It’s been 27 years since the cult sci-fi classic Robocop shocked audiences with its violent murder scenes and satirical undertone. Since then it’s had two sequels, and last weekend the long awaited remake was released in cinemas. Being a huge sci-fi fan, I made my way to the cinema in anticipation, ready to see what the 21st century spin of this classic would be like.
Here’s what I thought in a nutshell – it was a good movie, but a bad Robocop movie.
What made the original so great? Besides the effects (which were great for its time) and the blatant satire of American capitalism, media and consumerism, the movie was a telling of human nature, the importance of individual identity and the consequences of having ones personality forcibly taken away. It’s the kind of message that transcends generations and has real world messaging especially in today’s society, where identities are built over social media and video games. Like many movies from the 70s and 80s, while it’s entertaining, it also holds a core message that people can relate to. Unfortunately, this is something the remake lacked.
I think in a way you expect certain things from a remake of any movie, is the main character the same? Do they stay true to the storyline? Are the small details that we love there? Going into this movie, I knew a few key things that went against the original from watching the trailer. Firstly, Robocop’s armour has been made black, which you wouldn’t think makes that big a difference, but it really does. Once they switch him to the black, he no longer resembles Robocop and they could have easily named the movie something else. While this doesn’t affect the movie as such, as a fan it changes the Robocop brand.
Secondly, the most important thing that they change is that Robocop has feelings. For anyone who knows the original, you’ll know that Robocop was completely emotionless for most for the movie, only becoming ‘human’ again towards the end when he unlocks himself. This is the key message of the movie, the idea that one’s personality cannot be removed, only suppressed. In this one he knows who he is, what’s happened to him and even sees his family. While the removal of his emotions and his gradual retrieval of them does take place, it’s only a short moment in the movie and doesn’t convey the essence of Robocop. However, the one thing that they did bring through, although slightly differently, is the American satire. In this one, it’s more of a message about America’s willingness to pedal goods to foreign nations that they would never allow on their own soil.
For me the violence is one of the things that made the movie the cult classic it is, it’s what made the satire so compelling as it was so extreme, it almost gave merit to the message. If I had to give this one a ‘Robocop’ label I would call it a PG13 adaptation, maybe Robo 0.5. The violence is very soft with only a couple major action scenes.
But stepping away from the comparison, I quite enjoyed the movie. Michael Keaton puts on a stellar performance as Raymond Sellers, the man ready to remove a human’s freewill in order to sell his product. Gary Oldman brings to life a man conflicted, who ultimately needs to decide on humanity or money, with conviction. And Samuel L. Jackson, whose character is completely unnecessary to the story, brings in the comic relief. However, Joel Kinnaman, who plays Alex Murphy A.K.A Robocop, was the odd man out for me. His performance was average and, even without comparing him to Peter Weller, was very flat. He’s easily over shadowed by the rest of the cast. Plus the special effects were great. They show you what has been done to Murphy to make him into Robocop, giving you a unique view of the machine he is, and built a fascinating futuristic world that isn’t over the top different from now.
Overall, if you’re looking for a Robocop movie, you’re going to be disappointed. So put the original out of your mind, go in ready to see a 21st century sci-fi movie, and enjoy it.