The "RoboCop" Remake: Smash or Trash?

2014 Teaser poster. Wait, who is this guy again?
2014 Teaser poster. Wait, who is this guy again? | Source

"Your move... Creep."

I was seventeen years old when Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop first hit theaters in 1987, and it completely blew my mind. The now-classic film - starring Peter Weller as a Detroit police officer gunned down in the line of duty, then resurrected as an indestructlble cyborg by an unscrupulous corporation - had everything I loved (and still love) about movies all rolled up into one flick. RoboCop was a dark, dystopian science-fiction flick packed to the gills with jaw dropping violence, black-as-coal comedy, and plenty of adrenaline pounding action. Watching RoboCop was like seeing a really dark, really kick-ass comic book come to life. I left the theater that night shouting the film's praises to anyone who would listen, and it's been my favorite movie ever since. I have lost count of how many times I've seen RoboCop over the past quarter century. Let's just say I have reached the point where I can now recite most of the dialogue along with the actors. I never get tired of it!!

Since RoboCop was a critical and box office hit, it was a no-brainer that there would be sequels. 1990s RoboCop 2 (written by comic book legend Frank Miller of "Daredevil" and "The Dark Knight" fame) upheld the high-carnage factor set by the original, but it lost most of its wink-wink sense of satire. Original "Robo" Peter Weller left the series after the second installment, so Robert John Burke donned the Robo-Suit for 1993's RoboCop 3. By the third film, the violence was noticeably watered down (RC3 was rated PG-13, while the first two films had both been rated "R") in the hopes of turning the cyborg lawman into a kid-friendly superhero that could be spun off into TV cartoons, action figures and other merchandise. However, RC3's disastrous box office performance quickly scuttled those ideas. Attempts to move the franchise off the silver screen and onto television were similarly unsuccessful. A 1994 syndicated TV series starring Richard Eden as "the future of law enforcement" was cancelled after one season, and a "mini-series" consisting of four made-for-TV movies (2001's RoboCop: Prime Directives, starring Page Fletcher in the title role) didn't garner much love from fans, either. By the early '00s, the franchise was on hiatus.

Original 1987 Trailer:

The Original...and Still the Best!! (1987)
The Original...and Still the Best!! (1987) | Source

Rumblings of a Robo-Resurrection

As Remake Mania swept through Hollywood in the early 2000s, every major studio began strip-mining their back catalogs looking for properties that could be dusted off, re-booted and re-packaged for a new generation of moviegoers. Therefore, it was inevitable that someone would start looking at RoboCop sooner or later. The first rumblings of a possible new RoboCop film began making the rounds in 2005, with Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler) supposedly interested in directing. Originally envisioned for a 2010 release, the project never materialized and Aronofsky eventually moved on to other things. RoboCop languished for several more years while MGM (the studio which held the rights to the franchise) went through bankruptcy proceedings and became part of Sony Pictures. By 2011, the green light for RoboCop was "on" again and it was announced that Brazilian director Jose Padilha would helm the new film, which was described as a "reboot" that would start the Robo-Saga over from scratch rather than a new sequel. Padilha had directed several action movies that were box office hits in his native country (2007's Elite Squad and its sequel, 2010's Elite Squad: The Enemy Within) but the new RoboCop would be his debut Hollywood film. The film's budget was rumored to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 million, which is more than the cost of all three of the previous theatrical films combined!!

Jose Padilha's "Elite Squad"

First "RoboCop" teaser poster. Note the original release date of "Summer 2013."
First "RoboCop" teaser poster. Note the original release date of "Summer 2013." | Source

New Cast...

Despite initial rumors that MGM/Sony was interested in pursuing an "A" list star like Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, or Keanu Reeves, the role of Officer Alex Murphy/RoboCop was eventually given to Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman, who is best known to American audiences from the AMC television series The Killing. In addition to Kinnaman, the cast includes familiar faces such as Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak, a "Detroit media magnate;" Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton, the scientist who heads the RoboCop project; and Michael Keaton as Raymond Sellars, the villainous CEO of OmniCorp, the corporation that creates the cyborg lawman. A release date of Summer 2013 was booked and things seemed to be rolling along nicely. However...

