Hollywood is all about the remakes nowadays. Never mind that the original is pretty good already and still stands the test of time. If a reasonable period of time has passed since the original, then it could use an update as far as the rigid Ms. Wood (aka Holly) is concerned.
It is in this spirit that we get ‘RoboCop 2014,' Brazilian director José Padilha’s contemporary take on love-him-or-hate-him Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 sci-fi classic about a good cop struggling in a world of evil (okay, two good cops if we include Officer Lewis). Verhoeven’s original, starring Peter Weller and Nancy Allen, was beloved by fans for its bold, subversive portrayal of corporate greed and corruption. In the bleak setting of RoboCop's Detroit, law and human decency are under constant siege by not only scum-of-the-earth criminals but evil corporations, immoral politicians and corrupt law enforcement agencies. Weller’s Alex Murphy never stood a chance before he became RoboCop. What’s brilliant about Verhoeven’s ‘RoboCop’ is that it placed social commentary and political satire in a dark and edgy R-rated dystopian sci-fi action thriller, often with humorous results.
Since the remake is unlikely to hold a candle to the original, my expectations for it was correspondingly low. So it was to my pleasant surprise that it managed to exceed them. This glossier, PG-13 rated version is actually pretty good! Joel Kinnaman’s Alex Murphy/RoboCop had more emotional depth than Peter Weller's. His shock, revulsion and overreaction upon seeing his 'new and improved' body for the first time seemed genuine, and his attempts to connect with his wife and son came straight from the heart. Likewise, Michael Keaton did a great job as the movie's villain, OmniCorp (http://www.omnicorp.com/) CEO Raymond Sellars, a mad (as in insane) tech-guru/entrepreneur who honestly believed that he was doing mankind a favor in realizing his dreams of a robotic 'Police States of America.' This is timely and topical in our era of paranoia and fear of Big Brother government legislating the use of drones for domestic purposes. The action scenes of RoboCop fighting against squads of EM-208 combat droids (the love child between a T-800 Terminator and a Cylon?: http://www.omnicorp.com/products/em-208.php) and the redesigned ED-209 fire support walkers from the original movie (would you like to know more?: http://www.omnicorp.com/products/ed-209.php) are exciting to be sure, but they're nothing we haven’t seen before in similar PG-13 superhero and action movies with their tightly edited close-up shots and quick cuts from multiple angles.
Cosmetically, the new RoboCop looks more ‘tactical’ in black and speeds along the streets of Detroit on a sleek bike (also from OmniCorp, of course: http://www.omnicorp.com/products/c-1.php), but he stomps around heavily just like the old RoboCop, and his servos and actuators make the same whirring and whining sounds. The remake also kept some of the original’s satirical elements, such as the opening scene live coverage of ‘Operation Freedom Tehran’ and a recurring talking head (played by Samuel L. Jackson) in the mold of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly. If ‘RoboCop 2014’ makes the current generation want to check out the Verhoeven original, so much the better.