The knock on remakes is that they are unimaginitive rehashes, but that’s not always fair. This movie is very different from the original Robocop. The first Robocop was about a fault line in the American character, where on the one hand we are descended from Puritans and thus have a moralistic streak, but on the other hand we also are a nation of Cowboys and thus have an abiding love of violence. Paul Verhoeven combined those two ideas by having a Jesus stand-in die for our sins only to be reborn as a gun toting vengeance machine. This film, on the other hand, is about our discomfort with the idea of drone warfare, which is a concern that didn’t even exist when the first Robocop came out. The two films don’t just have different themes, they have different approaches to them - the first Robocop was more tongue in cheek and metaphorical, whereas this is more single minded, political and serious.
In fact, the two films are so different that I kind of wish that they had just changed one or two more details and called the new one something different. The Robocop franchise doesn’t own the idea of cyborgs, or even of cyborg cops; if they weren’t going to use the original design of Robocop, or use the same plot, or have the same tone, then it seems like it might have been easier for this movie to get a fair shake if they had just gone ahead and given the characters new names and made it officially into a new film.
Of course, doing that would have given the film a fairer shake – people wouldn’t have gone in expecting something sarcastic at least – but it wouldn’t have fixed any of the film’s problems. Their pick for the role of Robocop isn’t compelling enough as a human and isn’t robotic enough as a robot, failing to elicit much interest in either side of his life. Their commentary on drone warfare doesn’t go much of anywhere because the commercial dictates of a movie of this size mean that commentary can only be found on the edges of the story while meaningless violence becomes the center piece. The CGI work is a real step down from the tangible qualities of the original, because this movie looks like a non-interactive video game level, which is the worst of both the movie and game worlds.
There are some parts of this movie with potential – in particular I liked some of the scenes where they are working on Alex Murphy with the Robocop gear stripped away from his body, which had a nice body horror feel to them – but even a few good scenes can’t help the fact that overall this film is pretty boring, which is perhaps the biggest difference of all between this one and the original. Verhoeven might be crazy, he might be a pervert, but he isn’t boring.
Winner: The Cat