"There will be... trouble."

The majority of the new film was shot in Canada (though some scenes were supposedly filmed in Robo's actual "hometown" of Detroit) and the process apparently took its toll on director Padilha, who described RoboCop as "the worst experience of my life" due to near-constant interference from studio executives and numerous last minute changes and re-writes to the script. Padilha famously told his friend and fellow director Fernando Meirelles that "for every ten ideas I have, nine are cut," and said "This is hell here. The film will be good, but I have never suffered so much and I never want to do it again." Naturally, hearing such sentiments from the film's director didn't exactly fill fans of the franchise with confidence.

Things Get Worse...

When the first photos from the set of the new "RoboCop" hit the Internet in mid 2012, fans were not pleased with the new design of their hero, which didn't look very "robootic." In fact, he looked more like a plain ol' "Guy in a black armored suit," with many commenting on its similarities to the Batman suit in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" films. Further pics of RoboCop riding a futuristic looking motorcycle caused even more fanboy groaning; you can practically count on toy versions of the Robo-Cycle and Action Figure Playset hitting your local store to coincide with the film's release.


In late 2012, MGM/Sony announced that the new "RoboCop" was being pushed back from its original release date of Summer 2013 and would now hit theaters in February 2014. That didn't exactly translate into a vote of confidence in the film, since February is well known to be a "dumping ground" month where studios simply push out whatever films they have left laying around in their vaults, hoping to make a quick buck off of them before they start ramping up the hype for their big summer franchise flicks.

"RoboCop" (2014) Trailer:

Trailer Reaction...

The first sneak-peek trailer for "Robo" 2014 finally hit theaters (attached to Vin Diesel's new "Riddick" film) and the internet in September of 2013... and the initial reaction from the fan community was less than encouraging. A scene of RoboCop leaping off of a building and making a perfect "three point landing" on the ground made it look like the filmmakers were trying to cop a Marvel super-hero vibe. The trailer also appeared to hint that Robo's "origin" had had an overhaul as well. In this version Alex Murphy - now a Detroit detective rather than a patrolman - is the victim of a car bombing rather than a brutal gangland shooting. The biggest change appears to be that even after he becomes RoboCop, Murphy's still aware of who he is/was. One of the main themes in the original "RoboCop" was that Murphy's memories of his past life came back to him slowly over time, whereas the new trailer indicates that he still has all of his memories ("What kind of suit is this? What the hell did you do to me?) as soon as he's switched on. Of course, lots of CGI gun play and other fancy computer graphics are shown in the trailer, which ends up looking more like a commercial for a video game rather than a movie.

When I showed my ten year old the new "Robo" trailer (he's never seen the original film, but he knows that it's Dad's favorite movie ever), he shrugged and said "Ehh... It looks OK but they're totally ripping off Iron Man." Mind you, this is coming from a kid who is, for all intents and purposes, a member of the target demographic for the film!!

Crash and Burn

When the new RoboCop finally hit theaters in February of 2014, it was met with a pronounced indifference from critics and audiences alike. Some reviewers praised the special effects but felt that the "edge" of the Verhoeven original had been sanded away. In other words, Hollywood took an extremely cool, subversive concept and watered it down into yet another nothin' special shoot'em up/blow'em up action flick that could be merchandised and served up with a McDonald's Happy Meal.

"Robo '14" had a disappointing opening weekend at the box office, pulling in a mere $21.5 million for a third-place finish behind "The Lego Movie" and "About Last Night." I chose to skip the new "Robo" when it came to my local multiplex and it would appear that many other RoboCop fans followed my lead!!

The film was rushed to DVD and Blu-Ray only a few months later, which was no surprise given its anemic box office performance. I finally saw it when it hit video in June 2014 and in this Robo-Fan's estimation, the remake was...ehhh. It didn't suck, but it didn't blow me away either. It's certainly a nice looking film, but the characters are bland cardboard cut outs. The film could've definitely used a shot of the original's black humor, because the 2014 model takes itself way too seriously. I think I even preferred the much-maligned "RoboCop 3" over this remake, which is really sayin' something!!

