RoboCop 2014: Why Redo A Classic And Do It Poorly?

  • Directed by José Padilha
  • February 12, 2014

Detective Alex Murphy is seriously injured in a car bomb and brought back to the police force as RoboCop!

Ever wonder what would be like if Iron Man got locked in his suit? Well now is your chance to find out by watching this vision of RoboCop. That is what much of the plot comes down to here. There is no loss of identity with the character of Alex Murphy/RoboCop. There is a distinct lack of corporate satire or many of the other general hallmarks that made the original so very special.

RoboCop 2014 does its best to emulate at times the original film by using the classic theme or with scenes that feel similar to the first film but quickly deviates from that path. It cannot seem to choose if it wants to be its own thing or mimic the classic. Despite the involvement of Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner who wrote the original, this is much more a shallow superhero film than it is a deep cyberpunk film.

Reboots are difficult to pull off well. You are trying to recreate the same feelings in the audience that justified what is being done yet again. The list of the reboots that have actually worked is extremely short. This is not one of them. RoboCop 2014 is just going through the motions. I am not saying you have to be a beat for beat copy of the original, but it takes so many elements of the original and twists them and changes them into something similar while also attempting to directly copy other elements.

RoboCop 2014 looks slick but then again it had a very nice budget. The special effects and cinematography are head and shoulders above anything that could have been accomplished in the late 80s, yet it is not nearly as good. This demonstrates that a slick production and big budget does not make a good film.

Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy/RoboCop has all the charisma and range of the stereotypical Kristen Stewart performance. You do not feel bad for his character. There is no sympathy for his situation. It just is. There is no great character arc for Murphy either. The change from beginning to end for him is minimal. He had to go through greater physical changes because of becoming RoboCop than he did character wise.

Murphy is investigating crime boss Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) who is no Clarence Boddicker. Is it just me or as a general rule are villains less dangerous in movies than they once were? He is gun running or something in Detroit and framed as a real bad dude that is the target of an investigation by Murphy and his partner and best bro Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams).

There was a great dynamic between Murphy and Lewis in the original and it was part of the reason that the arc of Murphy/RoboCop worked so well in the first film. I guess since RoboCop does not get much of an arc here you do not need much of a relationship between him and ANY character. It becomes a best bro relationship. It loses everything.

Alex pines for his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son David (John Paul Ruttan) but nothing really really separates him from them. He remembers them clearly and it appears if he so chooses can see them pretty much as he likes. Murphy is not hacked up by OmniCorp (here a division I guess of OCP) because of a clause in his contract but rather because his wife wants to save him. She is very much a token character.

Michael Keaton plays Raymond Sellars who is the CEO of OmniCorp. The motivation behind the RoboCop Project is to get drones on American streets and a cyborg cop bypasses the law, the Dreyfuss Act, which explicitly outlaws drone use. The hope is to turn public opinion in favor of drone use and thus force a change in the law. RoboCop is basically a very expensive public relations campaign. Keaton as Sellars lacks the nuance or just simple entertainment value that Daniel O’Herlihy had as the Old Man. He is more caricature than character.

Gary Oldman plays Dennett Norton who is the scientist that helps create RoboCop. The name sounds similar name to Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) from the original who was a coke addicted, ego driven, success hungry corporate executive. His concern over how his work was being used or over RoboCop in general took the focus off the title character. At moments it feels like he is channeling his Bruce Wayne from Batman when the Joker walks in on Bruce and Vicki Vale.

The talented Jackie Earle Haley plays Rick Mattox who is a drone controller and automated military tactician expert who trains RoboCop. He hates that there is a human mind behind RoboCop and his character amounts being Murphy’s workplace jerk. Why does an experienced cop need a trainer?

Rather than have the satirical commercial breaks or news blurbs interspersed through the film what we get here instead is Samuel Jackson portraying Pat Novak, host of The Novak Element, who is some mash up of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. He is proponent of mechanized law enforcement and points to drone use overseas as to how effective it is.

In the beginning the film takes a job at American foreign policy and that is all fine and dandy if that were the focus of the film, but it is a one-off thing that is just used as an excuse to explain why they are building RoboCop. It is something that really goes nowhere and yet is significant.

This film also attempts to take jabs at corporate culture or the media fall flat. It reaches for themes of identity and self, but the execution is lacking. I get the feeling director José Padilha assumed such themes would magically come through because of the connection to the original.

Rather than get wounded by a crazed criminal gang that is terrorizing the city, Murphy is instead killed by a car bomb set by Vallon. You would think that would give him an axe to grind against the guy that would get dealt with by at least the finale but nope. In the finale RoboCop instead heads to confront the villainous head of OmniCorp. The guy that blew him up with the car bomb is all but forgotten by then. I am not saying RoboCop should not go after Sellars because he tried to turn him off which is essentially attempted murder, but he should also be upset with the guy that cost him 95% of his body. Murphy is a hand, head, lungs, and heart in the movie.

For RoboCop they start out with a design similar to the original film and then they go black. They incorporate into the new design something from the animated feature which is a Cylon-like red line. If you remember in the animated cartoon for some reason RoboCop developed that. I guess an in an effort to pacify any potential complainers they give Murphy a suit more in line with the classic RoboCop look in the closing moments of the film as he waits for his wife and son because he is Iron Man stuck in the suit and not much else.

This is a reboot that misses the mark as they often do. It does nothing new or as original as that from which it gets its name. It is just a story going through the motions hoping to ride the nostalgia of the original. I would argue that the sequels to the first film are closer to that film than this is. RoboCop 2014 wants to be something more but does not feel like putting in the necessary effort.

RoboCop 2014 is a good-looking film that is ultimately empty. It brings nothing new or nothing special to the concept. It is just a pale shadow of the original. You can skip this one.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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