Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
My spoiler-free review: (underline)
Just because you can remake a 27-year old movie, doesn’t mean you should. Since they did, filmmakers should have been more careful to build the human element of the story and also careful not to alienate about 50% of their audience: fans of the original 1987 movie. Now that I’ve seen it, it is clear why this moved from its original late August 2013 slot on the summer box office calendar to the cold, dreary February 12th, 2014 spot on the schedule.
Upgraded effects, a different story, and a strong supporting cast can’t save this remake from the junkyard… I give it 5.5 out of 10.
(Warning to parents: while not as graphically violent as the original, this “RoboCop” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including a lot of gun violence, some strong language, one scene of sensuality and some drug material)
We know that reboots and remakes don’t always work, but our first red flag on this movie was the schedule change – it was originally slated for an August 9, 2013 release but 10 months before it was to hit theaters it was pushed back… way back… 6 months later to the middle of February. The reluctance of some stars to sign on to the project starts making sense, but they still ended up with a pretty good cast surrounding our lead characters.
So what went wrong? Remember Peter Weller’s RoboCop? He was more human before and after the procedure, the audience could make a connection with his character, his RoboCop had the traits and characteristics of his “cowboy” personality. But this Detective Alex Murphy - Joel Kinnaman – is a little rigid, stale, cold, quite emotionless and stale. He’s more robotic than man in his acting even before the accident/procedure. There’s not a lot of depth to his character either. Plus Kinnaman’s Alex is also a rebel, renegade, very wreckless in his job that makes him harder to sympathize with. The other main characters, his partner ‘Jack Lewis’ (Michael K. Williams) and his wife ‘Clara Murphy’ (Abbie Cornish) are also very one note characters that are more like the empty Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz”, very hollow in their performances. Despite their display of emotions on screen, I wasn’t buying what they were selling.
I’ve said it before – character depth is very important to me… if I can’t connect to the character, I can’t sympathize with their emotional struggles… and it makes it hard to care about what happens to them. In this movie that makes all the themes of Alex’s struggles accepting his new fate/robotic body suit fall flat because I’m not empathizing… it just becomes one big action movie about corporate greed – and that’s part is just average and quite predictable.
There was more emotional connection with the supporting cast of Gary Oldman (Dr. Dennett Norton), Michael Keaton (Raymond Sellars of OmniCorp), Samuel L. Jackson (talk show host Pat Novak), and Jackie Earle Haley (Rick Mattox), even Jennifer Ehle (Liz Kline) and Jay Baruchel (Tom Pope) had more audience chemistry than our main characters. Oldman has lots of depth as the conflicted doctor trying to help and maintain his hippocratic oath at the same time. Keaton is smooth and crafty trying to run a business focused solely on profits. Jackson delivers an extreme version of cablenews talk show hosts. Haley is solid as always, this time as the military man behind OmniCorp. And even minor characters Ehle and Baruchel had more layers of depth and polished acting than our leads.
Maybe that was part of the schedule change… to edit the movie and try to focus more on the supporting cast… which could have worked if they didn’t try to stick to the themes of man versus machine. In exploring the humanity of the RoboCop program and the flaws of both man and machine, the end product is just another average movie churned out by the Hollywood machine.
And… while some of the effects were good (they should be 25+ years later), others in the final scenes looked more like effects of the late 1980′s.
Also… future Detroit looks a lot less bleak than the original movie’s view of the crime and blight-ridden Motor City, a city desperate for a hero… the streets and neighborhoods of this version of a future Detroit do not look as hopeless.
Plus… some things are not as well explained or easily understood (like Alex’s motivations) and the portrayal of media coverage is very cliche and easily mocked.
But there were some good things about the 2014 version: this story line is different than original: more focused on the politics and economics of robotic police/armies – so it does keep those of us who saw the 1987 version guessing a little bit as to what’s going to happen.
Also, this RoboCop is not as dark and nightmarish for younger viewers – there’s still a bunch of bad guys getting shot but it is violence without gore/graphic injuries/ excessive blood… clearly sanitzed for the PG-13 rating… and one change I was okay with.
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