Robocop (2014) — A robotic cop-out

“They want a product with a conscience. They want something that knows what it feels like to be human. We’re gonna put a man inside a machine.”

Justin’s rating: Robodud

Justin’s review: You know what really chafes my chassis about movie reboots? It’s such a monumental waste of time and previous work. For starters, reboots often have to do origin stories all over again, which can take up to half the movie. How many times have we seen Batman’s parents get shot or Spider-Man get bit by that radioactive spider? All of that is time that could be spent telling a new story instead of giving us the same old one with a different spin.

And on top of that, reboots irritate me because their existence declares that all previous work on that franchise is null and void. Apparently those movies weren’t good enough to continue — and audiences can’t be trusted to remember what happened in the past — so it’s time to throw it all out and start over.

Both of these negative aspects to reboots come into sharp focus in 2014 Robocop. Out of all of the scifi franchises from the 1980s, Robocop had to be the easiest to continue. His origin story is classic and already on the books. And the character itself — with his face mostly obscured by the iconic helmet — is easily replacable. Lest we forget, Robert Burke replaced Peter Weller when he stepped into the role for Robocop 3, and it wasn’t like we had legions of people complaining that one stoic face got swapped with another one.

But no, we had to “modernize” this IP and make it as slickly generic as any tech-heavy flick. As if to rub fans’ noses in it, there are several moments in this movie where the original Robocop outfit and quotes are referenced and discarded. Eh, it’s not good enough for the classy 2014 viewers! Gotta give them something that looks like a sports car on a person, why not!

The thing is, Robocop’s original themes would work so incredibly well in an updated installment. Lest we forget, the 1987 film was all about corporations and crime run amok with heavy-handed satire thrown at materialism. Paul Verhoeven wasn’t making a serious movie about the travails of a cyborg police officer. He was portraying the police state to its excess and then pushing back against that with Alex Murphy’s humanity.

There’s no angle that I can come at Robocop 2014 to find approval. There’s none of the biting satire, none of the classic lines, none of the over-the-top villains, and even the eye candy feels as generic as any video game cutscene. It really made me miss the clunky tank-like movements of the older movies when I watched this new Robocop flip and dash like he’s auditioning for the Olympic team.

I know Hollywood can’t resist dipping back into its lucrative franchises, but I really wish it would take a lesson from Robocop and the many, many other reboots like it to instead build upon the foundation that’s already been laid.

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