Thanks to enjoyable satire, an intriguing central character, and ultra-violent action, Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop became a cult classic film – and an icon of the 1980s science fiction genre. As a result, fans were nervous when it was first announced that Strike Entertainment was set to remake RoboCop with Elite Squad director Jose Padilha at the helm and Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) in the titular role.
However, despite sharing the same central premise and fan-favorite character, Padilha’s 2014 RoboCop movie is very different from the 1987 original – providing a different take on Alex Murphy for the modern era. Just how different?
Here are the Differences Between the 2014 RoboCop Reboot and the Original.
1987: As mentioned in the intro, Verhoeven’s approach in RoboCop (originally penned by screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner) placed heavy emphasis on satirizing American culture while also presenting a gritty (and ultra-violent) science-fiction future.
2014: Padilha, on the other hand, toned down the violence and satirical elements (though some remain) in order to focus on modern philosophical questions (ex. Should an unfeeling robot be allowed to take a human life?) in addition to Alex Murphy’s existential experience – as he tries to rediscover his humanity and maintain personal relationships despite being a man trapped inside of a high-tech cybernetic product.
1987: Satirizing American consumer culture was a key element of Verhoeven’s RoboCop – both in terms of onscreen humor and the larger plot. In addition to the antagonistic Omni Consumer Product company, RoboCop also featured fake TV commercials, and womanizing comedy show star Bixby Snyder, known for his catchphrase “I’d buy that for a dollar” as not-so-subtle social commentary.
2014: In an effort to modernize the premise, Padilha’s RoboCop tackles one of America’s most divisive topics: National Security. Consumerism is also a key topic but, with the inclusion of a geopolitical subplot and Samuel L. Jackson playing cable network talking head, Padilha ensures the debate over privacy, robot-enforced militarism, and global imperialism is front and center.
1987: Like most Paul Verhoeven films, RoboCop carried an R Rating with an emphasis on graphic violence – featuring everything from dismemberment, a toxic waste bath, bodies torn about by gunfire, a punctured jugular, and one especially unlucky attempted rapist that Alex Murphy intentionally shoots in the groin.
2014: For the reboot, Padilha dialed-back the violence – relying on implied bodily harm to secure a PG-13 rating. Plenty of drug lords and murderers are still shot, Padilha simply opted to avoid showing the subsequent blood and guts. In addition, the updated RoboCop model carries more than one weapon, including a Beretta Pistol that fires XREP taser cartridges – meaning that, in certain situations, he can take down offenders without killing them.
1987: The Murphy family does not play a significant role in the original RoboCop – only included to establish Alex Murphy as a regular family man. After Murphy’s accident, both his wife, Ellen, and son, Jimmy, move away – appearing only in flashback memories. Ellen returns in RoboCop 2, confronting Murphy when she finds out the truth about the RoboCop program, but is turned away by her former husband (so that she can truly move on).
2014: The Murphy family dynamic is a key aspect of Padilha’s reboot. It is actually Clara (Abbie Cornish) that allows OmniCorp to enroll Murphy in the RoboCop experiment – in the hopes that he will one day be able to return to his family. Prior to RoboCop’s public unveiling he visits with wife as well as son, David, and the two remain instrumental in tethering Murphy to his humanity while he struggles to suppress OmniCorp’s programming.
1987: In Verhoeven’s film, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to Detroit’s Metro West Police Department and subsequently partnered with tough as nails, though sympathetic, female cop Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). Murphy’s death occurs soon after they are partnered but months later, upon discovering that Murphy is “alive,” Anne becomes instrumental in helping RoboCop regain his memory – and saves his life on more than one occasion.
2014: In the reboot, Anne Lewis is replaced by Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), Murphy’s longtime friend and partner, who is injured in a shootout with the drug dealers that, later, attempt to kill Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). Jack survives, aware of what OmniCorp has done to Murphy and, like Clara and Jimmy, is allowed time with RoboCop prior to his public unveiling – eager to pickup where they left off.
1987: After OmniCorp heir apparent Senior Vice President Dick Jones’ (Ronny Cox ) new law enforcement machine ED-209 executes an unarmed board member, raising significant safety concerns, Jones hires master criminal Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), also the man responsible for Murphy’s death, to destroy the company’s competing law enforcement product, RoboCop, as well as kill anyone who does not support the ED-209 program.
2014: In the reboot, OmniCorp has successfully implemented ED-209, EM-208, and XT-908 robot law enforcers in every other country around the world. To make robot police officers more palatable in United States, profit-hungry OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) commissions the creation of a man in a machine – recruiting cocky security tactician Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) for damage control should RoboCop, one day, turn against his creators.
1987: In the original RoboCop, Alex Murphy is on patrol with Lewis investigating a robbery in progress – which leads them to an old steel mill. After a firefight with a well-armed gang, the group’s leader (Boddicker) shoots off Murphy’s hand before the other gunners dismember his entire arm and pepper his body with bullets. Murphy dies – only to be resurrected as RoboCop.
2014: Following a run-in with one of Detroit’s most notorious drug dealers, both Murphy and Lewis become targets of retaliation. At home, the alarm on Murphy’s police cruiser abruptly sounds – and, upon investigating the vehicle, a car bomb explodes. Murphy remains alive, in critical condition, his body badly damaged – until OmniCorp offers to step in and make him whole again.
