The reboot of Robocop has been reviewed by some outlets now and, from what I’ve seen, reviews have been mixed. This means that there’s a fairly 50/50 split with people that liked or hated the film. As I said in my review of the film, I’m one of those who thought it was an enjoyable movie. I think the problem is that the original 1987 movie was so brilliant and well made, the reboot fails in comparison. I don’t think the comparison is unfair. I just think that, judged by its own merits, the 2014 film does have a lot of good things to offer.
So, here’s a SPOILER FILLED discussion with myself regarding what worked and what didn’t with the Robocop reboot!
Let’s talk about the character himself. I know a lot of people are going to complain about the reboot’s re-imagining of Robocop/Alex Murphy. In the original film, he was a slow, lumbering tank. In the reboot, he’s a speedy and accurate weapon of destruction. I myself prefer the original “pure brawn” version of the character; it made him feel like an unstoppable force of justice! However, I understand why they ultimately decided to make Robocop faster in the reboot. The new design of Robocop screams slickness, which would appeal to the target audience of today: young kids.
Think of it this way: the old Robocop is a supercharged muscle car that can tear through straightaways but has trouble on turns. The new Robocop is a well-tuned import tuner car that’s meant to drift through corners. Both of them have their own appeal but I think, in this day of age, more people like the look and style of the tuner car. Overall, I can understand why they gave Robocop a more aerodynamic look. I mean, he is faster in the new movie.
But the biggest difference of Alex Murphy is not his aesthetic appearance. No, it’s how the film deals with Alex Murphy’s emotions. In the original movie, Robocop is an emotionless machine that comes to grips with what happened to him and slowly regains his humanity. In the reboot, his emotions are still intact after changing to a machine. When I saw this, the thing that popped into my head were the angry rants about how Robocop should be… more robot and have no emotions (at least in the start).
I actually appreciate the risk the different direction the film took. It was kind of refreshing to see a more realistic reaction from Alex Murphy when he saw that he was more man than machine. My problem with the change is didn’t leave any room for the character to grow anymore since he knows he’s a man. And he could always go back to a family that knew he was alive. In the original, his family thought he was dead, which made the old Alex Murphy a more tragic (and better) character.
It doesn’t help that Joel Kinnaman’s portrayal of the cyborg police officer is all over the place. Peter Weller’s job in the original was spot on depiction of what the film wanted to show. Which is nothing short of a miracle since you can still feel his pain even though he’s an emotionless machine. Kinneman’s take is… weird. When he’s acting like a soulless robot, he underacts it (totally devoid of human likability). But when he regains his emotions, he just plain overacts!
The new movie does try to have some of the humor of the original film. Gone are the satirical commercials and the social commentary about the decline of Western civilization. Instead, the new film introduces a parody of today’s news talk shows with The Novak Element. I have to say The Novak Element is pretty funny but it may come off a little too on the nose. Also, the news broadcasts of the old film helped with making the viewer understand the state of the world in the movie. The Novak Element tries to do the same thing but doesn’t do that good of a job.
Also, the characters of the reboot are just not as memorable. The Old Man. Anne Lewis. Clarence Boddicker. Dick Jones. The hard nosed police chief. They were all great characters since they all had personality! Heck, I even remember the guy who crashed into a vat of toxic waste!
In the reboot, the only memorable characters are Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak and Michael Keaton’s Raymond Sellars! Everyone else, I didn’t care for. I especially didn’t care for Murphy’s wife and son! Whenever they were on screen, I wanted them off the screen! It’s kind of weird that I had more of an emotional connection with the Murphy family from the original since they are only seen in quick flashbacks!
The worst sin regarding the characters is they changed Anne Lewis to Jack Lewis! Pairing Robocop with a female was utter genius! She was resourceful and actually helped Robocop! She could actually be a role model for women everywhere… much better than the emo wife from the reboot!
There is something I regretted not including in my review of the film. I failed to address the PG-13 controversy. A lot of fans wanted it to be a Rated R film and keep the over the top violence of the original. The gallons and gallons of blood from the original are definitely sorely missed. But the action sequences in the new version are good and “flashy.” But they lack the grit and just plain outrageous gore of the original movie.
If you’ve noticed from my comments above, the 2014 reboot cannot hold a candle to the original 1987 Robocop. However, I think people who’ve never seen the original will enjoy it for what it is: a good action movie. It’ll probably not become a classic like the original, but there are worse ways to use up 2 hours of your time.
What did you think of the Robocop remake? How does it compare to the original? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!