By Tyler Hersko
So, here’s the idea: we’re going to take “RoboCop,” a classic ‘80s film about anti-capitalism, corruption and human nature, where a police officer is reconstructed as a cyborg to patrol the poverty-stricken hellhole of Detroit, and remake it.
We’ll call this new film “RoboCop,” and its themes will include anti-capitalism, corruption and human nature. This modern update will replace the original’s cold war paranoia with a healthy dose of middle fingering towards the United States’ recent quasi-imperialism in the Middle East. To further adjust the film for today’s audiences, Detroit has been reimagined as it is today: a poverty-stricken…Oh, right.
It’s hard to justify a “RoboCop” remake. Thanks to a darker tone, new “bad boy” black armor and a supposedly watered-down PG-13 rating, approaching the new “Robocop” film with any sort of optimism may prove difficult for most.
And that’s a real shame, because if you can look past the admittedly major fact that there’s no reason for this remake to exist, the 2014 “RoboCop” aptly surpasses all reasonable expectations and delivers an intelligent, well-paced and remarkably endearing sci-fi flick.
Series purists may take offense to the numerous liberties taken with the source material. Sans protagonist James Murphy, whose backstory has received significant alterations, and his family, nearly every major character has been scrapped.
While the overall plot is still largely faithful to the original, the new “RoboCop” enjoys a far improved script, pacing and cast. The remake sheds additional light on not only Murphy, but the fictionalized world at large. Most of the more incredulous moments in the original, (seriously, we were just supposed to believe that you could simply plant a cybernetic cop on the streets and everyone would run with it?) have been believably explained, but it never comes off as overly expository.
The superiorly fleshed out backstory serves to supplement the series’ longstanding themes. For better or worse, the hilariously gory action scenes the films are notorious for have been relegated to the sidelines — again, hello PG-13 rating — in favor of the series’ psychological aspects.
As RoboCop, Murphy has a far greater deal of autonomy than he did in the 1987 classic. While a stark departure from the original, the relative retention of Murphy’s personality offers a deeper look into the emotional and moral consequences of putting a man inside of a machine. Though the themes and plot twists on display may be more than a little heavy-handed, they manage to stand on their own while remaining faithful to the original.
Given the numerous upgrades to the series’ intellectual aspects, it’s a minor tragedy that the original’s wit, humor and action scenes failed to shine through. Though a smattering of hilariously biased news broadcasting segments provide legitimate laughs, the original film’s memorable cheekiness is unfortunately relegated to a repetition of the series’ famously unmatched one-liners.
While the remake’s scenes depicting Murphy taking on hostile robots are quite impressive, “Robocop” largely fails as an action film.
When RoboCop finally hits the streets — mind you, this is nearly an hour into the movie — he spends much of his time being criminally nonviolent. While never dull, those hoping to see robbers and drug lords get thrown through an endless cycle of glass panels or watch a rapist get his dick shot off will be thoroughly disappointed.
It’s a testament to the film’s numerous strengths, then, that “RoboCop” is still a shocking success. If you’re willing to tolerate a little intelligence with your action, “RoboCop” is an entertaining dark horse of a science-fiction remake. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Tyler Hersko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.