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.