RoboCop(2014) Movie Review

Posted: February 15, 2014 by pecknt in Peck Reviews

robocop_2014_poster

Reviewed By: Nathanael Peck

The 1980s was the decade for action films, perhaps more so than any other decade. Iconic characters were created from the ground up, and film franchises began. Bruce Willis starred as one of the greatest action heroes ever in 1988’s Die Hard. Arnold Schwarzenegger continued his success in the box office success Terminator 2:Judgment Day. Notably, Harrison Ford finished up (at the time) the Indiana Jones trilogy with the absolutely fantastic The Last Crusade. These films not only had significant box office appeal but they were actually entertaining.  However, hidden amongst the juggernauts was a film as great, but not nearly as explored; Robocop.  Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi action flick was the epitome of an action packed decade, featuring incredible amounts of violence, harsh language and catch one liners. However, even more notable was the satirical story, exploring the themes of corruption, capitalism, privatization, humanity, and even the Cold War.  Unfortunately, Robocop continued into a full blown trilogy that horribly scarred the franchise name.  As Hollywood continues to show its penchant for reboots, such as Total Recall and Red Dawn, it decided to return to the 80’s action bin and, pardon the pun, polish up the title with Jose Padilha’s Robocop reboot. Does it sidestep the awful sequels and bring back the successful storytelling of the original? Eh. Sorta.

The original and remake share the same character, setting and story pieces with Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) being a Detective for the Detroit Police Department.  The startup is slightly different than the original as Murphy and partner are investigating the illegal trading of advance weaponry from a stereotypical baddie by the name of syndicate boss Antoine Vallon.  Murphy, and his partner are caught on to, and it’s not long before Murphy’s partner is shot up. Nearly minutes later, Murphy is blown up in a car bomb that renders 80% of his body completely destroyed.  Omnicorp, a manufacturing/technology giant (think Microsoft and Apple on crack) is in desperate need of humanizing police drones so they can bypass a fictional law, the Dreyfuss Act, and continue to make gratuitous amounts of money.  Murphy is the perfect candidate, and so Robocop is (re)born.  Murphy struggles to deal with the realization of his predicament, and his attempted murder, all the while trying to be the Father and Husband he once was.  This all happening while under the strict scrutiny of Omnicorp’s CEO, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton).  Another constant in the 80’s action film, the evil business boss with little to no scruples.  Of course after the 2000’s, reality seemed to follow fiction with those types of bad guys.

As I continue to review this film, notably there will be plenty of comparisons made to the original.  Unfortunately, no matter what, this film cannot side step that because of the fact it is a reboot. That being said, this film is far from what the original was, not only in message, but in quality substance. The original was a wonderful satirical piece of violence, the battles of humanity and capitalism. The reboot strikes after the human side of robot technology, while dealing with slight ventures into capitalism and greed.

Joel Kinnaman, who plays Alex Murphy/Robocop has big shoes to fill as Peter Weller was not just Alex Murphy, but the entire embodiment of Robocop; everything down to the blank emotionless faces, voice and walk.  Kinnaman at first struggles to find an identity in the film, and it’s enough to be entirely evident from the film’s first ten minutes.  Unfortunately, it takes nearly 40 minutes to see Robocop in action, and another 20 after that before Kinnaman actually finds comfort in the role.  It’s clear that the script was built around Kinnaman being a more emotional Robocop, as several scenes and dialogue moments are built around this.  However, this element while not entirely explored in the original, is something Weller himself portrayed perfectly in the original.

Beyond Kinnaman’s approach to the role, I found Gary Oldman to be the real star of the show.  His approach to the Robocop program, as well as his strong emotional acting in crucial scenes made for some of the film’s better, more refined moments.  Michael Keaton’s role as Sellars is entirely frustrating, as not only is he not a very good villain, but he portrays a two dimensional genius that cannot get out of his own way in regards to making stupid mistakes. Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Pat Novak is an entirely in your face bash to Glenn Beck, Hannity, and other political oriented talking heads in media, a role that provides more exposition, than actual substance.  Surprisingly, Jackie Earle Haley’s character in the film, Mattox, a military tactician hired by Omnicorp is entirely awful.  In a film aiming to express the definitions of humanity, having a completely flat bad guy in the film only separates the audience from the film.  Think Tim Roth’s military character from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.

Another huge, monumental difference between the original and the reboot is the budget.  The original was made for a measly 13 million dollars, a cringe worthy amount, even back then.  However, the film’s script and direction aided to the budget, and you never felt any poor production values.  The reboot’s budget is a rather large 130 million dollars, and despite the script not always aiding to the use of this money, production values are incredibly high here.  Visuals, at times, are pretty spectacular.  The use of near future technology is pretty incredible, and extremely fun to watch. The suit, primarily the original suit (with modern adjustments) is fun to watch.  While I am a big fan of black, the new suit felt awkward to me, primarily the front chest plate, as it resembled more of a suit rather than it being his new robotic body.

Verhoeven’s 1987 Robocop had tons of memorable moments, even including memorable bad guy Clarence Boddicker, portrayed wonderfully by That 70’s Show’s Kurtwood Smith, who had a hand in one of the most gruesome death scenes to film.  It had incredible one liners, sweet action set pieces and it was well paced.  The reboot struggles with two bad guys, often times setting those aside to explore Alex’s humanity, more than having him actually struggle against one of them.  Also, there is not enough Robocop in the film, interestingly enough.  Not enough material here was explored with the character, and the moments explored, were memorable, and definitely not nearly as quotable as the original (Come on, where’s the “Your move, creep!”).

I applaud Jose Padhila’s attempt with the new RoboCop.  The use of special effects makes for some cool tech moments, and two action set pieces are actually pretty fun to watch.  Furthermore, the exploration of Alex’s humanity, including using his family, is pretty interesting.  However, a lot of it is left unsatisfied.  Like the villains, neither were developed enough, unlike the original’s Boddicker, and none quite as menacing or as opposing as he was.  RoboCop’s real challenge is himself, and even then, it is a nasty plot device that falls apart at the seams when you began picking it apart (If OmniCorp let him solve his murder, EVERYONE WOULD BE HAPPY!).  Regardless, nitpicks aside, and the acknowledgement of this not being nearly as good as the original, I still enjoyed watching this movie. It is relentlessly trying to prove that it is not a shot for shot remake, an admirable attempt that, while largely unsatisfying is at the very least entertaining.

C-

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Nathanael. Given the fact that the original is so beloved by almost anybody who has ever seen it, this remake had a lot to live up to and not screw up. And for the most part, it did an alright job of steering clear from many problems, but was still a tad too dull.

  2. It seems many people label this remake as ‘not as bad as it could have been’. I, however, loathed it and was very bored by it (I nearly fell asleep in the cinema).

    Dorian

  3. Jaime R. says:

    Good review. I preferred the original, but I agree that it really wasn’t that special.

    (P.S. – I nominated this blog for a Liebster Award – http://filmbroadcaster.weebly.com/1/post/2014/03/the-film-broadcaster-gets-a-liebster-award.html)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s