‘RoboCop’ Review

Published 7 months ago by , Updated August 17th, 2014 at 4:05 pm,

RoboCop 2014 Joel Kinnaman RoboCop Review

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

87 Comments

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  1. It was a decent movie. Nothing exceptional.
    I think if its successful, we’d get to see something cool in the next one and this can serve as mostly a set up movie.
    I’d have given it a bit higher though…maybe 3 or 3.5 stars on 5.
    Good action, decent though predictable storyline…it had its moments.

  2. I think you must have watched Robocop (1988) prior to watching this, you really can not compare the two in terms of content…. The only similarity I could draw was that the lead was called Alex Murphy and after nearly dying he is turned into an android….. ED209, Lewis(a man this time) and the doctor being called Norton aside. To me it seems you have been harsh with your rating of 2.5 stars because it was unlike the original. That’s not a great way to review movies….. The original still is one of the best movies ever made and this is not but its also in my opinion is worth 3 stars….

    • One of the best movies ever made? The original Robocop is a terrible movie. I have no interest in watching this remake but I would bet money that if I watched it I would enjoy it more than the 80s cheeseball version which has inexplicably developed this unjustified cult following.

      • I am sure! you would like this version more. Simple things for simple minds.

      • Im guessing youre under 25 aren’t you, Edgecrusher?

      • Terrible? I don’t get that comment – never, EVER heard a single bad word about Robocop. This movie wasn’t BAD – it was entertaining – but totally unnecessary. I can’t even say for sure whether or not I’d rather watch this again over Robocop 3 lol… Kinda reminded me of Total Recall. Looked shinier but I mean really – how can you top the original?

      • Yeah RoboCop 87 was such as bad movie it made it into the Criterion Collection.

    • @Chris – I agree with Ben, however, he didn’t compare the two films to say the remake is worse than the original because it isn’t the same. Ben clearly addresses the shortcomings of the characters, story and plot as the reasoning behind the mid-rating of this movie. You said you’d give it a 3/5 – is a .5 difference REALLY that much to quibble about?

      I liked what the “Awakening” scene and the “Reveal” scene between Kinnaman and Oldman a lot. I thought it was an original touch to the story and very much enjoy the dialog between the two. Unfortunately, there were far too few of those types of scenes.

      What’s with Robocop tazing folks? That’s really lame.

      Paul

      • “What’s with Robocop tazing folks? That’s really lame.”

        The whole story was about warming the public up to robots patrolling the streets. Would you have given him a grenade launcher and a chainsaw instead to accomplish that task?

        Again, this criticism stems from what you know about the relentless original RoboCop movie. But if you look at this movie on its very own merits and concepts equipping him with a taser makes perfect sense and is really nothing to complain about.

  3. I’ll say this for RoboCop: This would have made a fantastic anime film.

    • It did. They called it “Ghost in the Shell”.

      • +1

      • I always felt Ghost in the Shell was more of a Blade Runner type film.

        • Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and the new Robocop all hit heavily on “transhumanism”. Translated as when the line between man and machine is blurred, what does it mean to be human, or even what is human?

        • What? No Appleseed love? :(

      • If there one clear example of an overated anime where style is all and substance is none , then Ghost In The Shell is it.

        • I enjoy GitS and all of it’s iterations, and you obviously don’t.

          To each their own.

        • Don’t make pretentious statements about cartoons, it just comes off as dumb.

  4. i’m glad they didn’t try to make the same film. i think i’ll check it out on bargain price showing, or get my daughter to get me in for free if i can schedule it.

  5. I think if the original film had never existed then people would be rating this higher. Like with many cult classics, reboots tend to offend people as if they were a personal insult that someone would dare mess with their childhood. In that respect they are never given a fair shake because the they clash with our nostalgia.

    Robocop was indeed a cult classic, but it was not a “good” film by any means.

    • You have a fair point , but at the end of the day,if you’re just going to remake classic / revered movies then you are always like to incur some hate. No matter how good the newer version is.

      That’s why it’s always best to try and create something original, so it can be judged on it’s own merits instead of constant comparison.

    • If the original film never existed this movie might not have ever been made today. And if it did how many people would go see it over a movie with a more familiar “name” attached to it?

    • Yeah it was just an awful film LMAO. It was a GREAT movie – one of the best Superhero movies ever made. It’s too bad young people (like this kid) can’t relate to it nowadays.

