If this is late it’s because somehow the entire article just deleted itself and undo doesn’t want to work. Yes, I am pissed off about it!
My history with the original RoboCop franchise is as follows: I didn’t see the movie as a kid because it was too violent. I did watch and enjoy the cartoon and later RoboCop: The Series. I did eventually see the first movie, but it was the ABC TV edit, and even then they had the viewer discretion warning. I later saw the second and third movie, but I did have the comic adaptations of the first and second film, a few random Marvel issues (which I’ve also reviewed), the crossover with the Terminator from Dark Horse (also reviewed), and the Free Comic Book Day preview of Avatar’s run (I think I took a look at it but there was nothing to really review). I also saw the second cartoon, Alpha Commando, and the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Prime Directives, and they were both crap. Of all of these I kind of liked the crossover, enjoyed the first cartoon when it aired but I haven’t watched it since, and really enjoyed the TV series. And my knowledge of the movies are still influenced by the comic adaptations.
So when they announced that the re-imagined RoboCop was going to be PG-13 it didn’t bother me a bit. And yet it seemed like that was the huge complaint against the movie before it even hit theaters, as if being ultra-violent was important to the theme. As if the movie would only be good if it was ultra-violent and gory. Well that wasn’t my first experience to the franchise or the story of the first movie so I never made that connection. There was also less social commentary due to space in the comic and it being based on an earlier draft so I was more interested in the “man in the machine” aspect, which I’ve always considered the central theme of the story. So how did the new movie handle that?
RELEASE DATE: 2014
RELEASED BY: Sony Pictures
STARRING: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, and Jackie Earle Haley
SCREENWRITERS: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, and Michael Milner
Fun fact: the script was based on an early script for the first movie before director Paul Verhoeven opted for more comedic elements and a strong anti-corporation vibe.
DIRECTOR: José Padilha
GROSS REVENUE: $242,688,965 ($58,607,007 domestic) from an estimated budget of $$100,000,000
IMDB SCORE: 6.2 out of 10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 49% (Audience Score: 49%)
The Plot: In the year 2028 Omnicorp, a division of OCP, is looking to market their military robots and drones domestically, but a senator concerned about peoples’ rights has put out a bill stopping the use of drones in the US. To sway public opinion against the bill, CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton) comes up with the idea of a cybernetic cop to dissuade fears of unfeeling machines as police. They get a break when Detroit officer Alex Murphy is blown up by gunrunner Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow). They convince Alex’s wife, Clara (Cornish), to allow them to save his life by turning him into RoboCop. Now Murphy and his partner, Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), must take down Vallon and his crooked cops, but with Omnicorp fighting his humanity will Murphy still be a good husband and a father to his son, David (John Paul Ruttan)?
Why did I want to see it?: Mostly because I wanted to see if it really was as bad without all the extra violence, and it honestly looked like an interesting movie to me. It might help that I was more into the TV shows than the movies, and I’m one of the few people out there that didn’t hate RoboCop 3. Would the movie really be bad just because it dropped a rating?
What did I think?: You know how I always complain about re-imaginings? It’s because usually it’s about sucking what I loved about the original out and replacing it with things I don’t. That doesn’t mean the quality is bad in these not-stalgia movies. It just means they didn’t care about fans of the original. So I do sympathize with fans of the original movies. That said, I honestly love this movie better than the original. It may not be a popular opinion, but when has that stopped me before? And I’m not judging the movie based on the original. I don’t demand sequels and re-imagining be as good or better than the first movie as long as it’s good. However, I just liked the remake better.
I don’t need all the ultra-violence. RoboCop still shoots up a lot of bad guys, even if most of the time he uses “taser bullets”. It’s the future, so why not? We keep asking the real world cops to carry non-lethal options even though they’re not as effective and comes with their own problems. That isn’t covered in this movie and I don’t think it would go along with all the other topics covered. There is still commentary about the use of drones, and the company turns out to be evil after all, so it’s not like it isn’t there. It just doesn’t smack you upside the head like the original. The silly news segments are replaced by Fox News slamming Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) and The Novak Element, an obvious parody of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor and a possible combination of conservative commentators Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak (who contributed to CNN before they dropped any pretense of being fair to both sides and went full left), but that’s all. I do understand that the commentary was a big part of the original, but it wasn’t the important theme the story was going for.
That was the battle between Alex Murphy the man and RoboCop the machine. And that is handled better here with the addition of his wife and son actually being a part of the story, something the TV series also did well. Murphy isn’t just driven by revenge but it’s the love of his family that allows him to fight for his humanity. For me that works much better, and with all this talk of “humanizing characters” you’d think more people would be on board with that. I feel more sorry for this version than the original and I find myself cheering him on more as a result.
Plus outside of a reference by secondary antagonist Rick Mattox (Earle), one of his handlers who hates the idea of cyborgs polluting his robot soldiers, that stupid “I’ll buy that for a dollar” line doesn’t show up all the time. I keep wanting to punch that guy every time he says it, and by proxy every person I meet that quotes it. I’ve got your dollar right here! Speaking of quotes, Novak refers to RoboCop as the future of justice rather than the future of law enforcement. That was a huge missed opportunity there. Also, I like RoboCop better in grey than black. He looks more heroic as a cop than the ninja color scheme. The bike is way cooler than the police car though.
Not that the movie is perfect. I don’t know why they replace Alex’s female officer with a black man but I could have overlooked that if Lewis actually did anything in the movie. He doesn’t. At one point he does save Alex but otherwise he seems to be there just get shot and help confront the corrupt cops. He does nothing to help Alex regain his humanity like Anne Lewis did. Of course Alex’s wife would do more since she’s actually here this time but Jack does…well, jack all. We don’t see enough moments with Alex and his son either, but the time we get shows a loving father and a son traumatized by watching his dad get blown up and turned into a robot. It means Ruttan doesn’t have to show as much emotion but when he does the director does a better job than others in getting it out of him.
Was it worth the wait?: Yes. I want to get the DVD now. Again, I know why fans of the original don’t like this version, and I do have my problems with Hollywood’s re-imagining frenzy. That doesn’t change the fact that I really enjoyed this movie, even more than the first one. It’s less gory (outside of the scenes where Alex is just a head with the brains showing and working lungs connected to life support; I had to turn away for those), more action than violent, and with less beating over the head allowing time for more human moments. I kind of question if the original isn’t a classic for the wrong reasons given the comments I’ve seen that this version will supposedly never be the classic the original was. However, if I were to choose I’d go with the 2014 installment. I just had a better time watching it.
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