RoboCop (2014): An Unloved Gem

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I adore the original RoboCop film. It is one of a handful of films that I feel gets better with age and you always discover something new with every watch. So when I found out earlier this year that they were remaking it, I was completely heartbroken and angry – I was looking for reasons to completely ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

I was delighted to see the reception the remake got from critics. It currently stands at 48% on Rottontomatoes.com but I remember the reviews were completely brutal when it was released. To summarise it all, most agreed that the remake didn’t understand what made the original so special.

I finally got round to watching the new RoboCop and I was completely floored by what I experienced. RoboCop, this RoboCop, the new one is a very good film. Not just a good film, but a very good film.

The best advice I can give to anyone who is thinking about watching this film is to completely forget the original – wipe it from your mind completely. Only when you do that do you discover how brave, exhilarating and, yes, original this film is. It is only when this film directly references the original with quotes like “I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar” that I started to cringe.

This film reminds me a lot of Batman Begins – it takes the basic elements of the well-known origin story and completely revamps it. Yes, this is more of an action film rather than a biting, dark-comedy satire, but there is a convincing and uncompromising satirical element here. The film paints the American media (the Fox News’ of this world), politicians and private military industry in a pretty damning light. In fact, it is no wonder this film didn’t perform as many expected in the box-office – it can easily be read by many in America as unpatriotic. But to my European/African eyes, the criticism of America elevates this film into being something special.

Also, the acting is universally great here. Gary Oldman does his good guy thing, Joel Kinnaman is fantastic as RoboCop/ Alex Murphy, Michael Keaton does a good impression of being a wealthy bastard and Samuel L Jackson is the unexpected treat in this film. Everyone, to an actor/actress is great.

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But what makes this film unique is the quasi Frankenstein thread to the story – where Alex Murphy struggles to accept what he has become. This story is made a lot more interesting by how the film shows how becoming RoboCop impacts Murphy’s family – especially his son. There is a scene, a bloody tense scene, where Murphy comes home for the first time since becoming part machine and he is talking to his son. The scene is strange, it is uncomfortable but most of all it is completely heart-warming. This element to the RoboCop character was completely missing in the original.

I also loved this film because it found ways to stand out without using gore. There is a scene when RoboCop is in a lab and he asks to see what he has become. Gary Oldman’s character takes away all of the machine elements of Murphy and all that is left is his head (with only part of his brain), spine, lungs and heart. I personally thought this was a completely heartbreaking and surreal scene which took my breath away. Instead of sitting there thinking how cool it must be to be RoboCop, the film was asking me to consider the sacrifices Murphy will have to make to be this character.

This film completely won me over. It is simply one of the best films I have seen in a very long time and I am gutted I never watched it on the big screen.

This is another cautionary tale – never judge a film by its iconic source material.

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