Robocop (2014) <3 Robocop (1987)

Read any of the critical reviews of the new Robocop movie, and the complains will mostly boil down to one of three angles -

1. This is not how I would have done it.
2. It's not how I wanted them to do it.
3. All sequels suck.

All three are valid reasons for not liking a film. However, none of them is a reflection on the quality of the film, just as the hatred for the new Robocop stems more from our inherent distaste for "reboots" than any actual critique of the film itself.

The new Robocop film is not an attempt to tell a new version of the same story, it's actually a pretty different story from the original. But it does understand its cinematic DNA, and, unlike other remakes, actually makes an attempt to honor that ancestry while still trying to be something different.

In short, the new Robocop is just as much a popcorn action flick as the original and equally worth your time.

A few light spoilers ahead, but nothing you couldn't get from the trailers.

I'm not going to convince you that the new Robocop is a masterpiece. It has its flaws. However, if you were expecting perfection then you clearly have a poor memory of the bad acting, repetitive sets, and cheesy effects of the original.

I am, however, going to explain why Robocop (2014) is not the cinematic sin that some detractors are attempting to make it out to be.

Think back to the remake of Clash of the Titans. Remember the Bubo scene? Someone picks up Bubo from a box, someone else makes a snide remark about it, they throw it back in the box. If you read any of the interviews, Sam Worthington was a total dickbag about Bubo. He's quoted in another interview as saying, "it's a simple way of saying, 'This isn't the Clash of the Titans that you're used to.' We're revving it up a bit. Bubo isn't necessarily liked."

Bubo was, let's be honest, a goofy slapstick element in an otherwise actiony fantasy film, so his exclusion from the remake wasn't that big of a deal. But Worthington's comments spoke to an actual hatred for the original film that left fans of the original scratching their heads. Why make such an effort to criticize and denigrate a film whose fan base and popularity are the reason you're doing a remake? Why set up your pre-built audience to hate your film before they ever see it?

The remake of Clash really wasn't all that bad, but the antagonism of fans going into the film's release made it all the easier for them to hate it for its other flaws.

Not so with Robocop. This film understands its audience and why the original film had appeal. No, they're didn't remake the original note for note, that'd be stupid, but they also didn't feel a need to tear down the original in order to make the remake seem more "edgy".

In fact, I'm going to list 5 points where the remake gave respectful nods to the original, even while doing something completely different.

1. "Dead or alive, you're coming with me"

The remake throws in quite a few of the best quotes from the original, including "I'd buy that for a dollar". The "dead or alive" quote is clumsily thrown in, but at least it was there.

On the subject of quoting the original - some folks have complained about the "red asset" designation in the new movie. Those folks have clearly forgotten about the 4th directive.

2. The Lack of Violence

Much has been made about the remake's PG-13 rating. I personally think it was a studio mistake. On the other hand, that mistake was directly responsible for one of the most subtle references in the film.

In the original, Robocop gets into a shoot-em-up in a warehouse that has him firing with ballet flair in all directions, blowing holes through bad guys that he didn't even turn his head to look at. It's bloody, and typified the shooty violence the original became known for. The sequel has an almost identical scene in which Robocop marches through a warehouse and dances his way through taking out the bad guys by the score. Except that in the sequel, the bad guys are all robots. And the gun Robocop is using is a stun gun. It's the original's iconic graphic violence scene with none of the violence.

And lets talk about that stun gun. It gets a big introduction when we learn that Robocop's thighs are also gun holders (his kinetic gun gets no such introduction). It also lives in the right thigh, directly under that stupid right hand, which, along with Robocop's brain, face, and lungs, is all that's left of his meat body. The hand is dumb, and as a visual metaphor it is, well, heavy handed. When Robocop is being all humany and compassionate, he shoots people with his human right hand, which is holding a stun gun. When he gets all combaty and non-humany, he shoots real bullets with the unnamed sub-machine gun in his robotic left hand. As I said, heavy-handed. But it's a clear acknowledgment of the original's shoot-first-then-don't-ask-questions-at-all 80s cowboyism.

3. The Weller Walk

In the original Robocop, Peter Weller had trouble making his stride believable while wearing the massive rubber suit that made up the Robocop costume. A world-renown physical acting expert had to be called in to save the day. That walk became as iconic as Robocop's visor, a part of the lore.

Which is why I almost cheered when it showed up (subtly) in the remake.

When Robocop is feeling all human and free-willish, he walks casually, like a person. But when he's operating on programming, ie. when his humanity is being suppressed, he adopts the Weller walk. As I said, it's very subtle, but it's wonderful to see.

4. The Silver Armor is Robocop

When Robocop first shows up in the remake as Robocop, he's dressed in an updated version of the silver armor from the original. And when I say "updated", I mean it's just a better effect. The design is almost identical. That's when Robocop is still a person and Omnicorp still wants him to be a person. But once they start treating him as a product, they strip out his humanity and start working on designs that are "more tactical", ie. the "new" Robocop of the reboot.

At the end of the movie, you learn that the silver, iconic Robocop armor was the real Robocop all along, but only the human Robocop with the heart of a hero was worthy of wearing it. It's subtle, sentimental, and gave fans of the original a one-armed, meat-hand bro hug.

5. ED-209

I'm a total fanboy of the original ED-209 design, the one that looked like a giant Zoom H2 with legs; I think it's exactly how a giant, out of control war robot should look. The new version is a little too cylon raider for me. That said, there's a scene in the remake that could only have been made by people who know and respect the original.

The EDs show up all over the new film. They're everywhere. But they don't really do anything but walk around looking menacing until the film's climax. In the ending sequence, Robocop pulls up to Omnicorp headquarters and has a brief, funny chat with the security guards there while, in the background, a handful of EDs are walking around the building's lobby. If you look carefully, one of the ED-209s is walking down a flight of stairs.

And if that's not proof that the people behind the remake know and love the original, I don't know what is.

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