  6. Wait… a movie about a robotic cop…..? Dafuq?

    • If it wasn’t for the original Robocop wouldn’t have existed in the first place! Robocop didn’t start off as a comic nor a book this character came off the imagination of someone (can’t recall his name) who helped make the original and I think he has stated the idea of Robocop came off a Marvel character that isn’t much well known now but his name wasn’t Deathlok.

      When you are going to reboot a film people are going to compare regardless and that’s the whole point of it is to start discussions like this and see what they can do better over the original. The original Robocop movie hasn’t aged one bit but in my honest opinion if the director had his way we’d have a better Robocop film but the studios forced the director to create a very generic movie.

      • Wait….? your saying robocop was a completely original film/idea? Even though the originals plot just meanders for a long time and that its been admittedly based on and inspired by blade runner, rom, dredd, and japanese robotic cop shows? dafuq?

        • … Dafuq?

          • DAFUQ!!!!

        • I don’t think you read what I said. The guy I was responding to was stating if the original Robocop wasn’t made back in 80s everyone would be praising the new Robocop movie BUT Robocop was an inspired character by someone who helped developed the original film so if it wasn’t for him Robocop would not exist nor we would be having this debate.

          • Wait…? You werent replying to me when you replied to me?
            dafuq?

            • Dafuq!!

  7. I saw this film at an advance screening and I just have to say- I was genuinely surprised at how entertaining the film turned out.

    I didn’t grow up with the original film, which may have helped my reception of the film, but the film itself took the familiar Robocop known in pop culture and offered quite a refreshing viewing experience.

    The film works on contemporary level, asking a lot of political-social questions and satirical nature of the media and the role of man in a rising age of machine. I agree the film’s weakness lies in its uneven focus on certain aspects in the film. I would have enjoyed a little bit more focus on the family aspect and exploring some the ethical satirical nature of Omnicorp in a more dynamic way while fleshing out a more cathartic ending.

    However, the film was surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining, especially when the film becomes much more dynamic and really embraces what it is. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the better film, but both work on modernizing and refreshing an old franchise to tell a contemporary story.

    3 Stars out of Five. Maybe 3.5.

  8. It was successful on several levels. I liked that it made ZERO attempt to remake Robocop and offered a completely fresh take. I also enjoyed the more sci-fi philosophical bent as opposed to the originals satire/dark comedy. As a potential francise starter it leaves Robocop in a good place. It really lacks a compelling antagonist and really wastes it’s excellent cast with the exception of Kinnaman and Oldman. It really could’ve used one big action set-piece to clip things along. Far from a travesty but still a little dull…. I really hope to see more from an action director with a strong vision because there’s a lot of potential in Robocop Mk.2

  9. Been looking forward to this review and movie. Good review Ben!!

  10. The movie turned out a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Is it as good as the original? No, but it’s also not Total Recall bad either. This kind of felt like it was a movie to set up something down the road. The action was great and had it’s issues but overall very nicely done. I think Joel Kinnaman did a great job and to me was the highlight of the movie(which is the way it should be). His version of Alex Murphy was great. It’s not the same as the original but he put his own spin on it. Overall it’s a good movie, not great and would recommend my friends to check it out, so I would have given it a 3.5/5.

  11. So ….. no Clarence Boddiker then?………. :(

  12. I just want to know was Laurence Fishburne any good I think he rocks in The Avengers.

    • I saw what you did there. Nice.

    • That was funny, LOL. That guy got owned, LOL

  13. garuntee this flops. predicting somewere between 15-20 million this weekend if not less. not a sceptic just a realistic couch surfing analyst :)

  14. How much of those tweets based on an early script turned out in the film?
    Is there a scene where a group of criminals laugh at a more retro looking design? Please tell me they cut that

  15. 2.5

    Pretty consistent with the majority of reviews I’ve read since UK release last week that said it was decent but not as good as the original and missed the point completely in what made the original so well-liked by critics and audiences.

    Again, I have no interest in seeing the remake because the trailers showed it to be a soulless shadow of what made the original great and can only hope that a sequel isn’t made.

  16. Saw it last Sunday, this sums up my view

    “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.”

    Gave it a 6/10

    • 10 points scales are so vague.

  17. This movie was terrible. I walked out half way through, I was so bored.

    I give it a 1 out of 5.

    • If you walked out halfway (which I don’t believe), you only REALLY have the right to say ‘half the movie was terrible’ yes? I only thought it was a 3 star movie but you can’t be part of the conversation if you don’t absorb the whole thing. Your attention span may need some work if you can’t suffer something you dislike for an hour.

