"Robocop" wants to be a good reboot. It's clear that it doesn't want to just completely copy the original nor does it want to completely change it. "Robocop" tries to land somewhere in the middle, hoping to satisfy fans of the original as well as people looking for something new. It is almost successful in this, but not quite.
When "Robocop" began, I was wondering if I was in the right theater. The very beginning of the film sounds like it is coming from a completely different kind of movie. It didn't take long, however, for the movie to assure me that I was indeed watching "Robocop". Now, the original "Robocop" is a classic. It is the "Frankenstein" turned into an '80s sci-fi cop movie. It's brilliant. There is satire in it like most good sci-fi and there is action and drama like any good cop movie. What really stands out for me, however, is the soul of the film. The original movie is largely about the soul of Robocop or whether he even has one at all. Maybe subtle isn't exactly the right word to describe anything in "Robocop", but compared to all the over the top violence and satire I would say that "Robocop" handled this soul searching in a quiet, contemplative, way.
The new "Robocop" isn't so subtle. There are lines spoken here that make it impossible not to see the quest that cop-turned-Robocop Alex Murphy is on to reclaim his soul. It is also not as powerful a journey in this new "Robocop". I think part of that could be the acting of Joel Kinnaman in comparison to the original's Peter Weller, but Joel Kinnaman honestly just doesn't have as great material to work from.
Now, there are other actors here who it is a joy to see. Gary Oldman is good in his role as the doctor who creates Robocop. However, I must say that his role is rather predictable and all the lines he was given could be seen from a mile away. Still, it is fun to watch Gary Oldman in this role. Even better, though, is Michael Keaton as the business man who is behind the whole Robocop project. The ever-scheming Raymond Sellers is a perfect fit for Michael Keaton's energetic style of acting. The most fun, however, may be Samuel L. Jackson as television show host Pat Novak. He is hilarious in his never-ending, fact-ignoring, support for Robocop.
They do something different here with the family of Alex Murphy than in the original and for the most part it works. Abbie Cornish does a solid job in her role as Alex Murphy's wife. It's not a terribly complex or deep role and it is a fairly typical one, but she does well with what she has to work with.
Typical, that's what a lot of "Robocop" is. There is the partner who gets injured. There are the so-plainly-obvious corrupt cops. There is the police chief who wants Murphy off the case. It felt like a parody in the early stages of the film. I mean, these exact type of things have been parodied many times by now. How are we supposed to take them seriously anymore?
Sometimes I was laughing with the movie and sometimes at the movie, but mostly I was just finding it to be all very familiar. It is easy to tell exactly what the characters are going to do. It is obvious where the plot is headed. Even if the original "Robocop" didn't exist, the movie borrows from enough other plots that everything would still be plain to see. The original "Robocop" was an interesting twist on an old story and this reboot should have been the same way, but it unfortunately is not.
Now, the original "Robocop" was given an R rating and is filled with violence. This new one is rated PG-13, but also contains a fair amount of violence. Some may say that the PG-13 rating is what brings this movie down, but for me, it wouldn't have changed a thing. One thing that this movie proved to me is that a "Robocop" movie doesn't need to be rated R. None of the problems of this movie stem from its PG-13 rating. Okay, maybe one scene with Samuel L. Jackson could have benefited from an R rating, but really, the problems all come with the script.
The story in "Robocop" is entirely predictable, even with the changes made from the original. It's not just predictability that weakens this reboot, however. For a while, I actually felt "Robocop" was a fun, if unnecessary, ride at the movies. Towards the end of the film, however, it loses steam. The ending to the original "Robocop" is powerful. It makes great use of its excellent theme song and like its theme song, I would say it is one of the greatest of all time. The movie doesn't even try to have that power. Thankfully, they didn't try to just recreate the original's ending, but they also didn't come up with anything new that is even close to as good. The theme to the original "Robocop" is used in the film, but it is a newer, lesser, version that seems to be influenced by dubstep. It's sad, really.
Overall, the new "Robocop" is a flimsy creation that falls apart by its end. It never really was necessary to begin with and I don't think anyone will be clamoring for more after its release. This "Robocop" proves, like many reboots and remakes before it, that new is not necessarily better.