The 2014 reboot of the RoboCop franchise has drawn a lot of ire since it came out. Surprise surprise, science fiction fans taking entertainment more seriously than their own life’s purpose. I read so many negative reviews on Twitter and in various news publications I went to see it expecting the worst. Though it was hard to imagine that a cast of Samuel Jackson, Michael Keaton, and Gary Oldman could be in a steaming pile of shit.
It’s funny, since studying film formally I have come to be less rigid about what I deem a good or bad film as opposed to more snobby or wannabe elitist. RoboCop is not War and Peace on film, it shouldn’t be confused with Gone with the Wind. It’s a fantasy movie about a cop who becomes a half man, half robot law enforcement machine. So check the rigid criteria for modern cinema masterpiece at the door and have some fun.
I have seen the original RoboCop, probably more times than I should have. Both incarnations satirize modern culture, both attempt to have heart, both development characters, both have all you can eat buffets of gunfire. One can dislike both or prefer one over the other, but I have a hard time seeing why a person would like the 80s version and not the 2014 version.
The movie feels slightly rushed as most movies made in the last twenty years do. But there is no shortage of time spent establishing why you as an audience member should care about the plight of Detective Alex Murphy. I could have used less mushy character development, but I appreciated it being there. There was a good balance between series acting time and lets fire off a ton of bullets time. I will say that this version is less bloody/gory than in the 80s version.
There are several obvious and subtle nods to the original film. My personal favorite was one of the villains saying “I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.” I was surprised to see Murphy’s partner Lewis go from a white woman to a black man but whatever, as a second or third tier character it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t add nor subtract anything of substance to/from the film.
I enjoyed Sam Jackson’s parody of a Fox News anchor and the satire of drone based war drum beating. Abbie Cornish is forgettable as she usually is. Gary Oldman is Gary Oldman. Michael Keaton making a rare appearance this side of 1994 plays a far less menacing villain of Omnicorp than Ronnie Cox. I can see that being a problem for some folks. Shout out to Jay Baruchel for doing his comedic thing in a supporting role to lighten the mood.
I thought Joel Kinnaman acted his ass off for a action sci-fi film. Peter Weller left big shoes to fill as Alex Murphy. If one sees this film and doesn’t like it, Kinnaman’s acting surely won’ t be a reason why.
RoboCop is worth checking out in the theater as action movies lend themselves better to the theater experience by nature. Check it on Netflix when it makes it there if you like the original and compare the two yourself. The door is left open for sequels, and I would LOVE to see RoboCop 2 get a remake. Taking a serial killer and putting him in a bigger, better machine. I think director José Padilha could do some good work with that idea. Plus it would be hard to do worse than the RoboCop sequels and shitty SyFy channel min series’ that no one who dislikes this movie cares to remember.