More by this Author


Comments 29 comments

Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 3 years ago from Texas

Being that I am a huge sci-fi geek, Im more than positive that I will watch it. With the special effects that Hollywood comes up with, I think it will be a smash. Although I was disappointed with the remake of Judge Dread, I think this one will be good.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

I'll check it out too, Alphadogg... but as hard as I try to keep an open mind, I can't shake the feeling that this one is going to tank. I guess we'll find out next year.


Geekdom profile image

Geekdom 3 years ago

I have low hopes but am looking forward to seeing it. Fun fact I just learned while reading the imdb trivia for Dread. Alphadogg16 comment reminded me that Robocop was originally a Judge Dread script but was so edited and tampered with that it became Robocop.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

There are a lot of similarities between "Dredd" and "RoboCop," so that makes sense.


Mr Deltoid 1966 profile image

Mr Deltoid 1966 3 years ago from New Jersey

I want it to be good, (heck...I want all movies to be good) but I'm afraid it will just be pointless and uninspired. (at best) And above all else, when a studio chooses to release they're movie in Jan/Feb. Its like saying....We Give Up........come and see our movie or go ice fishing.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Sounds like you and I are on the same page where this flick is concerned, Mr. Deltoid.


Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 3 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

I want it to be good, too, but unfortunately it looks like a sanitized, massively CGI-ed version of the original. It is bad that a kid thinks they're ripping off Iron Man!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

"It is bad that a kid thinks they're ripping off Iron Man!"

... I laughed at first when my son said that but the more I thought about it I said "Y'know something... he's right." :)


Muttface profile image

Muttface 3 years ago from Portugal

Oh drool! Joel Kinnaman... And Gary Oldman is one of my all time favourite actors. I won't go to the cinema for it, but I'd definitely go it a go in our sitting room.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Yep, it has an interesting cast, but sadly the results don't appear very promising.


Crimsonfalcon 3 years ago

I remember watching Robocop when I was 8 on VHS it was amazing the 2nd and 3rd were okay. Now I honestly like how the new ED209s aren't these moronic robots running around with 20mm cannons killing people after they surrender.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Yeah, I kinda like the "new look" ED 209's myself (they look way more badass than the new RoboCop does, that's for sure!) but the old style "moron" ones from the original series were good comic relief.


Crimsonfalcon 3 years ago

The new ED209 can take an M1 tank down, AFTER getting hit! Although I do wonder what the new film will bring? The first edition robocop mocked 1980s excess but the only thing this century has to mock is liberals and politically correctness


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Oh yeah, the original "RoboCop" is a pretty vicious satire of the 1980s corporate climate, for sure.


bat115 profile image

bat115 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

If I do see this one on the big screen, it will be just to see Keaton. Other than that, I hate the direction they are going with this. That trailer looks like a tv series promo than something for the big screen. I'll more than likely wait for it to hit bluray and I borrow it from my friend. He is all excited for this one but I just can't do it.

Looks like they are doing everything that Verhoeven was parodying in the Original. That is one of my Top 10 fave movies of all time. I do like 2 but 3 and all the TV Series, I just could not get into.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated since the new "RoboCop" hits theaters today!!


Thief12 profile image

Thief12 2 years ago from Puerto Rico

Overall, I have no interest to check it out. That is, unless reviews end up being astonishingly good. A local critic said it was better than expected, which is good, but not enough to get me in a seat. I do think that the premise had grounds for improvement and update, but I'm such a fan of the original that I doubt a remake will equal it, let alone surpass it. We'll see.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Thief - the reviews I've read thus far have been surprisingly positive. Even the Onion's AV Club (i.e. elitist hipsters who usually hate EVERYTHING mainstream, especially remakes!) said it was better than they expected. So I'm intrigued, but not quite intrigued enough to buy a ticket. I'll still wait till its DVD release.