1987: After the failure of ED-209, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) pitches his RoboCop idea to OmniCorp’s CEO, “The Old Man” – who approves the project. Morton is an uncaring opportunist, not an actual scientist, who sees RoboCop as nothing more than a product – and means of climbing the corporate ladder. His cocky approach to business pits him against Dick Jones, who lectures Morton about respect, before hiring Boddicker to kill him.
2014: Chief Scientist of the Omni Foundation, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), helps amputees adjust to new cybernetic enhancements – until he is asked by Sellars to create RoboCop. Under pressure from OmniCorp, Norton makes some questionable choices but throughout he is compassionate toward the man within the machine – tactful in his efforts to help Murphy adjust physically and psychologically to his new RoboBody.
1987: The original RoboCop was based on a more “robotic” approach to design, slow and stiff (albeit with superhuman strength), and featured a grey/silver color scheme. As a result, gunplay and close-range brawling were RoboCop’s primary combat options. Scientists even managed to salvage Murphy’s arm but Morton instructed them to replace it anyway – making Murphy’s face the only organic part that is still visible as RoboCop.
2014: Taking advantage of modern robotics and near-future cybernetics, the RoboCop in Padilha’s reboot is much more agile – even capable of leaping into the air. While Murphy remarks that “there’s nothing left” of his human body, both his face and right hand remain visible. While the traditional grey/silver suit appears in the 2014 film, RoboCop also sports a “tactical” black color scheme.
1987: Following his “death,” OmniCorp wipes Murphy’s memory, attempting to remove any trace of his former life, in order to limit knowledge of his murder, family, and human emotions. In addition, the company includes a failsafe, Directive Four, that prevents RoboCop from arresting or killing an OmniCorp employee.
2014: In the reboot, much of Murphy’s memory is left intact; though his owners regularly adjust his dopamine levels and override brain activity with an automated computer system. OmniCorp also adds a failsafe, much like Directive Four, which identifies key company personal as Red Targets (who RoboCop cannot kill). As a last ditch effort, they also included a wireless kill switch that can shut Murphy down at anytime, anywhere.
1987: In addition to super strength and durability, one of RoboCop’s most iconic features was his gun holster – a mechanized compartment inside his right leg that opened to reveal a single modified Beretta 93R “Auto 9.” The machine pistol was heavily altered for RoboCop (with a longer barrel as well as a reported 50-round magazine) – fired in three-round bursts.
2014: While Padilha maintained the internal leg holster, the reboot RoboCop takes advantage of different firearms depending on the situation – including a custom Beretta Pistol (NI-408) that fires non-lethal (50,000 Volt) and lethal (200,000 Volt) XREP taser cartridges, a heavily modified (and fictional) .50 caliber RoboCop SMG, as well as a Heckler & Koch MP7A1 submachine gun.
1987: After his resurrection as RoboCop, Murphy climbs inside a standard OCP Detroit Police Car – patrolling the city for crimes in progress. Interestingly, Weller’s RoboCop suit was so bulky that the actor could not actually fit inside the car wearing his entire costume – meaning that, in shots of RoboCop driving, Weller is only wearing the top portion of the suit.
2014: At times, Kinnaman’s RoboCop travels as a passenger in OminCorp SUVs – but his main mode of transport is a custom C-1 motorcycle that matches its owners stealth black paint job. Instead of patrolling for crimes in progress, Murphy spends most of his time solving open case files – combining archive crime footage with live surveillance feeds to hunt down suspects that have, until now, escaped arrest.
1987: Hosted by Casey Wong and Jess Perkins, Mediabreak‘s motto was “You give us three minutes and we’ll give you the world.” Utilized for exposition in the film, Verhoeven also used the show to satirize 1980s American media: highlighting the disconnect between terrible events occurring around the world and how (certain) anchors deliver that news – i.e. reporting on tragic events with perfect hair and a wide smile.
2014: In the modern reboot, Padilha turned his attention toward cable news pundits – modeling The Novak Element, and host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), after argumentative political shows. Instead of balanced journalism, The Novak Element intentionally shuts-out alternative opinion (and intelligent discussion) in favor or furthering the beliefs of Novak and his audience – e.g. pro-OmniCorp “robot soldier” propaganda.
Padilha avoids direct comparisons between his RoboCop and Verhoeven’s film – attempting to honor the original by forging a significantly different direction for the reboot. Still, longtime fans will without question notice a few knowing nods to the 1987 film.
RoboCop starts in the traditional grey suit until Sellars decides an all-black “tactical” version would make for a better “product.” After the final battle, RoboCop returns to the fan-favorite grey design.
Several riffs on iconic lines are included, such as “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
The original RoboCop theme from Basil Poledouris is incorporated (albeit mostly shoe-horned) into Pedro Bromfman’s score.
That’s just some of the main differences between the 2014 RoboCop reboot and the 1987 original that we chose to highlight. Were there any changes, easter eggs, or other pieces of fan-service that you noticed?
RoboCop is now playing in regular and IMAX theaters.
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