Right, first let me get this out of the way. Buckaroo-freaking-Bonzai
Was replaced with this guy.
In all fairness, I really like Joel Kinnaman as an actor. I love his work on The Killing and I think we’re going to see some cool things from him in the future. I also don’t believe that any of the failures of this movie can be laid at his door. The man did what he could with the story he signed up for.
When discussing a remake (or reboot, re-imagining, or whatever the hell it’s called) you can’t help but compare it to the original. And, having fair and reasonable expectations (which might not be appropriate because Internet), you wouldn’t necessarily shit on the movie outright if it’s not a shot for shot recreation of the original. They tried that once. It was that Psycho remake. I’m still trying to reconcile the time I wasted watching that film.
So for myself, anyway, I didn’t go into this wanting to see a regurgitation of the original. I went in with an open mind, wanting to see what they would do with it. When the first images of the redesigned Robocop came out, the Internet lost its shit as usual over the fact that you could see the dude’s hand and face.
But I didn’t care, nor was I really that surprised. I’ve been through enough Batman sequels now to know that the first casualty of a remake is the old costume designs. Even so, it would be the suit that took me the most out of this movie.
Compare a couple of pictures here: old Robocop and new.
It’s just crazy. I can tell just by looking at the costume that they put a massive amount of time, effort, and money into making it awesome and sexy, not to mention all of the post production and CG they must have rubbed all over it to really sell it. Only they failed to sell it. Just look at it.
There’s no way you’re not convincing me that’s not just a dude in a rubber suit. You can see his slouchy posture and everything.
When I go back and look at the original suit, I can tell it’s a suit. I can see the Lycra body suit and glued rubber seams when Weller raised his arms, for Christ’s sake. I see that and I realize that we believed Peter Weller was Robocop because of how he sold that role. All of the time he spent studying mime and physical expression really came to fruition in that movie and, ultimately, allowed you to accept the fact that he was a cyborg and move along to the plot.
In this new movie, there wasn’t any point where I felt like I was looking at a Cyborg. It was a guy in a costume the entire time. For all the effort they put into the redesign, the character portrayal fell flat and rendered all that work null.
While watching this new film, I found myself thinking about the original and wondering what it was that made it so good. In any nerd discussion covering the greatness of 1987 Robocop, there are a few points that always come up. First is the portrayal of the character by Peter Weller (covered above). Next is the outstanding villain Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). Finally, the nerds always bring up the satirical note of the film and how skillfully it was woven into the narrative. The whole Jesus angle may come up as well but I always felt that this was a subtext of the movie rather than a main point, so I’ll leave that alone.
2014 Robocop doesn’t really have any of that. And let’s be straight here; I’m okay if it doesn’t have any of that. Again, this is a new movie. But, God Damn It, if you’re going to take all the great stuff from the original OUT then you have to get something at least as cool and put that IN. They did none of that! They almost made a halfhearted attempt to…kind of…sort of do some of that. I guess? But it all lacked so much style. There was just no meat there to sink you teeth into.
The Kurtwood Smith proxy (I’ll call him Noticker) was just some faceless bad guy that existed in the movie for no reason other than to turn Alex Murphy into Robocop (in one of the most anti-climatic ways I’ve ever seen, by the way). I can’t even remember the character’s name in the film. Shit, I can’t even remember what his face looked like, and I only saw this a couple of days ago. In the original, Clarence Boddicker is half the reason to watch the damned thing. It is just so ridiculously fun to watch him be his sleazy, disgusting, ultra-violent self. Noticker might have had 8 minutes of screen time total before Robocop kills him a little more than halfway through the movie with perhaps…10 lines? I don’t know. There wasn’t a damned thing about him that made an impression on me.
The satire of the original was removed and replaced with (drum roll) a really, really heavy-handed attempt to explain to you that GOVERNMENT and CONTROL and OBEY!!!!! Rather than revealing to you, the viewer, a little at a time of what life is like in future Detroit (and by extension America) through skillfully shot television commercials and news reports, you get this guy.
And he is here to scream at you until you agree that the future is bleak and dystopian.
Not a whole lot of subtlety there.
Now, obviously, the original was not exactly about subtlety
But you get the idea. This new movie took some of the best points that the original had to offer and replaced it with weak and/or disposable characters (with the exception of Alex Murphy, you kind of don’t have a movie without him), heavy handed exposition, and a complete and utter black hole in the place of where a decent bad guy should have been.
You want to see a good Robocop film? Do yourself a favor and watch the original Verhoeven version. They got it right the first time.