Anthony's Film Review
A nice sci-fi remake that takes a few new directions while holding up just as well as the original...
My initial reaction to the trailer for the 2014 science-fiction action movie RoboCop was pretty much the same as everyone else's. Is this cinematic remake going to be any good, especially when the original 1987 RoboCop was gritty and rated R in the United States and this new one looks softer and rated PG-13? And like pretty much everyone else, I went into the theater not expecting it to be as good as the original. The only thing I cared about was whether this movie will be good, in general.
Sure enough, it was. And to my surprise, I now think it's made as well as the original. Yes, there are some differences between the 1987 and 2014 versions, but none of them make the remake inferior. Plus, there are enough similarities between the two that I don't see the remake as a huge departure of any sort. If anything, both films fit nicely into the eras they were made in. (So don't be surprised when I compare the two films throughout this review of 2014's RoboCop.)
The core setup is the same. You have Omnicorp, which manufactures crime-fighting robots in hopes of keeping people safe, and Officer Alex Murphy of the Detroit Police Department, who is left for dead after a tragic situation (a car bomb in this movie, which is intense, though not as much as getting shot over 20 times in the 1987 original). Both come together when Murphy's head and other intact organic remains are integrated into a mechanical body. Murphy, as RoboCop, is fiercer and tougher than before, though still not 100% invulnerable. Besides the fact that heavy damage can still stop him, his human thoughts and feelings are still there to interact, or interfere, with his robotic functions.
This is where 2014 RoboCop differs from 1987 RoboCop, though not in any bad way. While the original had Peter Weller as Murphy speaking in a robotic monotone and being unable to remember his family who has moved on, the remake has Joel Kinnaman as Murphy fully retaining his self-awareness, emotions, and personality and being able to recognize and communicate with his wife and son. There is nothing wrong with either situation. They're both written creatively. If anything, it's nice to see something new in the RoboCop remake so that it's not simply a duplicate of the original. As long as you let go of expectations, this change in the main character can feel just fine.
Another notable difference between the remake and original is the emphasis on story. RoboCop in 1987, when he goes on duty for the first time, would handle a random situation or two before focusing on taking down the main villain, all in a dystopic setting that is gritty and bleak. It's sort of the same with RoboCop in 2014, but there is still a sense that he goes straight to the case that matters to him most. As a result, just about all of the action is integral to the story, not simply something on the side. There's also not as much attention on the setting of Detroit as in the original, but that's because there is a greater focus on story and character.
If you put aside the fact that this RoboCop movie is not as violent as RoboCop nearly three decades before, you will find that the movie is still an exciting one. The title character is a tough fighter, and the plot and action move along quickly enough. The various supporting characters are involved in some interesting conflicts, brushing on themes like the nature of man versus machine, corporate profit versus the greater good, and American liberty versus security. There is a nice cast to keep the film engaging, including Michael Keaton as the CEO of Omnicorp, Gary Oldman as an Omnicorp medical officer, Abbie Cornish as Murphy's wife, Jackie Earle Healy as an armorer, and Samuel L. Jackson as a political commentator who is passionately supportive of security robots.
Believe me when I say that this new RoboCop movie is as good as the old RoboCop. Even if it's fun to compare the two because there is a mixture of familiar and new elements, it's best not to use the 1987 RoboCop as the standard for this one. The bottom line is that this movie does what any good action film does: tell a solid story, present memorable characters, and deliver exciting action. Basically, just let yourself go and enjoy the ride. RoboCop really does kick as much butt in the early 21st century as in the late 20th.
For more information about RoboCop, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the original RoboCop, RoboCop 2, and RoboCop 3.