With the recent unveiling of Detroit’s very own 10-foot tall RoboCop statue, as featured here, it’s an interesting time to assess José Padilha’s reboot of the original that this bronze giant was built in ode to. While it likely won’t inspire statues to be cast in its name, it’s certainly a decent remake with some originality of its own.
Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 RoboCop was not only a fantastic action movie, but has enjoyed an enduring cult appeal as a result of its biting socio-political satire. Verhoeven’s flair for political parody within the context of mainstream action was highlighted even further with his rip-roaring Starship Troopers (and somewhat less successfully in Showgirls). As such, a reboot of a film that fans would consider more or less perfect in the first place is problematic. Where’s the audience? Original fans are put off and new audiences potentially alienated by the conceit that it’s for the fans.
This central issue aside, 2014’s RoboCop doesn’t fall into many of the traps to which reboots and remakes are prone. Managing to update the formula of the original and place it into a contemporary context, this is a film that can, for the most part, stand on its own two feet.
Police officer Alex Murphy becomes the victim of a vicious attack and is sure to die until, of course, the morally questionable multinational conglomerate OmniCorp offer to save Murphy’s life by turning him into part-man, part-machine. As with the original, RoboCop is born. Executing perpetrators with a marvellously cold and disinterested aplomb, Murphy captures the minds of United States – swaying them towards the idea of replacing the country’s own law enforcement officers with OmniCorp’s droid soldiers.
As time unfolds, Murphy’s wife begins to notice him acting less and less like himself. When she approaches OmniCorp’s CEO Raymond Sellars (a delightful turn from Michael Keaton) about this issue, the insidious nature of the company starts to come to light.
With Michael Keaton as OmniCorp’s morally callous owner, and Gary Oldman popping up as OmniCorp’s good-guy genius scientist Dr. Dennett Norton, there’s a surprising amount of acting talent going on for a RoboCop remake. These two frankly steal the show in this regard, with Joel Kinnaman doing a respectable but forgettable job as the eponymous RoboCop and Abbie Cornish delivering a rather wet performance as Clara Murphy, his wife.
However this isn’t necessarily a film people will be rushing to buy for the acting prowess on display. What’s important to RoboCop then? Unquestionably – satire and action. I’m happy to report that the satire of the original is back, appropriately placed into an Iraq War/Homeland security context, and the action sequences have been updated into a much slicker format than the clunking and altogether slower RoboCop mecha of the original.
In spite of all of its strengths, this reboot doesn’t really hold a candle to the original and I’m honestly not sure why. It’s fun, robust and exciting; not missing a beat at any point. Nostalgia and cult fandom are difficult to tie down to strict reasoning and both are wrapped firmly around the original – making these kinds of comparisons inevitable but somewhat reductive. Either way, this is a film that has plenty of merits and is well worth your time if you’re a fan of the original or not.
RoboCop (2014) is out on Limited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook, Blu Ray, and DVD in the UK and Ireland on Monday 9th June, 2014.
Deleted Scenes – 3’ 55’’
- Pentagon 1
- Right hand
- Lewis and Dean
- Norton confesses to Dreyfus
Omnicorp Corporate – 3’45’’
- Cruiser 1
- M2 Battle Rifle
- RC-2000 V1
- RC-2000 V3
- Next Generation RoboCop
- The Illusion of Free Will – 7’ 46’’
- To Serve and Protect – 5’ 49’’
- The Robocop Suit – 15’
Trailer – 2’