‘RoboCop’ Review

Published 10 months ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:09 pm,

RoboCop 2014 Joel Kinnaman RoboCop Review

The film has plenty of flaws but should be entertaining for sci-fi action fans, thanks to interesting world-building, captivating existential ideas, and cool robo-action.

In RoboCop (2014) OmniCorp is the premium tech company on the planet, developing groundbreaking cybernetic implants for amputees as well as exo-skeletal suits that enhance human strength and speed. Still, the company’s most lucrative products are the ED, EM, and XT lines of security robots – used in nearly every country around the world (except the United States) to fight terrorism and maintain social order. In America, the robots are illegal – with a significant portion of the country opposing legislation that would put the unfeeling machines in charge of life and death situations.

Intent on paving the way for expanding their product line in America, OmniCorp CEO, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), decides to put a man in a machine – selecting strait-laced Detroit police detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), left in critical condition following a retaliatory attempt on his life, as OmniCorp’s candidate for the project. Sellars, with the help of colleague Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), succeeds in creating a half-human, half-machine police officer but not without significant tinkering, suppressing Murphy’s human side to make their RoboCop more efficient – that is until Murphy begins to take control of the system (and his life).

Joel Kinnaman RoboCop 2014 Alex Murphy RoboCop Review

Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy in ‘RoboCop’

After mixed reactions to RoboCop 2, the universally panned RoboCop 3, and two lackluster TV shows (RoboCop: The Series and RoboCop: Prime Directives), fans of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 RoboCop movie were extremely skeptical when it was first announced that Elite Squad director José Padilha would helm a modern reboot with Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) in the titular role. After all, Verhoeven’s film was intentionally self-referential and violent, in service of satirizing American consumerism, adding a level of depth and cult-credibility to the arguably silly premise. Yet, over the 25 years since its release, many sci-fi ideas in the original RoboCop have become reality (or will in the near future), meaning that Padilha needed a different approach to successfully reintroduce the character for modern audiences.

As a result, the 2014 RoboCop reboot is a significant departure – one that will likely leave franchise fans fuming but could still appeal to moviegoers who don’t feel as though a Hollywood reboot needs to be a complete improvement on the original (to be worthwhile). In spite of their many similarities, Padilha’s film limits satire in favor of asking philosophical questions about humanity – especially in the face of vastly evolving cybernetics and robotics in the real world. The narrative focuses heavily on Alex Murphy’s existential experience transitioning from family man to cyborg – all while OmniCorp tampers with his cognitive functions (read: humanity) in order to deliver the best possible RoboCop product. Returning fans looking for tongue-in-cheek satire might be disappointed by the serious approach but, as mentioned, it’s a timely story – and one that explores interesting questions that Verhoeven never had the chance to consider.

Abbie Cornish Clara Murphy RoboCop 2014 RoboCop Review

Abbie Cornish as Clara Murphy in ‘RoboCop’

Kinnaman’s performance isn’t as iconic as fan-favorite Peter Weller but he’s still an enjoyable and believable Murphy, capturing different aspects of the character journey – from an impulsive human cop, tortured and scared experiment, to a soulless machine, as well as a convincing composite of all three. Along with the more serious tone, Kinnaman manages to exude an absorbing blend of both the robot and the man – with a number of subtle but humorous moments (including riffs on iconic lines) that help accentuate the character’s humanity.

Of course, Murphy is still half-machine and Padilha came up with a number of shiny updates that guarantee RoboCop is equally well-represented – such as real-time access to camera feeds around Detroit, unsolved crime files, including suspects and known associates, as well as evolved weapons tech. Franchise purists might scoff at Padilha’s choice to improve the character’s speed, movement, and program features but, in addition to making RoboCop believable in a modern setting, the enhancements also make this Murphy significantly more exciting (and at times interesting) to watch on screen. That said, even though RoboCop includes some slick battle sequences, fans expecting a popcorn action flick might be underwhelmed by the amount of gunplay (and violence) – given that the film’s primary focus is to explore the character.

Gary Oldman Dr Dennett Norton RoboCop 2014 RoboCop Review

Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton in ‘RoboCop’

This isn’t to say that Padilha entirely succeeds in updating (or even presenting) some of the movie’s most intriguing ideas either – especially since other aspects of the narrative are undercooked (by comparison). Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan are fine as wife, Clara, and son, David, respectfully but select scenes (especially those shared with Kinnaman in the RoboCop suit) are thinly drawn and often melodramatic – falling short of Padilha’s (admittedly ambitious) goals for the story. The choice to explore Murphy’s post-accident familial relationship is interesting (his wife and son moved away in the original) and helps support the movie’s philosophical ideas but it also leads to more than a few plot holes and inconsistencies.

