RoboCop (2014): B- (minor spoilers)
This RoboCop remake is a technically excellent film that nevertheless lacks the heart and soul of the superb original - as well as the grim satirical humor, which is abandoned after a couple of cursory attempts in the beginning. Conversely the 1987 movie is still very watchable today apart from the dated special effects and production values.
This ironic inversion - or "Bizarro RoboCop" effect - extends throughout all aspects of the film. Whether consciously or not, quite a few great elements of the original have been flipped on their heads, and generally not to good effect. I'll compare and contrast the two films.
In the original: we get to know main character Alex Murphy first as a human being through his interactions with his partner, Anne Lewis, before being gunned down in a brutal ambush that is tough to watch. Murphy's corpse is co-opted by tech company OCP to test pilot their RoboCop program. The cold, unfeeling, incredibly intimidating, and very robot-like RoboCop is inserted back into the police force and it is not expected that anyone will recognize him as one of their own. However, former partner Lewis starts to suspect as RoboCop's subconscious mannerisms begin to give him away. Along with Lewis the audience wonders: just who or what is under that metal suit? Murphy's memories begin to return, which confuses and distresses him, until ultimately he realizes who he is and what he has to do next. Ultimately the original RoboCop is a story about the ethics of runaway corporate power and about a "mindless corporate drone" reclaiming his individuality from The System.
In the new movie: we get to know Alex Murphy by watching him participate in a shoot-out, which doesn't help to emphasize the human side of him at all. Then he's mortally wounded in a quick and sanitary explosion. He's still fully himself, personality-wise, when he awakens as RoboCop. We get to see what's under the suit right away, which is actually neat and disturbing in a "horribly fascinating" kind of way, but also spoils an opportunity for a dramatic build-up to a final reveal late in the film. Anyhow, he's teary, grieving and coping, his wife and son are teary, grieving, and coping, and there's just a lot of emotional hoopla. It's unconvincing and instead feels formulaic, like a generous helping of emotion was called for to round out the otherwise straight-up action flick. RoboCop returns to the force as policeman Alex Murphy, to the congratulations of his co-workers, as if injuries he sustained didn't immediately qualify him to be honorably discharged and retired from service. Murphy's partner Lewis has had a gender change and is a completely minor character in this version. Finally, if there's a moral to the story in the remake then I'm not sure what it is. Police corruption, possibly, but the film doesn't seem too earnest about it.
a minute, gotta get back to my job if I want to keep it.*
On its own RoboCop (2014) is enjoyable enough, if forgettable. Still it doesn't hold a candle to the original, although it's quite a bit better than anything that came after (RoboCop 3 in particular). The original RoboCop is still the only robot cop for me.