Robocop (2014) | Review | Film

RoboCop (2014)The return of RoboCop was something noone asked for. The 1987 original is a piece of cinema history, as elegant as only storytelling from the 80s can be. So why watch this remake?

The short answer is if you want to a watch a film which, judged on its own merits is passable, but when compared to its older brother fails to live up to its name in almost every way.

The story begins, as before, in a futuristic Detroit – although the 80s version of the future, as usual, is cooler than what we’ve ended up with. This time the scale is more focused on the global threat of terrorism and the loss of American lives, lovingly set up by Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson).

There’s no doubt that the film is aware of the irony in its Robocop_2014_posterdepiction of both Pat and the gun-loving Yanks he represents in using a one-dimensional view of the world to see a robot army crawling over Tehran as ‘freedom’.

The origins of RoboCop as the monotone-voiced cyborg we know and love have changed. Not only is Alex Murphy not shot to pieces, but RoboCop himself has no amnesia to tangle with, just a spot of drug therapy – which conveniently fixes itself when the plot requires it.

Lead Joel Kinnaman (known only from TV series The Killing) does a remarkably uninspiring job of bringing Murphy to life. It’s the nature of a reboot to compare to the original, but Kinnaman plays things far to safe to offer any stand-out moments whatsoever, and as a result you feel as if it could have easily been a completely separate film and it might have even be better off.

Some of the changes seem petty as well, such as Murphy being transformed by ‘OmniCorp’, now a subsidiary of ‘Omni Consumer Products’, rather than OCP itself, which means there’s no board of directors to tangle with, just Batman…I mean Michael Keaton.

The iconic ED-209 robot is also tragically sidelined, wheeled (or tiptoed?) out for only a couple of key scenes and there was no chance for them to offer their customary warning whatsoever.

Film should move forward, rather than look back. The best remakes undeniably build on what has gone before in the franchise rather than re-treading old ground.

With this release, no new ideas are brought to the table. Murphy’s relationship with his son is held up as an overly significant plot point, but it has no pay off, and his wife’s distress while touching at first quickly grows into a distraction.

Murphy's relationship with his family takes centre stage...when it suits the plot.
Murphy’s relationship with his family takes centre stage…when it suits the plot.

Not enough time is spend with the film’s main villain, Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), and instead the audience warms to secondary antagonist Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley), who is unfortunately sidelined before he gets a decent throwdown with RoboCop.

The suit design inexplicably offers a single human hand, not even its relevant arm, as if to make some sort of statement about the importance of contact and humanity, but instead comes off looking oddly asymmetrical and you are frequently left wondering why.

In fact that thought is something of a theme for the film altogether – just why? Everything about the film is forgettable and uninspired. The acting talent of the supporting cast, including Keaton and Oscar-nominee Gary Oldman, struggles to shine amid a script which offers no relief from the inevitability of a film made for profit rather than love.

If you are about 12 years old, then there is genuinely some excitement to be had here (not to the standards of a stronger Doctor Who two-parter, but hey), and the action is decent enough when it happens, though the shaky cam is enough to give you a bit of a headache if you watch too hard.

In all RoboCop is a film which fails to re-capture audiences imaginations, as if someone tried to play Heath Ledger’s Joker with none of the audacity and ended up with a paler, tamer, and far less bloody version of the film we know and love.

Rating: 2/5

James Michael Parry

If you fancy an alternative, check out indie title Our RoboCop Remake instead.

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