For most of us, its going to be hard to watch the 2014 remake of RoboCop without automatically comparing it to Paul Verhovens 1987 Classic. I also made the mistake of watching the original about a week before seeing the 2014 reboot.
If this were an original film, with nothing to compare it to, then I’d probably have walked away with a higher opinion. As it stands, it just feels like a shallow remake for the sake of some quick cash.
Rated at a 12A in the UK, the studio clearly wanted to make it available to nearly everyone, with the 12A or PG13 in the USA being the preferred choice for most action films now as it enables you to take kids of any age to see it. Gone is the ultra violence that marked the first film, in its place… nothing really.
The remake tries to work in current topics like America’s involvement in military conflicts overseas, as shown by OmniCorp’s ED209’s patrolling in Iran. But instead of the social satirical statements found in the first one, this has Samuel L Jackson as a TV presenter of a news show that’s sole job is to say how great OmniCorp is and how the government is wrong to ban robots from use inside the United States. This whole thing never sits right, as unless the whole of the US has undergone lobotomies, who would possibly buy into the crap that he’s spouting. Hamfisted rubbish.
The villain of the piece is the OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars, played by Micheal Keaton, who does a fine job but Sellars is no Dick Jones, not by a long shot. This is the over-riding problem with the 2014 version; the original had excellent, memorable characters, like Clarence Boddicker, played perfectly by Kurtwood Smith or Miguel Ferrer’s eager corporate climber Bob Morton. The remake just doesn’t bother, surrounding the script with weak supporting characters that you wont give two shits about.
The plot is thinner than water, with cop Alex Murphy getting blown to bits by a car bomb because he’s investigating a gun-runner, who’s supported by some dirty cops. His supposedly distraught wife then quickly agrees to let OmniCorp turn him into a cyborg, with the company’s chief scientist Dr. Dennett Norton, played by Gary Oldman, turning him into part man-part machine.
Oldman’s character switches his sentiments constantly throughout the, for example, when Micheal Keaton first approaches him with idea for RoboCop, Oldmans adamant, “No”, he says, “I wont work on military projects. NO.”
Keaton: “but you’ll save lives.”
Oldman: “Okay, fuck it. I’ll do it.”
Bang just like that.
The whole reason OmniCorp want a part man part machine on the streets is to circumvent the no robots law in the USA, Keaton makes the decision, Robocop gets famous, Samuel L Jackson is jumping up and down on his TV show saying how great it is. Then, laws change, so Keaton decides to off RoboCop. Meh.
One of the other big changes is that the 1987 RoboCop started off acting like a machine, with Murphy’s personality slowly pushing through his sub-conscious to take control of his actions. This time round Murphy’s starts off with his entire personality and memories intact, even though all that’s left of him is a head and a set of lungs (and a little creepy looking hand). Oldman and Keaton try to suppress his human side to make him more efficient but there’s then little to make you emphasize with Oldman’s flip-flopping doctor, or even Murphy for that matter.
Murphys wife has a bigger role this time, with spouting some of the most ridiculous lines of all;
Murphy’s Wife: “Its okay Alex, we will get things back to the way they were, it can be like before”
What the fuck? He’s just a head and lungs without the removable suit on. Can you imagine RoboCop sitting around the house on a Sunday, reading Playboy or watching The Walking Dead?
RoboCop also gets involved in some action. After first being rebuilt, he’s told that 50-cal rounds will take him out, there’s a point in the film when he’s having a shoot out in a corridor with a gun-runner and his cronies, who are all packing 50-cal and above weapons. You see them shooting the shit out of RoboCop as he makes his way up the corridor like Superman, and at the end there’s barely a scratch on him! You have to remember that just one shot to the head and its meant to be good night RoboCop.
Lastley, one of the things that made 1987 RoboCop so great was Peter Weller. Remember his cheak bones that used to stick out like wings? He had an almost inhuman look to him before he became Robocop, and once in the suit, he WAS RoboCop. The actor who plays the 2014 version of Alex Murphy is instantly forgettable. He’s that forgettable I’m not even going to IMDB his name. You don’t need to know it and neither do I.
Overall, new reboot falls down by not having any balls behind it. The best remakes take something that was originally flawed but showed some promise and then improve upon it. RoboCop didn’t need improving. Yes, some of the stop-motion effects look a bit dated, but at 27 years old it’s still awesome and powerful in its depiction of a corporate obsessed culture. In some ways, the original is more relevant today than it was when it first hit cinemas. I’m sure that some will watch this and be happy. It is better than RoboCop 3. But not by much. Fans of the original should avoid this.
Acting: Good to see Michael Keaton back on the screen, Oldman is just going through the motions. Everyone else might as well have been CGI characters.
Direction: It’s functional, but lacking in every department.
Story: The more you look at, the worse it gets.
Is it a CGI-Fest: There’s a fair amount.
Run-Time: 117 minutes, a directors cut is on the way trimming it down to just 10 minutes.
Should I buy it or Rent/Stream it: Watch it round a friend’s house, after he’s paid for it.
It’s not the worst film ever, not by a long way, but it is one of the most pointless.