Since its release in 1987, ‘Robocop’ has become a classic and a household name. After the film’s success, the movie spawned two sequels, 4 TV series and video game and amany comic book adaptations. At one point Fans even campaigned for a statue of Robocop in Detroit. Of course with this popularity, a remake for modern audiences was inevitable. Sony and MGM tapped Brazillian director José Padilha, known for his ‘Elite Squad’ films, to remake the classic and the film is now being released on Blu-Ray.
By now, fans have made up their minds on this new film. Some have said its a unique film that brings up the valuable ideas from the original and tackles them well. Others have mentioned that it feels neutered film that does not bring anything new to the franchise. Myself being a ‘RoboCop’ fan, the original being one of my favourite films, I felt that Padilha’s film is thoughtful but lacks the invention and subtle satire in Verhoeven’s film.
Does It Sell The Main Point?
In both films, The Old Man and OCP (in the remake: Omni-Corp) are looking to create a modernized and booming Detroit but are held back due to the city being so ridden by crime. To solve this they set out to create an ultimate crime fighting machine that can make local cops obsolete. However the prototype, ED-209, failed initial testing by killing an OCP member. The company then decides to exploit Alex Murphy’s death in order to make the “future of law enforcement”, RoboCop. Over the course of the film though Murphy slowly begins to solve his own murder and seeks justice on those who wronged him including OCP.
Verhoeven’s RoboCop is a much more brutal, darkly comedic satire that uniquely discusses both the money hungry society we live in using fear and utopia as a selling point. This point is shown not just humorously and brutally but also in a way with great subtlety. The film does not spell out its themes as if it were being shown to a six year old. It is told by using action movie conventions to show off the pros of RoboCop and drama to show the cons and blends the two genres in a very fascinating way.
The remake is a more dramatic Frankenstein-esque story that digs deeper into the character of Alex Murphy while glancing at the political and social aspects in the original. It explores the struggles of Alex Murphy as the machine is taken over by the man and the impact his family and Omni-Corp go through. With this new vision, it takes away from what the original did so well. The humour is either less apparent or non-existent which turns the satire element into more of a straight social commentary that is poorly done. The subtlety is now gone and Padilha feels the need to always explain the film to his audience by using exposition from characters. It also uses the action movie conventions and drama as a crutch and just come off as failed attempts to recreate the original. The action conventions feel unnecessary and the drama feels forced throughout. The healthy blend is no longer there.
Does It Pay Respect To The Original?
I appreciated the way Padilha made this his own, but some of the references to the original almost came off as insulting. For example, the scene where they are choosing RoboCop’s armour, the original suit is shown and is laughed at and called “embarrassing” has Jackie Earle Haley saying, “I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar”. I hate this part of the film. It’s an idiotic and insulting use of one of the most famous lines in the film. Not only the scene feel forced but it really made the film look like a shameless remake at that point that does not care about the original. The company would rather the suit be a slick black which shows the film makers have given in to what they are making fun of. By changing RoboCop’s suit to a slick black, the characters say the people don’t know what they want until they see it in front of them. I feel this was the exact same way MGM and co. felt as they were creating the new suit.
Does The Rating Affect It?
The original RoboCop film was rated X and then re-rated to an R. The film was brutally violent and disturbing showing grotesque killings and even today would not be considered for a PG-13. The brutality made the satire more interesting and helped shape the action conventions in the film by making the badass scenes with RoboCop even more exciting. The remake was released with a PG-13 rating which fans of the original, and myself at first, detested. Despite the backlash, I did not mind the PG-13 rating for this RoboCop. The original is a more over the top film where as the remake is more grounded therefore the excess gore would feel out of place in this film. This film also develops the characters in a much stronger matter which can also make the excessive brutality distracting from the main focus. Out of all the things I expected, I didn’t think I was gonna be okay with the PG-13 rating.
Padilha’s RoboCop is probably the best thing to come out of the franchise in years but with that being said, it lacks the spark that the original film had. It does not pay a lot of respect to its source, it lacks subtlety by shoehorning the message in with pointless exposition and it lacks the creativity and fun of the original film. That being said, it has some neat moments and it stands on its own pretty well. Also, the PG-13 rating didn’t affect the film as much as I thought it would. As it stands, it is still an unnecessary remake that does not bring anything to the table and for hardcore fans of Verhoeven’s classc, it may not be worth buying for a dollar.