I ventured of out the safety and comfort of my lair today, dear readers, to see the Robocop remake. Now let me make something abundantly clear, Robocop, the original, that is, is one of my all-time favorite movies. I first saw it when I was like nine years old. It was on ABC, and my dad taped it on the VCR. if you’re so young that you have no fond memories of VCR’s and taping things off of the TV, then you’re too young for me to classify as a human being and should probably go on some kind of traumatic vision quest until you’re mature enough for Daddy’s sweet wisdom. As an aside, I watched that tape so many times that I practically had it memorized. It wasn’t until much later in life, I think I was in my twenties, that I saw the unedited, full-flavored theatrical version. Boy, was that an eye-opener.
I’m going to try to keep this relatively spoiler-free, but if you want to go into it knowing nothing, stop reading until you’ve seen it.
When I first heard there was a remake in the works, I was naturally a bit upset. Over the couple of years that the film was in production and tidbits were leaked out, I went through my five stages of nerd grief until settling on “I’ll see it, I kind of hope it sucks so I can move on with my life with a sense of smug superiority”. The concept sketches leaked, and we all groaned. Then set photos of the new look leaked, and we groaned more. Everything was pointing toward another forgettable remake. Then the trailer came out. And it looked…how do I even say this…not terrible.
So how does the actual movie hold up? Well, that’s a real tough question. If judged on it’s own merits, this new Robocop might actually be a pretty cool thing. The issue with that is I don’t know if it’s possible to do that. The movie is full of little nods to it’s source material. The old theme song is played right from the getgo. There are lines straight out of the original (sadly, “bitches, leave!” isn’t one of them). And for those of you who got butthurt that OCP was renamed Omnicorp…they’ve got you covered too. Some of the things included in this movie seem a little fanservicey, but I’m ok with that, because I think this movie was made for Robocop fans. They even kind of show how this Robocop “poops”.
The movie is visually quite nice, there’s a higher budget, so we see more robots, more explosions, and a particularly gruesome scene where we get to see just what Roboop is made of. This was an uncomfortable scene, and was a nice inclusion. The new Robocop is sleeker, more agile, and doesn’t move like a stereotypical sci-fi robot. Well, not all the time. ED-209 is back, and the redesign is very modern and intimidating, even if it doesn’t squeal like a pig when it’s distressed this time around. That never made a whole lot of sense, what function does that serve? Whoever programmed that thing has some serious issues.
As for the story, well, it’s Robocop. It feels a little flatter this time. It hits many of the same beats, just switched up in places. Robocop’s wife doesn’t hate him this time, and Lewis is a dude, many of the characters from the old film have analogues in the remake, but few can compare to the classic versions. The character that fills the Clarence Boddicker role (though he’s not called that this time) can’t hold a candle to Kurtwood Smith’s portrayal. A friend of mine said he likes to imagine that Robocop is an epilogue to That 70’s Show, and Red Forman has finally gotten fed up and started acting out. I like that theory.
As with the original version, this movie is very much a product of it’s time. Whereas the old version held it’s tongue firmly in cheek about the issues of the time, satirizing the concerns of the late 80’s, this movie takes a less comedic approach, but still offers some commentary about things like the use of drones, privacy issues, and just what America is. It may not hold up as the brilliant political satire that the old one did in twenty years, but it’s certainly there.
All in all, it’s not a perfect movie, and probably won’t create a new generation of diehard Robocop fans, like the old version did. More likely, it’ll be consumed by those existing fans, who will watch it, proclaim it to be “not bad”, and then they’ll go home and watch their copies of the classic film and be filled with those warm, fuzzy feelings that Peter Weller imbued us with all those years ago.