...and hey, if you want a laugh there's always The Asylum studio's low budget direct to video knockoff of RoboCop, "ANDROID COP," which just came out on DVD this past week. Check out the trailer on YouTube, it looks hilariously awesome!!

Thanks for stopping by!


Brian L. Marshall 2 years ago

Reminds me when it was announced that Dawn Of The Dead was to be remade. I swore I would never see it and was pissed that anyone would even consider remaking the (what I believe) Romero masterpiece. Fast forward 8 or so years, I finally gave in and watched it with no expectations. I was surprised how well Zack Snyder used the source material. The movie is actually really good. Is it as good as the original? Hell no! But then I don't believe that was Mr. Snyder's plan. He updated the movie 30 years and didn't touch the original's core message and feel. I think that with no expectations as to how it compares to the original (which I haven't seen), this Robocop movie can at least be a nice footnote to the original's legacy.


Thief12 profile image

Thief12 2 years ago from Puerto Rico

Remakes aren't inherently bad. We have great remakes like The Thing, The Fly, etc. and others that ended up being quite good, despite not surpassing the original (like the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead). Sure, the ratio of remakes vs. new films as of late has been too much, but like I said, if Robocop ends up receiving great reviews, I might check it out.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hey Thief...I agree with you, remakes arent always bad but its been my experience that the win/lose ratio on them leans heavily towards the "loss' column, haha.

...the 'Dawn of the Dead' remake that Brian mentioned above is definitely one of the better ones.

I normally don't let the remake craze bug me but since the original RoboCop is my all time favorite movie, seeing it go through the remake process is kinda like someone messing with my favorite toy, haha. I'm like "You're doing it all wrong! Put that down!" :)


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated with opening-weekend box office info....


Romeonetwork profile image

Romeonetwork 2 years ago from California

I LOVE YOUR HUB , I WAS A FAN OF ROBOCOP MOVIES WHEN I WAS KID , BUT THIS MOVIE IS NOT GOOD AS WE THOUGHT IT WAS GONNNA BE, BUT IT WASN'T THAT BAD , ANYWAY THE TRAILER FOR THE FIRST ROBOCOP YOU PUT IN THERE I LOVE IT, SOUNDTRACK FROM THE TERMINATOR 2 JUDGMENT DAY..


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated...


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 2 years ago

Wow, it seems like you and I had similar opinions on both the original and remake. Although I disagree with you about the violent parts of the original, as you can easily tell Robocop's story without the gore.

Heck, "Dark Knight" was a violent film too, but it showed a lot of the gore off camera to make it seem more violent than it actually is.

I don't know if you read my review on this film or not, but I did bring up one point why this remake kind of fails to live up to the original.

(Warning: Spoilers for those who haven't seen the remake)

Like when you watch the remake, they establish the fact that Omnicorp could easily wipe out Alex's personality and memories anytime they want. Heck, they can even shut him down too. Whereas the original, they couldn't do that to him, so it kind makes the whole struggle between Alex Murphy retaining his humanity all the less relevant. It's almost like the film itself when Gary Oldman's character talked about the illusion of free will. I guess in the remake they were trying to say that Alex Murphy's ability to retain his humanity is merely an illusion. It's an interesting concept, but I think the original captured Alex's struggle a lot better with it's approach.

Anyway, great job on this hub buddy.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Stevennix - Sure, you can tell RoboCop's story without the gore, but man, when I first saw that flick in a theater in 1987 at the age of 17, it made a definite impression because it was THE single most violent movie I had ever seen in my life at that time!! Haha... but amidst all the over the top violence and carnage, it still had a heart and a soul and that's what I think the ultra-slick remake totally missed.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 2 years ago

Speaking of R ratings. Did you hear the latest "Expendables 3" news? according to amc movie talk, they were saying it's been confirmed that expendables 3 is going to be rated pg 13 instead of having an r rating like the previous two. Apparently, Stallone was saying that he's been wanting the new film to reach a broader audience with the 3rd one, so i guess this is what he meant. What do you think?


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Meh, a PG13 just means that Sly won't be dropping any F-bombs. They'll still blow a whole lotta stuff up, I'm sure. Haha.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working