Similarly, despite solid performances from key supporting actors, the OmniCorp side is equally uneven. Keaton is fun to watch throughout much of the film but is an otherwise stock villain that fails to provide an interesting foil for RoboCop. The inclusion of Jackie Earle Haley as an OmniCorp heavy is equally wasted, preventing Padilha’s evildoer team from being strong enough to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the film – either in terms of action or emotional catharsis. Oldman’s Dr. Norton is one of the more nuanced additions, with some smart subtleties; but, like Sellars, he’s still locked into a pretty formulaic arc.

Michael Keaton Raymond Sellars RoboCop 2014 RoboCop Review

Michael Keaton as Raymond Sellars in ‘RoboCop’

RoboCop is also playing as an “IMAX Experience” but it’s hard to recommend purchasing a premium ticket – at least to anyone who expects a significant return on the added price. Certain scenes, especially those featuring the sizable ED-209 models, benefit from the added screen size, and the upgraded sound ensures viewers will hear audible details that make RoboCop’s engineering more immersive, but neither is essential.

In general, impassioned fans will likely find Padilha’s RoboCop to be a watered down reboot that’s missing both the satire and violence that made the original a classic. Nevertheless, even though it shares the same premise and central character, the two films are extremely different – and Padilha made a smart choice by not “remaking” Verhoeven’s film and instead “reimagined” the character in the modern world. The film has plenty of flaws but should be entertaining for sci-fi action fans, thanks to interesting world-building, captivating existential ideas, and cool robo-action. It might not be necessary but Padilha’s RoboCop reboot still offers an intriguing take on the character.

If you’re still on the fence about RoboCop, check out the trailer below:

518003768 3 620 439 RoboCop Review

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More: RoboCop 2014: Differences Between the Remake and the Original

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RoboCop runs 108 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material. Now playing in regular and IMAX theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our RoboCop Spoilers Discussion.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our RoboCop episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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TAGS: robocop

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  1. I was not expecting much, and was pleasantly surprised. Not a great film by any means (and one of the least subtle screenplays ever) but solid. What this film lacks in finesse, it makes up for in clarity. Great cast, terrific action sequences (plenty for me) and undeniably relevant, current social commentary.

    I couldn’t help but think of Elysium and Dredd at certain moments, as far as similar recent films, what with exoskeletons and “chin only” hardcore law enforcement.

    Anyway, Robocop at least has a lot of heart, and it makes its thematic point clearly. For that, I give it 3 stars.

    • I’ll add this: I’ve never seen the original Robocop (*hangs head in shame*) and I did not have any ideas about what this film was theoretically trying to accomplish, aside from having seen the trailer twice.

      So for me, with very little in the way of preconceptions or specific expectations, I was actually a bit impressed with this film. Better than the average sci-fi blockbuster, I would suggest. I did not miss the satire or violence of the original, and I felt that the family-related scenes worked wonderfully, brief though they were. Abbie Cornish is terrific.

      I don’t know if this remake was necessary…but I think that it’s a perfectly decent film in its own right.

  2. I’ve seen the original(s) – and I found the reboot entertaining. Mission accomplished?

  3. First of all, I’m a huge fan of the original RoboCop movie (I must have seen it 15-20 times by now) and I also really like the equally edgy second film. Even the third iteration, while very very flawed and being a mere shadow of its former self, had some redeeming elements that I can appreciate. If you feel that the last remark discredits my opinion about the new film then you should stop reading, but I would ask you to stay with me. Long story short, I was very sceptical about a PG-13 reboot.

    But whaddaya know? The RoboCop reboot turned out to be a really good movie! Of course, right from the start any expectations should take into account that this flick isn’t a brutal satirical action feast but a genuine and serious science-fiction drama that explores interesting ethical and moral themes (if only rather superficially), and that is only sprinkled with some action and humor in a few places.

    Nonetheless, when an ED-209 unit blows away a kid in Teheran right at the beginning, it becomes apparent that this movie would push the envelope of the PG-13 rating. That’s why the bodycount, despite the lack of blood and the addition of a taser gun, is rather high. And in a certain scene, that I don’t want to spoil and in which Alex Murphy is being shown in a really impressive manner what he really has become, I couldn’t suppress a “holy sh*t!”. I also really like how the worked the inevitable Wizard of Oz refereces (Tin Man!) into the story.

