have dared to operate outside of the property, and completely ignored the fact that the original Robocop ever existed, it could have been outstanding. Perhaps we will one day get a remake of a classic that dares to be bold enough to drastically stray from the original, without fear of offending the previous artist. Until then, this Robocop might be the most we can hope for.

  10. Lord Bowler

    I’ve been skeptical at how good this movie could be from what I’ve heard and seen in trailers. I was really disappointed that they went with PG-13 rather than R. The violence made Robocop the classic it is!

    But, I’ve heard some good reviews and will judge this movie on its own merits.

    As long as it’s a good enough action movie, then I’ll be happy with it.

  11. I know that I’m in the minority, but I really enjoyed this remake. I especially like how it didn’t try to replicate the original – the tone, mood and story are different enough – making it a movie that could stand on its own merits without being compared to the original.

    Is it as good as the original? No – but at least it’s not trying to be. And thank heaven it’s better than that utterly forgettable ‘Total Recall’ remake.

  12. Frankie

    Used my free ticket yesterday to watch this. Couldn’t wait until it was over. Just bland, and had non of the appeal the original had.

  13. William Henley

    Well, I had only saw part of the original back when I was like 10 or 11 years old, and turned it off early on because I found it too violent and gory. I never finished it, and it had been about 23 years since I have seen any of it.

    I found this remake to be a great movie. The movie had heart where it needed it, great conflict, great story with the crooked cops (that is not really a spoiler, that is mentioned early on in the movie).

    Basically, this remake fixed all the issues “I” had with the original movie. I am not saying the original was bad, I am saying that “I” (as in me/myself) did not care for it, but I LOVED the remake. I’ll probably pick up the Blu-Ray when it comes out.

  14. I finally went and saw the remake on Friday and I have to say I enjoyed it! I put aside the original RoboCop trilogy and viewed this as it’s own individual film. Granted, there are a couple of nods to the original, but I liked what they did with the story. Having Murphy’s family involved during the whole family, only referring to him as RoboCop once or twice, and having him self aware of what he looks like without the machine parts bring a level of humanity to the character that was lacking in the original. Granted it crawled at a few points, but overall I found it a solid action film and a decent story that hits on a lot of current societal issues.

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