Yesterday I saw the remake of Robocop twice inadvertantly. On the way back from my first viewing with my Dad, my buddy Will calls me asking me if I wanted to see it again, I figured, why not, since I liked it, plus it would give me a better understanding of the film for me to write this piece. And I did indeed like the movie, I’ll get into my reasons why shortly, but after I got back from work tonight I put on the original 1987 classic to be able to compare and contrast with the santized remake. If you’ve got the patience of a twitter feed than to sum this up in the opening paragraph, and as I tweeted after I saw the movie, I liked the new one, but it’s different from the original, and not nearly as good, but still it’s a fun movie.
What I really enjoyed about the remake is you get to see more of Alex Murphy’s personality, played in the new movie by Joel Kinnaman, and in the classic by Peter Weller. In 2014 we have an Alex Murphy who’s established himself in the ranks of the Detroit PD with his partner Jack Lewis, in a gender swap from the first movie’s Ann Lewis, who’s played by The Wire’s Michael K. Williams here. We see a little more of his home life, and his wife and son have well, not a lot to do in the plot, but more so than in the original, who leave town in the original after Alex Murphy was gunned down by Clarence Boddicker’s gang. And in this new one, there’s no memory loss when he gets turned into the half man, half machine, all cop. He’s aware of who he is, and so is the world.
If there’s a real flaw to the remake, it’s that there’s no real villain. It’s always been said a hero is only as good as his villain, and in the original you had Clarence Boddicker played by Kurtwood Smith, and Dick Jones played by Ronny Cox. Now, sure Michael Keaton’s character in this new one, partial creator of Robocop is kind of a dick, and a bit of a villain midway through the movie, but he’s not like a real threat to anyone, he’s just greedy. And there’s this lesser criminal in the film, the guy who had Alex Murphy blown up by a car bomb at the beginning of the picture, but he’s not really important whatsoever, so much so I’m not even going to bother looking up the character name, let alone the actor, he just wasn’t important really.
Also, in 2014 Robocop the supposed crime ridden city of Detroit looks really clean, even before Robocop shows up, even the police department is neat and organized, it seems that there’s no need for a Robocop in this new version of future Detroit, could be a metaphor for the movie, but I still had fun with it.
I did miss however, the fake commercials and news broadcasts from the original, which in later years reminded me of what Alan Moore did in the Watchmen, or Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns. But we do get in this new one Samuel L Jackson in a weird toupee as a Fox News like conservative talk show host, who book ends the movie. And there’s some hilarious bits of text in the news scroll at the bottom of the screen during these sequences, that give you a sense of what this future is like, things like Mexican President is calling for removal of American illegal immigrants’, or message from SETI decoded, there is no intelligent life on earth. I did enjoy those, but still I preferred the use of the media in the original.
So all in all, I’ll say that 2014 Robocop is worth seeing, but in the long run it can’t really hold up to the original. But that’s more that can be said for half the remakes Hollywood is cranking out now, so good on them.