    I can’t agree that the emotional scenes between Murphy and his wife were melodramatic. If anything, considering what kind of an impact Murphy’s fate must have on his wife, they were rather underplayed. I think we are too used to seeing yet another cool cyborg on screen to really grasp the terrible real life implications that a situation like that would have on loved ones.

    In conclusion I must say that I’m very pleased that the RoboCop reboot turned out to be a entirely different movie than the original one. After all, that movie already exists, and I didn’t need a rehash of it.

    4/5

    p.s.: Abbie Cornish is so incredibly pretty that she should have to carry a license for her face. :D

    p.p.s: 2D! Yay!

  4. Saw the movie and I must say it was pretty good. This one had more heart to it and Murphy had no annoying partner like the orginal movie which was a plus. I say 4-5 star for fun movie and better story line.

  5. Hmm.

    I haven’t been to see this, so I’m not commenting on the film itself, but surely there’s a lesson to learn here. It sounds like a watered down, more family-friendly version of the original and, as a result, people like me can’t be bothered to treck all the way to the local cinema to see another generic film. I’d hazard the guess that, were the studio to play it bolder with a more violent, risky film, takings would actually be up. I’d LOVE to see a decent, modern Robocop story, but I’ve seen enough “it’s okay…” reviews not to bother. I think movie makers have got to stop playing it safe, if they want our money.

    Kids can watch whatever they like on the internet now anyway, isn’t it time to overhaul this archaic ratings system altogether?

    • Its not generic. its more.

    • If you liked the original, you will still like this one. It was a good movie. There were alot of unwarranted back lash towards the film before anyone has seen it and now alot of people are still carrying it on because they liked the original. If you liked the original go see the reboot. It really was a good movie.

      The reboot also brought the original back to life. I watched the last three movies over again because of the reboot and I’m sure many people in this generation saw Robocop for the first time as well.

      I’m hoping this makes it into a sequel.

    • Seems we have a doubting Thomas on our hands. Since no one is going to convince you and your closed mind to go and see this movie, I will tell you that you are missing out on a great little sci-fi action thriller here. I am a huge fan of the original Robo and was one of the first ones to poo poo this remake. But it works. I really enjoyed the references and the nods to the original. The movie works well on it’s own and is a really good watch.

    • Hate to say it, but why do you believe takings would be up with an R rating? It’s pretty much has been proven that PG-13s make more money because they can appeal to a broader audience, and R-rated action/sci-fi or superhero/sci-fi films tend to not do so well, even if they are totally true to the source material and are excellent movies (looking at you, Dredd). Not like RoboCop has THAT much name recognition any more to drive all of us to the theater…and I’m a huge fan of the original (it’s the only blu-ray I own), although I must disagree with the gentleman who liked the “edgy” RoboCop 2…that movie was terrible.

  6. I have seen the original Robocop and was a huge fan of the movie. After seeing Robocop reboot I must say that I was disappointed.

    The one thing I couldn’t understand was that there was no actual villain in the story telling. The robot scenes and fight sequences made good viewing but overall this one pales in comparison to the original.

    It shouldn’t have been given a 12A rating as clearing this was more of an movie for 16+ audience.

    • To be fair, the villain was just a side-plot anyway. The main focus of the movie was how Murphy copes with the change and all the ethical and emotional implications surrounding his transformation. It’s indeed a sci-fi drama and not the three act action movie that the original was. That’s probably what throws people off about the reboot. They expect one thing based on the original and they can’t accept that get something entirely different. I’m glad that it didn’t turn out to be a cookie cutter villain hunt. We sure have enough of those.

    • @Peter

      The villian of the story was the global international mega-corporation that puts profit ahead of everything including humanity. Its hard to properly comment on it and not give away some spoilers that said there are numerous subtle (or not so subtle depending on how awake you are to the real world) shots taken at the modern corporate managed government and how rampant corruption is how much control over our reality the powerful have. I’ve seen ELYSIUM and ROBOCOP 2014 both and the ROBOOCOP reboot is hands down a better movie when it comes to social commentary.

      I’m actually very suprised the film got a theatrical release let allone a major marketing campaign considering how uncomplimentary it is about large corporate giants.

  7. The action scenes are smart, and the new suit is the nuts, apart from that I felt that the film could’ve maybe of done with an extra 30 minutes in order to improve the bad guy story.

  8. saw it and actually fell asleep at some parts! Very superficial, lacked wit and was fairly predictable. With Verhoeven’s brilliant blue print, this flick could have gone better any which way! The classic is superior and smarter ( from the script, cinematography and use of music)! If you like video games, this one’s for you…if you’re expectations are high (based on viewing the first Robocop flick), then this melodramatic mediocre special effects mess is a definite dud, bud!

