This comparison between Robocop (1987) and Robocop (2014)comes from a hardcore Robocop fan, who truly freaking loved the original. I mean, when that first movie came out, it was the talk of the town, I remember. All my buddies and I could talk about was Robocop and how cool it was. How awesome was Robocop to me? Well, this is how cool: I made a mini comic that was a parody of Robocop! I called it ‘Bobocop’, the series went on for five whole issues! My 12 year old self loved this ‘R’ rated film, I worshiped this freaking movie. Thinking back, I was a pretty tough kid, I mean, I loved this hardcore ‘R’ movie that included scenes of drug abuse, nudity and hardcore gore! I mean, here’s a movie where Alex Murphy, a Detroit City cop literally gets his brains blown out by the bad guys! But then again, that’s what I liked about it; how over the top it was. How hardcore was Robocop? Well, let me put it this way, in the original film, when the Robocop project gets green lit, the guy who was spearheading the project goes and gets a couple of hookers, sprays some cocaine on their breasts and snorts away to celebrate his success! Want more? Well, in that first film, a bad guy gets a vat of chemicals poured on him and we see his flesh melt off his bones! Basically, this movies modus operandi was called overkill. And you know what? That’s the way I liked it! That was director Paul Verhoeven’s way, many of the movies he made during the 80's and 90's were always over the top with their violence. If you don’t believe me, then check out Total Recall (1989), a film that was criticized for its bucket loads of blood and disregard for human life.
Paul Verhoeven directs
But it’s like Verhoeven says, the violence in these movies is an exaggeration of real life, cartoonish in some ways, in other words, it’s all in good fun. Which is exactly what I loved about Verhoeven’s Robocop, the shock value. And let’s talk a bit about that, I didn’t watch a film like Robocop for how deep it was or how it touched upon what it means to be a human, as a kid I devoured Verhoeven’s film for the cheap thrills, the shock value, that jolt of electricity that you get when Robocop slashes Clearance Boddicker’s throat. It’s what made these movies fun. Not that I’m some sort of blood thirsty violent person, I’m actually quite the peace loving dude, but I love the shock in movies like Robocop, it was never, not for one second boring! Of course, I also loved that science fiction angle; I loved that Robocop was a cyborg and I loved ED-209. In the end, to my twelve year old mind, Robocop was an irresistible mix of science fiction, action and shock, what’s not to love? And I’m not just talking through my nostalgia goggles here, I still think Verhoeven’s Robocop is a solid film with an amazing cast in every single role. Heroes took chances and risks, I mean, Alex Murphy was a brave guy! So was Lewis. The villains where scary dudes, Clearance Boddicker, that guy was really evil in that movie, it took me a while to see that actor as anything but the villain from Robocop. You felt a certain kind of energy through their performances, which is something I didn’t get from the new one. Everyone is so one note on this new film, it was nauseating! Where was the anger and fury on these people? Doesn’t anybody feel? Point is the old Robocop was an intense, solid film all around. The action was so intense and in your face, it just felt real.
In contrast, this new Robo does not deliver the same levels of intensity, which is sad. Now, when I first heard about the news of a Robo-remake I was excited as hell because I’d been needing a new dose of Robo action. I wanted more Robocop, even if it was through a remake. I was thrilled with the prospect of a new Robo film, and I have to admit that in certain moments of the new film I was genuinely excited to see Robocop again, unfortunately the cons outweigh the pros on this one. Of course, as it is always the case when the remake of a beloved franchise is announced, film buffs and geeks all across the world shouted sacrilege. I’m not the type to immediately hate a remake because as I’ve said a thousand times before, there’s the off chance that it might be one of the good ones. I was seeing a lot of good things in the previews. In all fariness, the remake does not warrant the intense hatred it’s been getting. It actually has some good ideas. For example, I liked that whole idea about the United States using robots to invade (read: conquer) other countries, the military applications for Robocop where not ignored, this is an element we never saw in previous Robocop films. They dwelled a whole lot more on the technological advances that allow these people to merge a man with a robot. They explored the ideas of what makes a cyborg a cyborg a whole lot more than on Verhoeven’s film. But then again, therein lies part of the problem; while the first film glazed over a lot of the logic in order to make room for the fun stuff, this one wants to be a bit more cerebral.
