RoboCop review

RoboCop review 2 bananas: average!

Remember that Total Recall remake with Colin Farrell? No? It was all nice and shiny, but terribly bland, and not a patch on Paul Verhoeven‘s grimly funny original. Most people have already forgotten it existed, which is probably for the best.

And now here we are, with another remake of a Paul Verhoeven action classic, RoboCop. And whilst it does try harder than most, the result is still an insipid, low-fat version of the original. But should we compare it? Some might argue that the film be judged on its own merits. They released the original close to thirty years ago, and there’ll be a whole generation who’ve never even seen it, or possibly even heard of it.

Fig. 1: Robert Cop - Famous bootleg toy of RoboCop, possible title for next RoboCop film?

Fig. 1: RobertCop – Famous bootleg toy of RoboCop, possible title for next RoboCop film?

Many didn’t complain when Batman got rebooted by Christopher Nolan. That series had crashed and burned in an explosion of neon and rubber bat nipples, thanks to Joel Schumacher, so there was probably a collective sigh of relief when Nolan got his hands on the franchise. Similarly, RoboCop suffered when it came to sequels. RoboCop 2 is probably an underrated action film, but still lacks the smart satire of the original, despite its best efforts. The less said about RoboCop 3 and it’s robot ninjas and jetpacks, and the terrible RoboCop TV series (yes, a TV series!!), the better.

The outcry over a RoboCop reboot arose — even before they announced it’s child friendly certificate — because there was an inevitable feeling that no new film would ever be as bold as the original. The Hollywood remake machine prefers to operate by dialling back on violence (unless it’s a film from the horror genre), and polishing away the rough edges, before spitting out a charmless, focus group tested movie that satisfies no-one beyond the ninety minutes runtime. Least of all, the fans.

So let’s be honest. Given that a film has the same name, and the same central character, comparisons are impossible to avoid. If they called it Jumping CGI Cyborg Policeman, or even RobertCop (see Fig.1) then fair enough, I’ll judge the film on its own merits. But it’s not. It’s called RoboCop. They called the main character Murphy. He gets killed by some scumbags, and then rebuilt by an evil corporation.

The film’s biggest crime is not Murphy’s death (or near death in this reboot), but BOREDOM. The director, José Padilha, said he wanted to focus more on Murphy during the aftermath of his attempted murder, and how he comes to terms with being a man forever trapped inside a machine. As if that was somehow different to anything the original had already done, yet much more efficiently. Padilha wastes endless amounts of the film’s run time mistaking emotional depth for dreary melodrama. As an example, Verhoeven‘s RoboCop has more anger, confusion, tragedy, and a sense of humanity overcoming the machine, crammed into a mere five minutes of RoboCop walking through his empty house, then this new version achieves in its entire 117 minutes.


For a lot of the movie, the story bounces back and forth between laboratory tests, the occasional meeting with his tear-stained wife, and boring kid, and Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman arguing about whether man and robot should be combined. Admittedly, Keaton‘s more interested in looking at colour charts for RoboCop’s paint job.

I’m sure all of this endless chatter about free will and stuff, looked super intelligent on paper, but it’s laid out on-screen in such an obvious, and tedious way. Mostly, it’s all tell and no show. Gary Oldman‘s doctor is nearly always watching RoboCop on a bank of screens, providing a handy commentary, should anyone fail to understand this film’s very serious themes (as well as pertinent plot points such as, “He’s solving his own murder!”). Themes that were all in the original of course, but cleverly woven into a tight, funny, satirical, action-packed story.

By contrast, new RoboCop almost forgets it has a story until the final third where the film kicks into some sort of life. It’s all pretty rubbish though. One shoot out in a warehouse is an unexciting mess of thermal imaging, designed more, I suspect, to disguise as much gore as possible and keep the violence nice and safe. That no real character groundwork has been laid for some of the movie’s villains, also makes the action scenes feel kind of boring: they have a lot of energy, but very little tension, and what feel like very low stakes.

And it’s shocking really just how forgettable the villains are in the reboot. Every villain in Verhoeven‘s RoboCop is colourful and memorable, from Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones all the way through to the lesser villains such as Leon and Emil.

I think, really, that’s the ultimate difference between the two versions. Robocop 1987 is wild, untamed, colourful, and unforgettable. RoboCop 2014 is dull, drained of life, and made to order.

I wouldn’t even buy it for a dollar!

BANANA RATING: 2 out of 5


  1. theipc says:

    This is greatness!!!

    LOL – RobertCop!! HAHAHAHAH!!!

  2. Great review! I recently rewatched the original and I’m blown away by how violent it is. I haven’t watched the remake, but the PG-13 rating is disappointing.

    • Monkeyboy says:

      Yeah, I rewatched it too, the new remastered version of the Director’s Cut that’s just come out, which is even more violent than the theatrical cut, if such a thing seems possible. It seemed back then that mainstream Hollywood action films would just continue getting more violent, but that never really happened once we got past the mid nineties, I think.

  3. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. Better than it had any right to be, which I guess is a slight recommendation in and of itself. Though, it definitely does sound like faint praise.

  4. Tyson Carter says:

    I liked this more than the original. Which is so tame now on a rewatch. Just my 2 cents :)

    • Monkeyboy says:

      For a horror aficionado such as yourself, Tyson, I find your comment a bit baffling. The original is mega violent even by today’s standards with blood and guts and all sorts of stuff flying everywhere, and a rich vein of very dark humour. And you think it’s tame compared to the new one? Are you sure you didn’t mean, “I liked the original more than this one, which is so tame.” ;-)

      • Tyson Carter says:

        Hahaha. No I mean in no way is the new one violent. It’s clearly aimed at the younger audience. BUT I liked it, mainly for Joel Kinnaman who is fantastic in everything. Better cast too. I remember the original, I was young when I saw it and thought it was horrific what happened to him. But watching it back now (and parts 2 and 3) it looks tame compared to the 18/R rated violence we get now. Oldboy, I Saw The Devil, The Raid etc etc, that kind of blood and guts looks so real. It looks fake as hell in the original Robocop. Of course, just my opinion but I certainly wouldnt class it as mega violent compared to modern films. To each their own :) x

        • Monkeyboy says:

          I do think Verhoeven’s film is a masterpiece compared to the remake, the remake being a good example of a plodding, meandering, confused piece of story telling. It’s very badly written. It’s like they tried to paper over that fact by hiring an admittedly good cast. But even that didn’t work. Oldman shouts a lot, with lots of on-the-nose dialogue, and Keaton’s character takes a daft turn at the end that doesn’t really make a great deal of sense.

          I thought Kinnaman was a total charisma-free dullard in this. I didn’t give one single shit about him during the entire film. Weller did more good acting with just his mouth than Kinnaman did with his entire face.

          I’ve seen the three films you mention, and whilst they’re violent, I don’t particularly see them as more violent than the original RoboCop. The accusation that it looks fake… possibly. But Verhoeven was aware of the inherent silliness of the story and was aiming for cartoonish excess, which chimes quite well with the excess of the times. Not to say that some of the brutality isn’t emotionally effecting because of that. It is. Anyone who does not feel sorry for Murphy after his brutal execution has a heart of stone.

          The original RoboCop is a masterclass in lean, efficient writing (the best kind). The new one is just a rambling mess.

          I can see we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on this one, Tyson. But I had to get some thoughts down. ;-)

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