    • i Agree. I was a little disappointed cos I had expected more, but it bored me. I still prefer the older version by all means

  9. I think that the Robocop Movie Was Awesome. They Couldnt have made a better remake than this one. Robocop 2 & 3 followed by To mini series which were diaster, this Movie has done Brilliant. Thumbs Up For this Awesome Robocop.

  10. I liked it. I especially like the exploration of the ‘loss of humanity’ aspect of it. They went quite a way with that but I felt it could have been deeper. Also, a better script for Oldman along those same lines, more remorse for giving in to the corporate agenda rather than a thin resignation of the events would have been great. Good movie overall.
    I was pleasantly surprised.

  11. After seeing all of the negative comments on this movie before it hit theaters I went in hopeful since I grew up with the original, but not expecting much and I walked out of the theater wanting a sequel!

    I will definitely buy the blue ray in support.

  12. I really enjoyed this movie. I highly recommend.

    I never saw any other Robocop movie or show.

    My favorite line: “Dr. Norton, I feel fine.”

    This movie seemed very realistic and contemporary. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened now in real life in 2014.

    Better than those stupid James Bond movies.

  13. Having watched, and enjoyed, the original and the 2014 version I have to say that they are both good movies.

    The new version is, as noted by others, more philosophical in its focus asking the question of what makes a man a man.

    I give it 4/5 rating.

  14. Jose Padilha ! you nearly got it right but you didn’t !
    Robocop was famous for the violence and drug intent ! also the pure ruthlessness of not only Robocop but also the villains !! All of this you decided to leave out of this film and guess what you did ??? you made I robot 2 or Ironman instead of Robocop Which are good films but we have seen them already ,what we wanted was something different ,something more hardcore like the original that stood out from the crowd and this doesn’t at all ! The story line is good but the execution is terrible ! Why wasn’t he shot to death instead of a car bomb ? why is the main villain hardly in the film ? why is there no action worth watching ? why is there shots of Robocop as just a set of lungs and a head it looks wrong !
    The whole film centers around trying to make Robocop actually work properly but he never really does and anyone who loves the original as I do will HATE this abortion !

    • As you can see from the comments there are many of us that were fans of the original and like the reboot.

  15. Your review too kind, half a** and comes across as desperate

    • X, why don’t you cry about it

  16. I just saw this the other day. As a fan of the original I was very skeptic about this so the surprise was a pleasant one. I thought the movie delivered enough and was entertaining. I’d say a solid 3,5*

  17. The movie was excellently made. I know it keeps being compared with the original (which I agree is still better) but this is a new Robo, and with him comes an entirely new sort of world and OCP that he deals with. The acting is top-notch, the graphics seamless, and the closely-veiled anti-Fascist America message abundantly clear enough to be a stand-alone masterpiece. I do not understand how, amidst films like TF4, TASM2, and X-Men DOFP how this one gets such a bad rep. The movie stands on its own and there isn’t really a dull moment. We need to watch it on its own terms rather than clinging on the older version.

    Yes there are some (very minor) thematic flaws in the film, such as OCP’s head being killed off, and an overall “feel good” tone by the end of the film (which betrays the psuedo-nihilism of the original) but think of it this way… with TDKR, The Winter Soldier, Iron Man 3, Robocop, Dredd, X-Men DOFP… it seems that the summer sci-fi superhero blockbuster is addressing one of the most important and growing concerns of the American culture: It’s latent fascism. And to see a blockbuster film deal with that? It should get the same level of, at the very least, rating, as those other films.

    ROBOCOP is an amazing movie and people need to go and watch it. Much better than Man of Steel, TF4 or any of the others. Most importantly, it’s an intelligent movie, that doesn’t feel boring for one second.

    • First, this is not Robocop. This is a new movie loosely related to the old ones. That being said, the movie is excellent, specially if you like deep thought philosophical sci-fi. Robocop 2014′s main theme seems to be how society influences its own decisions and ultimately what does it mean to be human and have to live in that society. There is a mix of the common person, government, and corporations trying to manipulate each other, which makes determining the “enemy” very unclear, but closer to real life. Murphy gets caught on that web of influences, and has his humanity stripped – or not, depending on what humanity means.

      It won’t work if you like well defined hero/vilan stories, like the majority of super hero movies, but it a great story and movie if you are looking for deeper sociological inquiries a la Asimov.