They spend too much screen time explaining everything; which by the way is something that a lot of films are doing nowadays; they analyze things to death. The original film didn’t explain everything about Robocop, we were meant to take certain things for granted, we found our own explanations in our minds. We as an audience connected the dots in our heads. Not so on this new film where they explore ideas to death. The problem with that is that after seeing Verhoeven’s Robocop and watching this new one, I swear I felt like a junkie with freaking withdrawal symptoms, I needed my jolt of shock! I needed that fun factor turned up! Sadly, this is a problem with films nowadays, they want to be so politically correct that they are no longer fun. They don’t want Alex Murphy to say fuck, they don’t want drugs, they don’t want blood, they don’t want gore…we my friends are living in an age where action films are being sensored, the action film as we knew it no longer exists. We are living in an age where films simply have no guts. I know that studios want to make more money, and that making films PG-13 is a way to do that, but damn, seriously, is every single thing that Hollywood makes going to be watered down? Is everything going to be made for pre-teens?
And here’s part of the problem with the Robocop franchise, it started out as a hardcore action franchise for adults. The first two films were ‘R’ rated sci-fi films for adults, but once they got to the third one, well, the owners of the Robo franchise decided to turn it into a franchise for kids. By then they had made Saturday morning cartoons of Robocop, a television series, toys, video games and even comic books, all made for children, which makes no sense whatsoever. I mean, why would you want to make a cartoon series for children based on a movie where Robocop’s creator snorts cocaine from the breasts of a prostitute? You know what I mean? From inception Robocop was a very adult series of films, but Hollywood thinks Robots, and they immediately think kids and toys. Which is the reason why by the time the franchise arrived to its third film, well, Robocop had a little kid sidekick. It was also by the third film that the studio decided to make Robocop a PG-13 franchise. And you know how that story goes, Robocop 3 (1993) turned out to be the worst film in the franchise because it wasn’t the Robocop that we knew and loved, it was by then, a watered down version of the first film.
More of this please!
Which, I’m sad to say is what we get with this new Robocop film. This is not to say the film doesn’t have its moments. I mean, I love Robocop itself, how he looks when he puts the visor on and aims his gun is positively cool. I loved seeing Robocop in action, sadly there’s not enough action to be had, and what action we do get, is computer generated. On the first film when Robocop gets shot to death by all those cops, you can practically taste the gun powder and the shards of glass, you felt an intensity in Peter Weller’s performance, even through the helmet. Weller’s eyes and mouth expressed the pain; I felt sympathy for Robocop in those scenes! On the new one I didn’t feel for the character. Joel Kinnaman was a bad choice to play Robocop, it’s the biggest bit of miscasting since John Cusack playing Nixon in The Butler (2013). I felt no sympathy for this Robocop because I didn’t care for the guy, there were no moments in the film where I connected with the character. In the first we felt we were Alex Murphy, a cop out on a new turf, Detroit. On this film the city is not a character and neither are the people who inhabit it, in the old one Detroit was a hell hole you did not want to live in. And then there's Kinnaman, why fill a movie with all these stars and then leave the most important role in the film to a complete unknown? You know how much better Robocop is because Peter Weller’s in it? A whole lot better! I’m sorry, but Kinnaman even looks goofy in his robo gear. And speaking of Robo gear, I was willing to give the film a chance in this department, but the black was a bad choice. Here’s the thing, they should’ve left him looking all metallic, whenever Robocop looks metallic in the new film, everything was so much better! If it aint broke don’t fix it. Robocop is not black, he’s metallic!
One of the biggest problems with the film is that nothing feels tangible or intense, the film felt as cold as the robots it portrays. My advice to Hollywood is: stop doing entire films in CGI! However cool you guys think everything looks, things just don’t feel real. Use freaking computer animation sparingly dammit! The minute I saw a computer generated Robocop jumping through the air in the previews, I knew something was rotten in Denmark. So my final say on this is that the first film is still superior in every single way possible. I gave this one a chance; I gave it the benefit of the doubt and while it has some cool moments and shots, the film as a whole felt like it was missing what made the old one so much fun to watch, Hollywood is an old man afraid to have fun these days. When it started, Robocop was a concept made for adults, it had biting satyre! I mean, beneath all that shock and action, the film made fun of society. Basically, what happened with this new Robocop remake is the same thing that happened with the Total Recall (2012) remake, while enjoyable to some extent, they took away the edgy, fun elements, it brings down the film if you ask me, it makes it less than what it was. And you know what I say to that? Boo, is what I say. I want my fun movies back. Bring back the freaking eighties because I don’t like what action films have become. Simply put: they don’t feel like action films anymore. If you want to see what all the hoopla is about go see this new Robocop movie, I’m not calling it a bad film, I’m calling it a watered down version of its former self. Shame on you Hollywood, you know what we want, you’ve just decided not to give it to us.
Robocop (1987): 5 out of 5
Robocop (2014): 2 out of 5