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ROBOCOP remake omits everything I loved about the original…

Posted on February 21st, 2014
Posted on February 21st, 2014

by Coop Cooper

The new “RoboCop” film is a textbook example of how Hollywood can mix all of the right elements together and still produce a vastly inferior remake when compared to the original.

Undercover Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) steps on the wrong toes and gets blown apart by a car bomb. Omni Consumer Products salvages enough of Murphy’s body to transform him into RoboCop, the next generation of robot technology merged with a human being. Designed to soften the image of the company’s militarized drone industry to make way for global expansion, Murphy is left with his free will intact. As he tries to come to terms with the loss of his organic body and his endangered relationship with his family, OCP has become concerned with his human-like hesitation and occasional panic attacks. They fiddle with his circuitry resulting in the loss of his humanity, turning him into an uncompromising, fascist drone. However, while solving his own attempted murder, Murphy begins to regain his humanity and take down those responsible, much to the chagrin of the corporation’s CEO (Michael Keaton).

There are many critics and fans out there who say remakes should not be compared to the original, but should stand on their own merit. Subscribing to this philosophy, the 2014 “RoboCop” is not a terrible film. It has a competent cast, a story relevant to current events, exciting action sequences and a valid moral message. But since I do not subscribe to that philosophy, the new film in comparison to the original throws out the baby with the bathwater, eliminating some of the most fun and successful elements that made the 1987 film such a classic. Gone is the decaying dystopia of ‘Old Detroit’ (a very realistic and prophetic prediction of the future of that city) in favor of a place that’s not so bad. Unlike the original, cops are well-equipped and not in danger of going on strike. The city isn’t a war zone with cops on the losing side. This remake focuses almost exclusively on the corporate greed/unchecked surveillance aspect, making it thinly-layered and much less interesting despite the copious action scenes.

Also gone is ALL of the satire, possibly the #1 ingredient which made the original so beloved. While the 1987 film riffed on mass media and made fun of so many timely aspects of society, the new film takes itself far too seriously. There are no clever commercial bits like a family gleefully blowing each other up while playing a nuclear war board game or obliviously gleeful news anchors reporting on the death of two former U.S. Presidents and over a hundred people due to a space laser misfire. All we get is a partisan and unfunny Samuel L. Jackson playing a Glenn Beck-like media figure who is in the tank for the corporation and their ambitions for widespread military drone use.

There are too many new characters, but no fun bad guys. Kinnaman seems to have only been cast because he fit the physicality of the RoboCop suit, not because he is A-list material. The list of bad decisions goes on, resulting in a simple, watered-down version of the original that takes away more than it adds to the mythology.

In fact, I’m going to compare it to yet another film. The 2013 film “Dredd” rebooted the Judge Dredd character who has actually appeared in comic books since 1977. The Judge Dredd comic was the original inspiration for the RoboCop character, yet Dredd himself failed to gain a dignified adaptation in the 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone. The 2013 reboot bypassed an origin story for a dark and gritty R-rated, stand-alone action film starring Dredd as the main character. The result was an edgier film with a streamlined the story that jettisoned the goofy, Hollywood aspects of the first film. It won huge critical acclaim from fans, but was not marketed well and wasn’t widely noticed… but it was a remake done right. This RoboCop remake did exactly the opposite.

One critic I read called it an “aggressively average” remake. That is the most apt description I have heard so far for “RoboCop” 2014. I could talk more about how many of the great actors were wasted on this effort: Gary Oldman’s sympathetic scientist, Abbie Cornish’s beleaguered wife, Jackie Earl Haley’s sleazy mercenary or Michael Keaton’s unimposing CEO villain, etc… but it would be a waste of breath compared to the larger problems. It’s watchable, but it is so brainless and homogenized compared to the original, I cannot accept it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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