When I first received confirmation of the decision to remake Paul Verhoeven’s classic 1987 film ROBOCOP, my first thought was, "Why remake a classic that, aside from the special effects, is almost a flawless film?” It is no secret that many popular film franchises that have run their course become fodder for, reboots, remakes and my personal favorite term: the reimagining. Some of the new versions ranged from the good (THE DEPARTED) to the bad (CARRIE) to the downright ugly (FIGHT NIGHT). Since most of these films fail to set the box office world on fire, one has to wonder why these movies keep getting remade. The cynical answer to both questions is simple: they are cheap to make and need very little advertising to get people in to the theater. In most cases they cast unknowns or TV actors in the lead roles, which help in keeping the film’s budgets under control and take shortcuts that make it possible for the studio to make a profit off of these remakes. The problem is that those shortcuts often sacrifice quality and creativity in the process. So as long as people go to see them, rent them or buy them they will continue to be made. While the new ROBOCOP is not a complete failure, it is another unnecessary remake in a long list of other unnecessary remakes.
As with most remakes the film attempts to bring the action in the “modern” world and make it relevant to the current days’ time. The original film dealt with the crime-ridden city of futuristic Detroit and although this film is also set in Detroit the themes are present of a global scale. Robots are being used to fight crime and aid in the war on terrorism. Although successful we are told that the American people would not approve the use of the machines in local law enforcement. OmniCorp, the company that makes the machines, led by CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) comes up with the idea that in order to “sell” the idea there needs to be a human element to the machines. Along with company scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) they decide to incorporate a human being with the technology. Quicker than you can say car explosion cop Alex Murphy is badly injured which gives them the “body” that they need to complete their creation. Before you know it Robocop is born.
It was my intent to review this film without comparing it the original but I have found that to be an impossible task. This remake makes many changes from the original material most notably the rating. The original was an ultra-violent film and that worked to its advantage. The criminals were extremely violent therefore Robocop had to be even more violent. The current film has watered it down so much to achieve its PG-13 rating that it has morphed into a bloodless video game. There are many shoot-outs and people getting shot but there is not a single drop of blood spilled. Another major change that derails the film is the lack of Robocop’s journey of self-discovery that is present in the first film. That was an important theme in the original as Murphy begins to rediscover who he is/was. The current film does not kill off Murphy so he is aware of who is and his past at all times. The original had a man trapped inside a robot and that dynamic is missing here. Fans of the original who remember the last line of that film will be disappointed. The film is also missing the satirical wit of the original as well. However, the filmmakers attempt to use the classic line “I’d buy that for a dollar” but it seems forced and it does not work.
Is this film better than the original? The answer is a resounding no. The original is considered a classic and still holds up to viewing today. The only difference is that the original should not be viewed by younger viewers. It is quite possible that the target audience have not even heard of the Robocop character and they actually could be confused as presented he is a somewhat reminiscent of Ironman. This film should not have been made and although it's well made technically and good performances from the supporting cast, it simply does not live up to the original. It does not improve on it only makes it different. While different is okay better is, well better. If the original did not exist I would only slightly recommend it.
As you are probably aware from the ads Samuel L. Jackson is in this film. Quite frankly it is time for Sam to start saying no to some projects. His role in this film can only be seen as a cash grab from a guy that should not need the cash. He is not required to act in anyway and is literally being “Sam Jackson” here. In his role television host Pat Novak all of scenes with the exception of one is him talking directly to the camera and is eerily identical to the current credit card commercial. I was honestly expecting him to say “what’s in your wallet?” at any given time. It would not surprise me one bit if his scenes were filmed in a two days max. I never thought I would ever say that Jackson brings nothing to a film, but sadly he has earned that sentiment.