At first, this "RoboCop" remake, reboot, re-imaging, re-whatever sounded just plain stupid and terrible. But the more news that came out about it, the better and more reassuring all of its suddenly started to sound to me, especially after all of the early positive word to mouth. But no, it actually turned out that all of my initial thoughts and feelings about this new, 'modern', "RoboCop" were right after all. It's nothing but an average science-fiction/action movie, that's lacking any sort of depth and is not a very engaging movie to watch.
It's of course hard to not compare this movie to the 1987 classic and original. But sure, I'll admit that this 2014 version is very different, with both the story and characters. Wish I could say that all of it was an improvement as well though. But in the long run I have to say that the only truly good things about this movie were Gary Oldman's and Michael Keaton's performances.
It's funny how this is a 'modern' remake but the 1987 Paul Verhoeven movie is still the socially more relevant one. It's because it had better themes in it and besides handled all of them far more interestingly. All of the social commentary and satire is basically absent from this movie, which is one of the reasons why this movie feels like a very bland and formulaic blockbuster. It doesn't even feel all that sci-fi or futuristic with any of its themes, setting and special effects and I believe that there are several reasons for this.
One of them is, yes, the RoboCop character himself. Instead of a robot with a human body inside of it, he comes across like a man inside of a robot. Perhaps sounds like the same thing but there is a big difference. I never felt like I was watching a big, strong as steel (literaly), awe-inspiring character but simply just a normal and average guy in a fancy looking suit instead, who barely goes through an interesting transformation because he's constantly aware of his own identity and past. He also never felt quite robotic or powerful enough, which wasn't just due to his looks or the way that he sounds and moves around but also really due to Joel Kinnaman's acting and the way his environment constantly reacts to him. People never seem to be very surprised or in shock and awe when RoboCop passes by, not even when he's shown for the first time and introduced to the public. The character hardly makes an impact on any of the other characters in this movie, so why should we as an audience ever feel impressed by him?
But I also really have to say that Joel Kinnaman was a horrible choice for the character. Even though he's a far more human RoboCop than Peter Weller's RoboCop ever was, his performances, ironically enough, is far more bland and lifeless as well. This is a big problem for the movie, since it constantly tries to show and emphasize RoboCop's human side. It's a big and important theme in the movie, all throughout. You can even say it's more of an Alex Murphy movie than a RoboCop movie really. And while this in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is so for this movie.
It's very obvious that the movie all throughout is trying very hard to focus more on the human sides of the character, by also letting his family play a bigger part in this movie. This probably was the only thing that I thought would be interesting about this movie but it doesn't really work out well enough, not in the least also due to Abbie Cornish's bland performance as Murphy's wife and the way her character was written. I just could never understand her motivations and reasoning and everything about her and all of the other character and the drama in general felt terribly underdeveloped. The drama also too often gets in the way of the movie its storytelling and entertainment. The movie doesn't flow very well, which is partly due to all of its drama but also because the movie is constantly trying to build up and set up new things, without first developing an actual, solid enough, main plot line.
For the longest time there isn't even really a main plot line in this. Things are still mostly unclear at the start of the movie, such as who's going to be the main villain or even who are all supposed to be the good- and bad guys in this. In my opinion this always should be clear in movies that try to bring blockbuster entertainment, for mainstream audiences. Things should be kept as simple and entertaining as possible. The moment a character walks onto the screen you should be able to tell if he or she is one of the good or bad 'guys' and what he or she is all about, just by looking at that character. This movie however dances around things for far too long, before it's finally starting to tell its main story.
And when the main story kicks in, it still isn't anything all that solid or interesting really. Instead of going all out with the action and special effects, the movie is more like a dull and generic detective story, also dealing with subjects such as corruption and politics. Seems to me that, even while the story really isn't anything solid or very original, they were over-thinking things a bit too hard and tried to bring in as many fresh and different angles to the story and characters as possible, making this a very crowded, unbalanced and a not so very well focused movie. This approach also means that the movie too often forgets all about its more fun and entertainment aspects as well. I wouldn't necessarily call this movie boring but it isn't a terribly exciting, fun, or engaging one either. I also constantly kept waiting for that one big, standout, action moment, (after all, it's a $100,000,000+ movie) that however just never came. The most exciting and entertaining moments in this movie are the training sequences, that all occur at the start of the movie...not exactly how things should be- and build up like. Not even ED-209 was able to spice up things in this one.
You also really don't need any fancy looking CGI for all of your action sequences, in order to make them fun and good to watch and to become a good science- fiction flick. I definitely would have preferred it if the movie had used some more practical effects at times. Nothing engaging about watching a bunch of CGI characters having a go at each other. Having said that, the special effects are of course never anything terrible, just pointless at times. Give me stop-motion ED-209 over CG ED-209 any day! Something far more threatening and realistic as well about something that looks like you can actually touch and smell it. This never is the case for CGI, no matter how realistic and impressive it looks.
And I never thought I would say this about a Samuel L. Jackson character but he really annoyed me. Ironically it's the only character who feels like he belongs in Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop universe and no doubt was put in to tie this movie in with the earlier RoboCop movie version. The movie makes several more references and nods to the 1987 classic, to please the fans of the earlier movies but it works out as mostly distracting however.
It's of course still a better movie than just the average genre attempt, which is all mostly due to its high budget and directing style by José Padilha. You just can't blame him for the lacking story and studio interference, that turned this movie into nothing but a generic, big budget, blockbuster that's devoid of any form of depth, emotions, true creativity and balls (yes, I said balls), unlike the 1987 version. I have to say that after watching this movie, I'm really not looking forward to any more RoboCop outings. Guess we'll have to wait another 25 years for the next, hopeful better and more successful, reboot.