This article originally appeared in Volume XX, Issue IX of the University Observer
Competently average and lacking in soul, a remake of questionable necessity
It’s extremely difficult to watch RoboCop, the latest classic action film to get the remake treatment, without having preconceived notions of what it should and shouldn’t be, given how beloved and ingrained the seemingly intrinsic qualities of the original are.
Generally speaking, a good remake needs to carve out its own identity by making the right changes so as to justify its existence while at the same time retaining the essential aspects that made the predecessor a success in the first place.
RoboCop doesn’t succeed in either criterion. Yes, it has a half man half robot enforcer of the law seeking revenge and yes there’s a morally grey mega corporation pulling the strings. Even the faux news broadcast segments are present.
Yet despite an effort to explore the existential and cultural issues such subject matter naturally brings with it, and in a more direct and less nuanced manner, it’s still a very restrained and toned down affair, lacking in bite. It’s all a little hollow, resulting in a film that seems to have been made on autopilot.
It certainly isn’t a trainwreck by any means. Attempts at satire are grounded in appropriately updated dressings, with America’s millennial occupation in the Middle East and unmanned warfare used as clever ways to give narrative impetus.
Samuel L. Jackson sufficiently chews his Fox News inspired infographic surrounding in scenes that serve to provide the film’s humor and commentary on modern living. On the whole though, they ring somewhat false, and are never quite as effective as their counterparts in Verhoven’s version.
Joel Kinnaman, best known as the shining beacon of excellence in AMC’s otherwise woefully uneven The Killing, is a good match for the role, bringing to it his own style, with a subtle swagger and the potential for a depth of emotionality.
It’s a shame then that Kinnaman and the rest of the generally solid cast don’t have more to work with.While the film does attempt to mix things up with a different implementation of Alex Murphy’s identity and family, it’s simply too generic in idea and execution to work well.
Ultimately, RoboCop doesn’t strive for enough newness, which would be fine were it not for the fact that what it does aim for has been done so much better already. Its rethreads are derivative, dull, and forgettable, in stark contrast to the 1987 original. Consequently, it finds itself in something of a no man’s land, unable to make a satisfactory argument for its existence beyond reasons superficial.
In a Nutshell: Competently average and lacking in soul, a remake of questionable necessity.