I was totally against the idea of remaking RoboCop. Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 movie was pretty perfect in its violent presentation of a dystopian future and a modern update seemed highly unnecessary. The sequels were dire, but the first movie was a tough act to follow and nobody knew how to keep the tone that made it so special. What could a remake achieve 25 years later? As it turns out, quite a lot. Jose Padilha gives us a movie that we never knew we wanted – a thought provoking actioner with good performances.
RoboCop 2014 takes the central idea from Verhoeven’s of film which sees Detroit cop Alex Murphy injured in the line of duty and then transformed into a part-man, part-machine cop by the OmniCorp organisation. Whereas RoboCop 1987 was a spruced-up revenge tale, the modern incarnation is more of a psychological drama which sees how Joel Kinnaman’s Murphy deals with becoming a robotic super cop. It’s this new angle which makes this new incarnation feel fresh. It doesn’t retread any material, it’s its own beast and that makes it work.
Padilha has filled his film with great actors. The always wonderful Michael Keaton is the villain of the piece, portraying the businessman who wants to create a US patrolled with an army of RoboCops. Gary Oldman plays the creator, a man caught between his own personal ethics and the company that wants to create the perfect marketable product. Again, these things were glossed over on the comic-book world that Verhoeven created in the 1980s. Samuel L. Jackson also frames the movie as political commentator, a role that feels more like a nod to the original film rather than a cohesive part of this new model.
RoboCop also impresses on a technical level. Padhila keeps the CGI to a minimum and the world he creates feels very real. Lula Carvalho’s cinematography is slick, while Pedro Bromfman’s score hits the action beats while also having nods to Basil Poledouris’s iconic theme. Admittedly, this film isn’t as violent as Verhoeven’s film and it doesn’t feel like it’s pandering to a youth audience. This is quite a nuanced science fiction film that deals with some heavy themes and it never feels like a cinematic cash-grab, it feels organic.
Audiences will go into viewing this new model of RoboCop with cynicism. Have no fear, this is a well crafted movie that works on many levels. It uses the 1987 movie as a stepping stone, but this really is its own thing and it actually adds many things to that movie’s concept. One thing is certain, this is a remake that works.
Deleted scenes, behind the scenes documentaries (including a strong 14 minute doc on the creation of the suit) and OmniCorp adverts. This is a strong package that lifts the lid on the making of this enjoyable sci-fi movie.