When it was announced that the new “Robocop” remake would be a PG-13 rating, fans were soon in an uproar. As if a remake on its own was bad enough, throwing a PG-13 rating into the mix, gave most fans of the original a heart attack. Why some of you may ask? The original 1987 classic was a rated R action extravaganza that was full of blood, gore, drugs, and violence. Many believed that without the R rating, the new film was taking away from a lot of what made the original so great. Many fans wouldn’t even give it a chance, despite the trailers looking pretty solid looking. The original was good on so many levels and is a true classic on the genre. The sequels to that classic were beyond lackluster especially with the horrendous “Robocop 3″, among the worst in the genre. A remake was the only to salvage the brand name and franchise, it was nothing but dead. So did the more commercial friendly PG-13, 2014 “Robocop” deliver? By far it did! This film goes beyond expectations and gives it everything it’s got. Although it’ll never make the same impact the original did upon its release, this is a worthy remake that has a strong focus on characters and story with some great action sequences, and special effects this is nearly as good as the original was.
In the year 2028, the corporation named Omicorp, has created and sold hundreds of drones and robots and has stationed them overseas keeping both the peace and stop any future crime while saving countless lives. However the United States is hesitate with putting the same kind of law enforcement on their own soil. Omicorp, looking for a way to change the public’s mind on the use of robots, comes across Alex Murphy. A good cop in a corrupt Detroit City. When he is tragically killed by a car bomb after getting too close to breaking a case of internal corruption, Omicorp uses this as an opportunity, and transforms and rebuilds him to a cyborg dubbed Robocop. Under this new life, Murphy struggles to reconnect with his family and keep his humanity while trying to fight his “system” and stay the man he once was.
I’ll try to keep comparisons to the original as minimal as possible. Sometimes it’s really unfair to both films to be constantly comparing the two however I also understand that since one is a remake of the original it is hard not to compare them.
One of the strengths of this film was the script. The script is smartly written by the screenwriters. Instead of taking the original’s script and just exporting the bare bones of it while elevating the action, the screenwriters take the original’s concept and do a complete redesign with a much stronger focus on the actual character. The film really takes it’s time and really examines and develops the character of Alex Murphy. We get to know who the man is before he transformed into the machine he’ll later become. This attention to character creates a certain kind of pathos that isn’t present in a lot of other action movies, both past and present.
This pathos continues when the inevitable tragedy strikes and dirty cops plant a car bomb in Murphy’s vehicle that then blows him up and burns nearly all of his body. The event is quick but brutal enough to make an impact for the viewer. Although not nearly as impactful as Murphy’s death in the original but the scene is a lot better than it looked in the trailer. What follows is where the remake begins to really diverge to the original. Alex Murphy awakes and quickly realizes what Omicorp and their team of scientists have turned him into and thinks of himself as a monster. As the movie progresses Alex Murphy struggles to keep his humanity and his freedom of choice while Omicorp keeps tinkering with him and attempting to turn him into more a machine than man.
What helps the audience sympathize with Murphy is his connection he has to his family. The themes of his roles as a family member or even can he remain a functioning part of his family. Shown before the accident, as a caring family man, his wife tries desperately to keep their family together.
But first and foremost “Robocop” is an action film and people coming into “Robocop” will be expecting some awesome and maybe some over the top action sequences, the surprising good narrative is only a bonus for some. The action is really well made here. Not as violent or as gory as the original however this PG-13 rated film does present enough to not feel like a watered down experience. The scenes are well made, tense, fun and exciting. Some are very elaborate and does deliver the action we’ve come to expect. That being said there is actually less of it than many would perhaps prefer. The greater attention to the script and story does cause a lengthy area of the film where there aren’t guns or fist flying. Not a negative to me at all, for some though it may be.
The social satire that is prevalent throughout the original is once again showcased here. Although done in a different way and updated for the times, the satire is just as nearly as well done as the original. This time Sam Jackson plays Pat Novak, who is a news anchor for a political talk show called “The Novak Element.” Brilliantly reflective of the “Rush Limbaugh Era” of political talk shows, these segments are some of the highlights and best made parts of the film.
This time around we have Joel Kinnaman playing the part of Alex Murphy/Robocop and does a good job at playing it, even if Peter Weller was a bit better at the part. Gary Oldman plays the expanded role of the scientist and is one of the strongest aspects of the movie. Michael Keaton takes a turn playing the head of Omicorp and this guy needs to get more work, he is terrific in this film. Jackie Earle Harley is in the clichéd role of the bad military solider. Although a clichéd role he is effective in the film. Abbie Cornish is good here as well and Jay Baruchel didn’t piss me off like he usually does and quite enjoyed him in the film. Michael K. Williams was good but not especially memorable and Marianne Jean-Baptiste was a bit of a miscast. All in all though the acting very solid.
This is an example of a remake that works. The performances are solid, the action is fun and exciting, the script is very well written. I know many fans of the original will still be able to not accept this movie simply because of the PG-13 rating and even the fact that this is a remake. However neither of these things prevent the movie from succeeding. This is nearly as good as the original and far better than either of the sequels that followed it.