The original version of RoboCop (1987) is a cult classic. So when I heard that the ultraviolent satire was being remade, I didn’t know how to feel. On one hand, the original is a little dated. But would the remake have the same heart? The story focuses on a Detroit cop who is turned into a cyborg after he is critically injured. I became tepid about the film when I found out that the remake would be rated PG-13, and lost all hope when the trailer spoiled that Alex Murphy (RoboCop) was injured in a car bomb, rather than a brutal shoot-out.
RoboCop is the most frustrating 2014 release I’ve seen thus far. I was anticipating an absolutely horrific movie that I could make a couple “I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar” jokes and forget about – kind of like the sequels. However, what I saw wasn’t an atrocious degradation of the RoboCop character. In fact, it was actually kind of decent. It wasn’t anything special, but it was okay. It pales in comparison to the original, but it’s decent enough where I can’t just dismiss it.
This remake has a lot of stuff going for it. For one, it’s got a wonderful cast. While the lead, Joel Kinnaman, isn’t exactly a household name, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jay Baruchel, and Samuel L. Jackson all have supporting roles. Oldman especially looked like he was trying his best. The effects were also great; the action scenes were generally pretty enjoyable, even if it was all toned down to account for the PG-13 rating.
While RoboCop had a lot of potential, nothing is really done with it. One of the best parts of the original RoboCop was the fact that it was a social commentary disguised as a silly robot action film. This remake is just a silly robot action film. While the movie verges on making a statement, especially with Samuel L. Jackson playing an eccentric news host, it never really commits to anything. The PG-13 rating prevents the language and ultraviolence that was prevalent in the original. The film opts for a dark tone, rather than a campy one, but struggles to create an emotional reaction. Significant deaths and events will occur without you feeling a thing – which goes against the theme of the film.
I don’t blame the failures of this film on the director though. I think its biggest problem is that it’s way too overproduced. I blame the studios for this. I feel like Director Jose Padilha’s heart was in the right place. He and Joel Kinnaman fought hard for an R rating, but ultimately lost the battle to studio executives who hoped to recoup the sizable budget. In fact, during production of the film, Padilha phoned his friend to confide that making this film was “The worst experience of his life”, and that for every ten ideas he brought to the project, the studio refused nine. 6/10.