I don’t really remember the original Robocop. I usually like to watch the original of any reboot/remake before I see the new version but I didn’t get the chance to do that with the new version of Robocop. It means I didn’t have the prejudice or the expectation that a lot of other people seemed to have before they saw the Jose Padilha version, aside from a few distinctive memories, for example the gore, the very cool one-liners and the brilliant theme tune that I still think is cool today.
I also have no real gripe with them remaking Robocop. I don’t have any true affiliation with the original and although it is a special kind of classic, it’s hardly untouchable. In fact, with technology moving forward, computer graphics getting better and the idea of a robot-cop actually becoming much more of a reality, now is the time for a Robocop remake.
The issue I have is that the movie is being released at the height of the superhero movie golden-age. Robocop, whether you like it or not, is another type of superhero, be it one that was always aimed at a more mature audience and doesn’t necessarily wear a cape.
Watch the original and this comparison isn’t as obvious but in the newer movie, it suffers from this so much more. The film follows the same superhero origin movie stereotypes to the letter and it means that Robocop becomes another generic hero movie when it was always something slightly more special.
It doesn’t help that they made Robocop so much more “human.” By showing his face for most of the time he is Robocop, you are putting so much more emphasis on the man behind the metal. This is a lot of responsibility to shoulder and I don’t think Joel Kinnaman is up to the task. He isn’t very appealing and you never really get behind him as Alex Murphy or as Robocop, especially in the moments that require any emotion.
It helps that he is ably supported. Gary Oldman steals the show in a cast that includes decent turns from Samuel L Jackson, Michael Keaton and a very cool Jackie Earl Haley. Oldman holds most of the heavy lifting and does so with the accomplish we usually expect, giving Robocop some purpose, direction and most of all, story.
It’s in falling back on the same superhero ideas that Robocop’s story suffers too. It feels rushed to get him into the suit and them suffers with little for him to really do when he is in it. There is a fantastic shoot-out, testing Robocop’s new abilities, that demonstrates the potential and the cool realisation of this character but this falls away after this set-piece, with little that gets anywhere near this level of excitement again.
Even the finale, and the revelation of who the villain of the movie will be, doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen in so many superhero movies before, including the poorer, more mediocre ones. If it wasn’t holding the title of an iconic eighties movie, this would make it much more of a generic, forgettable film.
The fact is, there is potential here. There were moments that felt like Robocop could be a film franchise that had something to offer to a more modern audience. With technology moving forward and being so much more of a key part of our lives, Robocop could be the satirical movie it positioned itself as in the eighties. Now it has the generic, bland, origin movie out of the way, let’s hope it gets the opportunity to offer something more in a decent sequel.
Overall, Robocop is a decent attempt at a remake that has fallen in amongst a lot of very similar, be them superhero, movies. It has a tortured hero, new powers and a realisation of his potential and ability, much like any other superhero origin movie. There is potential for a great Robocop franchise at a time when the messages of the original, and some of this movie too, are much more relevant than before.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)