In the not too distant future, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman-TV’s The Killing), is mortally wounded in the line of duty, desperate to save him, his wife (Abbie Cornish) agrees to let Michael Keaton’s sinister Omnicorp and Gary Oldman’s brilliant scientist rebuild him as – you guessed it – Robocop – a part man, part machine, indestructible law enforcer who soon has the criminals of Detroit on the run. Until that is, Murphy’s human side starts to take over and, defying his corporate masters, sets out to solve his own murder.
In 1987 the now defunct Orion Pictures made the potentially crazy decision to give the then unknown Paul Verhoeven several million dollars to direct a futuristic sci fi film, about a cyborg cop, featuring a cast of virtual unknowns.
What could have been a bog standard Judge Dredd/Bionic man, direct to video, B movie, turned out to be anything but.
Blood soaked, peppered with quotable one liners (“id buy that for a dollar!”, “Guns, Guns, Guns!”) a brilliant score by Basil Poledouris, outstanding action sequences, one of the most evil bad guy’s ever committed to celluloid and a wry intelligent humour that slyly thumbed its nose at corporate America –the original Robocop deservedly remains one of the greatest sci fi action movies ever made.
When it was announced that a remake was in the works, legions of naysayers and fan boys where naturally up in arms crying sacrilege, which was further compounded, months later, when said geeks were up in arms after photos of a new sleek black Robo Suit were put on the net along with rumors of studio interference and meddling.
So it was to most peoples surprise that when Robocop 2014 was released last week, it turned out to be pretty decent – sort of.
So whats good? – Well for a start the cast is excellent – Kinnaman, as Murphy/Robo is superb and a future leading man in the making, Oldman is effortlessly brilliant as usual and Michael Keaton is fantastic as the head of OmniCorp. The action is well staged, Jose Padilla’s direction is very inventive, the visual and make up effects are impressive and the film is never less than very entertaining.
There are quite a few things wrong – first and foremost, it simply isnt as good as the original, out goes all the blood, gore, one liners, swearing and complete lack of political correctness that made the 1987 film such a joy and in comes a bloodless PG 13 version that seems to want to appeal to a more sensitive mass market. The baddies – whilst enjoyable- cant touch the 1987 version’s motley crew of psychos, and Samuel L Jackson’s shouty TV host is completely pointless and ineffective.
I have nothing against remakes – Oceans 11, 3:10 to Yuma and The Departed were all brilliant – but they were remakes of films that were ether foreign, not very good in the first place or were so old that no one had seen them for decades. This is not the case with Robocop – and whilst Jose Padilla’s film is never less than enjoyable – one cant help feeling that the cast, director and budget could have been put to use on something more original – this of course is the fault of the studio – remake a well known film with a built in fan base, do a PG-13 version so as to appeal to a wider audience and –hey presto – a box office friendly franchise is reborn with minimal effort put in.
The trouble with Robocop 2014 and many others like it, is that it’s a remake of a very well known, well loved movie that (along with its sequels) is still available on dvd, and is shown on TV and Netflix on a regular basis. Therefore its still very much in the public consciousness – the result is that the filmmakers are set up for a fall before even one person watches the finished product – produce something original and different and you are accused of ruining an already good movie, or just do a straight remake and get told that you are rubbish because you have no new fresh ideas – basically dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t – and whatever anyone says – people will always compare it with the original movie.
In summary I would cautiously recommend Robocop, as it’s good solid entertainment, well made and very well acted – and I’d be interested to see a sequel – as Robocop 2 and 3 –(released in the 1990’s) were appalling.
However Hollywood needs to start being brave, move away from making easy money movies, and concentrate on producing fresh stories -now id buy that for a dollar.
Author: Will Strong