  18. There is a reason this premiered in February. The Hollywood accountants knew what they had.

  19. What’s with all the people bashing the original? Sacrilege. (^-^)
    I saw it last saturday, i’ll paste what I posted then below below to save me typing it out again….

    It’s okay. Not great. The effects and suits etc…. were great, and there was some interesting ideas. It takes a swing at right wing politics, America’s foregin policy, patriotism, biased media etc… But the film itself doesn’t really go anywhere. They spend a lot of time on the ethics or robo and his family instead of the action. It was jst a little bit meh.

    It does however make you realize just how perfect the original movie was. The new one certainly hasn’t replaced it. Not even it’s own sequels managed to do that.

    1987 “ROBOCOP” IMO the perfect movie.

  20. My expectations for this were in line with those I had for the Total Recall remake.
    Meaning that I’m not expecting anything special or a classic but if it’s halfway entertaining with some cool moments that’s good enough for me and judging by the reviews I’ve read that’s pretty much what the movie is.

  21. I thought Iron Man was the reboot of Robocop. :)

    I’ll obv see this and since I barely remember the original, I might like it (heck, I liked the Total Recall reboot).

  22. I didn’t know Laurence Fishburne was in this…

  23. I’ve been on the fence about seeing this movie. I hold the original one close to my heart; it was my first Rated-R movie and I saw it with my best friend. The trailers and the reviews I’ve read is convincing me to wait to redbox it or rent it on ITunes. Ben, I appreciate your review and your score for it is kinder than most reviewers. I’m curious to why they didn’t at least reuse the idea of a cop killed in the line of duty like in the original; instead of what I saw in trailers as a ‘car bomb’ accident?

    • spoiler-

      It wasn’t an accident.

  24. I give it a solid 3 out of 5. Not great, not horrible, but perfectly serviceable. An unnecessary remake but worth a watch if you have a coupon from buying the Robocop Blu-ray.

  25. Typical and exactly what I had expected from one of the many remake weeds that keep popping up.

    If the remake can’t manage to both distance itself from the original )in a good way) AND be better, then it failed. Seldom if ever do remakes manage to accomplish both, condemning the movie to the mediocrity pile.

    If you cannot meet these two criteria then you should NOT be rebooting/remaking it imho.

  26. I would have probably given it a 3.5, I thought it was one of the better remakes we’ve seen lately. I never understood fans outrage about the design changes and the speed at which he moves, having him walk around robotically slow like the original would have been lame. I was warned about the lack of violence, and the use of the stun gun, but overall I was still impressed with the level of violence (for pg13) and he still uses his machine gun the most, just don’t see all the squibs (which was so comically overused in the original) I saw it in IMAX, and I don’t mind the extra fee because the sound and size of that screen is unrivaled, it really immerses you in the movie IMO, “watch a movie, or be part of it!”, its not essential but it is enjoyable.

    There are a few scenes when the suit is being put on him, and you can clearly see that they were emulating Iron Man. Nothing wrong with that, it makes sense, but it was overused by the end.

    One of my favorite moments was when Murphy scanned some dealer to try to get Maren’s location, and as he looks at the guy his assessment reads “Totally stoned” haha, that and Sam Jackson’s last rant…. literally had the entire theater laughing!

  27. The contrast between this review by Ben and this one on i09 is pretty striking – http://io9.com/the-robocop-remake-will-shock-you-being-being-so-damn-a-1521566212

  28. I thought the original was better, but this one was good enough. If they make a sequel, I’ll go. It probably won’t break any box office records. Good business is where you find it, but I’ll buy this for a dollar.

    • No, The original was suck. It was good enough and I would go for a sequel! I dont watch it yet but I can tell. I will watch it on blu ray instead. Good job, director!

  29. I’m amazed by the amount of individuals on this board claiming that the original was horrible. Certainly it wasn’t a masterpiece, but who can argue that many of concepts and themes that occurred in the original aren’t taking place in society as we speak:

    1. Privatization of entire cities and city functions by corporations. CHECK. In the original, Boddicker’s character (Red from the 70′s show) was hired by OCP to kill cops in order to create the need for the ED-209 so that OCP could privatize the police force.

    2. Brutal response to crime yielding ineffective results. CHECK. War on Drugs anyone?

    The original film is classic Verhoeven. A violent R-rated flick that makes subtle jabs at the political issues of it’s time. (See Starship Troopers). It’s no ‘Citizen Kane’, but it’s certainly not garbage either.

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