It's really hard to talk about a movie like Robocop without comparing it to its previous incarnation, but that's exactly what I'mma try to do. Instead of whining about Robocop being a sucky movie because it's not exactly like the original in every detail, I'mma talk about how Robocop 2014 fails as a movie all on its own. Here are six reasons why Robocop 2014 doesn't cut the mustard. (There may be some spoilers. You've been warned.):
- The story strips the protagonist of his power: This story pretends to be about a man losing his humanity, and yet he's not responsible for his own victory. Murphy (played by Joel Kinnaman) is blown to bits and left a fragment of man stuck inside a machine. He fights to retain his humanity until Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) jacks with his hormones and basically removes his emotions. Murphy becomes a feelingless, crime-fighting machine until Norton gives him back control over his emotions. So, Murphy has his victory, but it's not one that he's earned and that weakens the story.
- There's too little Robocop ass-kicking: There's a lot of screen time taken up by Murphy trying to come to grips with what he is. There's more time taken up by Murphy's wife (Abbie Cornish) trying to get in to see him. So, unfortunately, there's not enough time spent on Robocop kicking bad guy ass. There's a cool scene of Murphy shooting up a warehouse full of robots and a cool scene where he shoots up a warehouse full of drug dealers. There's a bitchin' sequence where he battles multiple ED-209 (those big, Star Wars Chicken Walker-lookin' things). But the movie some could've used a few more scenes of Robocop crime fighting.
- Robocop's family...ugh!: Abbie Cornish is a devastatingly beautiful woman. Seriously. She had some absolutely gorgeous close-ups in this movie. In fact, I would totally watch a movie that was just 90 minutes of Abbie Cornish close-ups. And I'd be happy about it. But Robocop is not that movie, and Miss Cornish doesn't do much more than cry. Honestly, I felt her inclusion in the movie was pretty useless. And the kid that plays her son must only have one facial expression. Although, I should probably cut him some slack, cuz he's a kid. But I just don't Robocop needs his family to serve as an anchor to his humanity. Plus, it makes the movie more predictable.
- Lame social commentary: So Robocop opens with Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), a "Bully" Bill O'Reilly-type political show host, railing about the use of U.S. drones overseas to keep the peace. He pops up again and again, dispensing his opinion as fact, and trying to sway the tide of public opinion in favor of policy he likes. Jackson's game to play it up and it's pretty amusing, though not not amusing as Novak's hairdo. But most of it kinda falls flat. There's also a whole riff on how corporate CEOs are scumbags and rich people don't care about anything except making more money and staying rich. But it's not anything we've seen before and it's not particularly well-done.
- A good cast gets wasted: Gary Oldman. Jackie Earle Haley. Michael Keaton. The aforementioned Jackson. Four great actors. Each given a fairly one-note role. Oldman is still great, because, frak it, he's Gary Oldman. But so much fun could've been fun watching those four guys set loose in the same scene.
- Boring bad guys: I'm about to fail at my promise to not compare new version to old version. The bad guys in Robocop 2014 are so boring and bland and just like every bad guy in every other movie. And that's what was really the most disappointing thing about this movie. It needed a bad guy with wit. With style. With an attitude. It needed a Clarence Bottiger. Bottiger was the main bad guy from the original movie and he was awesome. Played to perfection by Kurtwood "Red Foreman" Smith, Bottiger had swagger. The scene where Robocop books him and he responds by spitting blood and demanding his frakking phone call, is a classic. There's nothing like that here. There's the corrupt rich guy (Keaton), his yes man (Haley), and a bunch of other CGI'ed adversaries. But no personality, and that's really something this movie needs.