The remake in Hollywood has become something of an epidemic and has been pillaging films from the 1980’s as of late. Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Footloose, Red Dawn, Total Recall, and The Karate Kid have all found their way back on the big screen. Heck, they even reworked Arthur. While these films would never go on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, they were generally entertaining. Most of the remakes, on the other hand, have fallen into a state of blah.
Next on this list is Robocop.
This version begins in 2028. OmniCorp, a multinational corporation that specializes in robot soldiers, provides the world with a new type of law enforcement: one in which no cop will ever get killed. However, the United States will not allow robot soldiers to be used domestically. With that particularly lucrative market untapped and as public opinion becomes so robophobic in the U.S., CEO Raymond Sellars (played by Michael Keaton) comes up with an idea to stem the tide. He procures his scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton, into creating a new brand of law enforcement, one that combines man and machine. After a car bomb blows police officer, Alex Murphy, to near death, his only chance at survival is to become this machine; to become Robocop.
Remakes are a tricky business. There will be members of the audience who remember the original, and will undoubtedly compare. I was one of those audience members. While Robocop began with some potential, it quickly spiraled and unraveled, cementing itself onto the list of remakes that turn out, not surprisingly, to be a disappointment.
The biggest problem with the 2014 Robocop is the lack of a human element. Never was there a deep connection between this reviewer and Alex Murphy. Honestly, I would have settled for something even slightly above a flat-line, but that was asking too much. This was largely due to the film’s predictable plot and the acting of Joel Kinnaman. Not once did I feel a deep empathy for Murphy, something I did in the original. In the 1987 film, Peter Weller created a character that was both striking to look at, but also one that drew out some emotion from the audience. We remember images and events even more-so when there is an emotion attached to them. I recall many parts of the original Robocop. There was genuine compassion for Murphy, whether in the gruesome nature of his near murder, the desire of his partner to bring his memories back, or Murphy himself remembering his past life – a good life. That essential feeling was lost in the 2014 Robocop.
Another dilemma plaguing Robocop was the lack of quality villains. When we’re watching drug dealers, dirty cops and underhanded CEO’s, there needs to be a special sinister element to make them memorable. Although it is always enjoyable to watch Michael Keaton on screen, the bad guys in Robocop were not very villainous. If we look back again at the original, I can recall a great disdain that I had for many of the vermin who ruined Murphy’s life. A good villain is essential in a film such as this, and the 2014 version of Robocop did not have it nor did it have the ridiculous violence of the original. That was something that set the original Robocop apart from other films in the late 80’s. The 2014 version steered clear of that absurd and gross violence, but left us with nothing as its substitute. If you’re going to sanitize Robocop, you’d better replace it with something far more alluring, far more than Robocop in shiny black armor.
While Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson were clear standouts in Robocop, they could not save this film. Robocop as a film that is far too robotic, offering very little in emotional substance for the audience devour. In fact, the viewing experience was more like a famine, trying desperately to take something away from the film, when there was really very little to ingest in the first place.