Review: New ‘RoboCop’ is unlike the original, and still inferior

Joel Kinnaman is pretty freaked out that he's taking over Peter Weller's role in the redo of "RoboCop." Credit: Columbia Pictures
Joel Kinnaman is pretty freaked out that he’s taking over Peter Weller’s role in the redo of “RoboCop.”
Credit: Columbia Pictures

‘RoboCop’
Director: Jose Padilha
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

With remakes, there typically come those times when the new film has to do its own version of the first picture’s big set pieces and moments. Whether it flubs them or not, the viewer is invariably forced to recall the previous entity, perhaps even fondly. The 1987 Paul Verhoeven original “RoboCop” is practically perfect, so it wouldn’t behoove the new redo to resemble it at all. For whatever it’s worth, it almost doesn’t. It knows it can’t beat the original, so it creates an entirely original story that’s also about android cop running amok in a dystopian (or dystopian-er) Detroit under the sway of an evil corporation.

The differences can be huge. Verhoeven’s hard-R rating (after several rounds of trimming) has been replaced with a hard-cut PG-13. Doomed officer Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) isn’t a mysterious newbie given a robotic personality to match his new body. He remains very much cognizant and present, as all that’s left of him — after a bomb explosion, not an epic gun-down by creeps — is a head, lungs and his right hand. (The revelation of how little remains of him is its creepiest image, albeit reminiscent of Pierce Brosnan’s less poetic fate in “Mars Attacks!”)

This time, too, the military are involved, as the main plot turns on a Halliburton-esque company (run by an only semi-gleeful Michael Keaton) trying to sneak entirely robotic drones into America’s crime-ridden streets, past the obstructions of pesky liberals.

It’s here that you can feel free to compare the two movies, and note how badly and inelegantly this one handles its political edge. The original hated companies, too — and advertising, and American excess, and just about everything — but it was much more efficient, witty and sly. One of its better jokes is how the real bad guys — namely the “old man” (Dan O’Herlihy) who runs it — is never identified by any characters as such. A pawn villain is triumphantly felled at the end, while the company gets to continue its milking of a bankrupt city for profit.

Here, it’s just kneejerk anti-corporatism and jokes about Fox News, as if no one had ever thought of that before. Brazilian director Jose Padhilla is a serious guy who makes films about Rio’s dangerous favelas; he’s too outraged to make the satire funny. It’s just leaden.

It’s a shame because, as belabored as the film can be about filing its points, this “RoboCop” does have one fairly intriguing “RoboCop” fan fiction idea: What if Murphy were self-aware? He’s mostly machine in the Verhoeven, but here the scientists — led by Gary Oldman, in “Batman” decent mode — have to grapple with how to get the best results out of a flesh and blood guy, one who greets the news of his strange salvation by asking for euthanasia.

It eventually finds ways to avoid dealing with this — some stupid, one or two actually clever — but for awhile it seems the new “RoboCop” might be more man than remake machine itself. And then comes clangy, nonsensical action and one seriously stupid ending, and sure enough one longs to rewatch a henchman getting submerged in acid.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.

National

Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…

National

LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.

Local

Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…

Movies

Newsflash: Corey Stoll is still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…

Movies

If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…

Arts

Art in Chelsea: Don't miss these 3 galleries

We selected three sure bets for seeing cool art in the galleries of Chelsea.

Music

Robin Thicke blurs lines further with new 'Blurred…

"The reality is," said Robin Thicke about "Blurred Lines" in a court deposition, "Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song."

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

NFL

3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.

NFL

Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…

Travel

World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.

Education

The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…

Parenting

Tech execs tend to limit their kids' screen…

You probably got your iPad before Bill Gates's kids did.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing: Daybreaker returns, Ray Rice jersey trade, Sweet…

  Now that Ray Rice is no longer with the Baltimore Ravens — or any other NFL team — after video footage surfaced showing him…