Robocop, easily one of the best Sci-Fi action movies of the 1980's finally gets a sleeker, shinier, more youth-friendly update for the 21st century. I was convinced that this film would follow in the exact same footsteps as last year's Total Recall remake (which I still have yet to see) - be released, get mediocre reviews, and then fade into obscurity, never to be mention again, except when people are naming off failed remakes. However, Robocop 2014 while not matching up to the heights of the original, manages to be a fun action film in its own right.
Now before I actually review the film, I want to talk a out the pg-13 rating. This seems to be one of the main reasons why people seem sceptical of it, as the original had some fantastic gore and plenty of foul language in it, but I feel like having gore in this one would actually detract from the enjoyment. The reason I say this is that the gore in most 80's action films (especially Paul Verhoveen ones) is extremely exaggerated and almost comical, but that is why its so fun. If this Robocop had violence, it would have been all cg blood and would have likely just made you wish they used practical effects (which Hollywood has long since filed under "obsolete) or just not bother with it. Now with that said, let's talk about the film.
First off, Joel Kinnaman does a fine job as Robocop, when he is first introduced as Alex Murphy he seems very generic, but once he is actually put in the Robocop suit I felt like he began to fit role much better. (the scene where he first wakes up as Robocop, I particularly enjoyed his "What the Fuck" face). Everyone else does a good job as well, particularly Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton, with Oldman giving probably the best performance in the film, and being probably the most interesting character.
The biggest strength I'd say this remake has is that it doesn't try and copy the original like so many other remakes, ED209 is used sparingly, and there is only one throwback line in the whole movie, which I appreciated. The biggest difference is that Murphy's mind isn't wiped when he becomes Robocop, so we get to see him react to the whole situation, which is nice new way of approaching the concept. It does still have the whole "regaining his humanity" angle in it, but it doesn't happen until about halfway through. It's not handled as well as the original but works well enough for what the movie is trying to acheive. Another large difference from the original is that Murphy's family is actually present throughout the events of the film. This is the weakest of the films additions I find, the parts with the family aren't handled horribly, but nothing real interesting is done with it. His wife and son aren't established very well character wise at the beginning of the film, and all his wife really does when he becomes Robocop is cry and cry and cry. That is actually one of the main problems I had with the film, is the amount of throwaway characters. Michael Kenneth Williams as his partner is supposed to be the Willis of this film I guess, but like his family, nothing worthwhile is really done with him. And Jay Baruchel's character seemed to have no point other than the occasional comedic line.
The film also doesn't really have a villain. There is a crime lord that is obviously supposed to be this film's Clarence Boddicker, but he is incredibly generic and only has about 5 minutes of screen time. Michael Keaton ends up being the main antagonist in the end (I would say spoiler, but if you know anything about Robocop it's fairly obvious thats the direction they're going) but throughout the majority of the film he isn't portrayed as overly villainous, and doesn't really do anything that villainous until the end. There is also a subplot about corrupt cops and a military guy played by Jackie Ealre Hayley who doesn't like RoboCop for some reason, so it's like the film divided the villain role amongst a bunch of different people, which doesn't give us any real adversary we care about for Murphy to go up against.
I think the thing I appreciated most about this remake was how sparingly the action was used, there were only about 3 big action set pieces and they were all done well in my opinion. It would have been easy for them to bloat the movie with action to overcome for a shitty script, but it seems they tried to have an actually decent story with an appropriate amount of action. There were a lot of little things that I liked about the movie that I felt helped give it its own personality apart from the original, particularly when they show what Murphy looks like without the RoboCop suit on, and he is just a head and some lungs in a jar which I actually found genuinely unnerving and a very cool visual. The black suit which everyone was complaining about actually looked a lot better than the pre-release pictures would suggest, although I still prefer the classic grey suit. The final negative thing I would say, is that the movie seems a little bloated, particularly the opening scene meant to show all the cool robot-ey stuff, and all the parts with Samuel Jackson as a news anchor seemed to drag on.
Overall, Robocop 2014 is nowhere near as good as the original, but it manages to do enough things differently to make an identity of it's own and manages to be a fun and entertaining movie, and one of the better remakes I've seen in a while.