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RoboCop (2014) Review

"R" rating? I'd buy that for a dollar...

When it was originally released in 1987, RoboCop was a film that was way ahead of its time.  While the special effects look laughable by today's standards, the storyline, direction, soundtrack, ultra-violence, and satire raised this "R" rated film to a level that none of its sequels have been able to live up to.

The 2014 version of RoboCop (Rated: PG-13) does not break that trend.  However, it's not a terrible film either.  It just feels like it's missing that polish that could have made it a great film.  With the current state of the city of Detroit, drone strikes being real, and the current global economy run by multi-national companies, you don't really need to suspend your belief all that much.  The Robo-basics are here.  OmniCorp wants to mass produce robots to patrol city streets, but there are complications.  Alex Murphy still dies, becomes a cyborg, still has to deal with corrupt senior officers as OCP, and he still solves his own murder. The special effects look good and in a way remind me of Metal Gear Solid 4's opening act with drones galore everywhere in a hostile environment. So what's missing?

While the new ED-209 is badass, forget about gory scenes like this in the remake.

First, let me say that I am a HUGE fan of the original RoboCop, but not as huge of a fan of its sequels or the TV series.  RoboCop 2 was a decent action flick and RoboCop 3 was something that most fans would rather forget.  One of the things that was missing from every RoboCop sequel was the gory ultra-violence of the original.  While gratuitous, the "death" scene for Alex Murphy had the audience relate to Alex Murphy as well as hate the villains who killed him. You also witnessed his entire "rebirth" through his own eyes. In this new version, his "death" is so quick that you barely notice that it happened.  You rarely ever get acquainted to the villains in any significant way.  There is no awesomely satisfying "toxic waste guy" type of death scene.  Clarence Boddicker (awesomely played by That 70's show dad Kurtwood Smith) and Dick Jones?  Forget about them.  There are similar characters in Rick (Jackie Earl Haley) and Tom (Jay Baruchel), but none have the same impact as the originals and are used sparingly.  I would elaborate on these new characters more, but whatever I would write would probably take longer to read than their actual screen time.

Hellllllp meeeee.....

Officer Lewis is now a male, and the police chief is female.  I don't have a problem with the gender changes themselves but these characters get far less screen time that the originals.  This version of Lewis seemed promising, and I would have liked to see a larger role written for him.

In this new version, Alex's emotional struggle goes backwards from the original film.  He knows who he is (instead of having his memories erased and slowly recovering them) and what has been done to him.  He's fully human (mentally) and has all of his memories intact.  He has more of his original body left intact than the original Murphy did, though that is not saying a lot.  There is a scene that shows what is left of Murphy, and frankly, it's pretty awesome to see.  Joel Kinnaman did a fine job with this script playing RoboCop.  Gary Oldman did a fantastic job as the doctor who would convert him into a Cyborg, and that is another huge difference in this movie.  Dr. Norton (Oldman) gets a lot of screen time on here as he tinkers with Alex's brain and body as he tries to make him showroom worthy for OmniCorp while wrestling with his own conscience.  Michael Keaton plays Raymond Sellars, the CEO that replaces both Dick Jones and the "Old Man" from the original movies and does it well.  His character is a money grubbing man who lets his desire for power and wealth overcome his common sense and decency until it's too late.  Like many of today's CEO's, he deems himself unaccountable and above the law caring only about profit and his shareholders.

The original design was like a walking tank, and looks tough.
The new design is a lot sleeker, but looks more like a suit than a part of Murphy.
The action sequences here are of a completely different style than the original RoboCop.  The original character was like a tank, while this one is closer to a cyber-ninja or Iron Man.  No longer is RoboCop a slow and lumbering mass of armor.  He can now hop around like a superhero as well as run.  In the original he survived a gas station explosion unscathed and only really had a problem with the monstrous ED-209.  In this version, I'm not sure that he'd survive a gas station blast as easily but he did pwn an ED-209 (with an awesomely updated mecha design) without much effort thanks to his modern speed and agility. There is something that I have to mention in this review.  In comparison the Peter Weller Robocop actually looked like a cyborg while the Joel Kinnaman version looks more like an Iron Man suit. This is despite the movie showing what's left of Murphy.  On a side note, the mecha designs are great.  If you are a fan of mecha, then those alone may be worth the price of admission to you.

Unlike the original, his wife and son stick around and they play a bigger part in his story.  We don't just go by Alex's returning memories any more.  They are around and trying to reconnect with him and much as he wants to reconnect with them.  His wife "Clara" (played by Abbie Cornish) is a much stronger character, and gets more screen time than in the original trilogy.

The "I'd buy that for a dollar" guy and the hilarious spoof commercials are gone and replaced by Samuel Jackson's character "Pat Dovak"  who has his own political talk show host. His purpose is to antagonize the American public and sway public opinion similar to shows like the O'Reilly factor and Real Time with Bill Maher.  I actually liked Samuel's character and feel that he added some needed satire to this movie.  They could have at least thrown in one spoof commercial for nostalgia's sake, since they did borrow the theme song from the original and some of Murphy's most famous lines.

Overall, this new iteration of RoboCop falls along the same lines as the Judge Dredd remake.  It's a decent movie when not compared to the source material, but it could have been a lot better if it was given a little more love and not so sanitized.  I wouldn't recommend to go see it at the movies, but to wait until it hits Netflix.  This reboot feels like it would have made a great premise for an HBO show.  As a movie, it most likely ties with RoboCop 2 in overall satisfaction as long as you don't compare the old effects to the new.

The original movie was directed by Paul Verhoeven, while this new version is directed by Jose Padilha.

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