Robocop 2014 stands above the majority of cookie-cutter action movies which are churned out by Hollywood.
It's been deeply flawed though, by the heavy hand of Sony. The story has concessions to be an entertainment movie, the most obvious one is to be a PG-13 movie, which cuts down one of the pillars of the original, which is no-holds-barred explicit violence.
Crude violence is not gratuitous in the original narrative because it serves to paint the bleak picture of the failure of the state to keep an orderly society. It is an integral part of the original narrative.
But Sony just HAS to sell toys, so that's cut off, and the movie is flawed with other problems in the argument and the story development, climax and epilogue. Shame on you, Sony, and your heavy hand.
It has redeeming qualities though. The filmography is very well executed. It draws in a visual language of FPS games in action scenes which will tune in with the new generations.
There is a rather large amount of screen time dedicated to character development - although that development is sometimes stinted by the hand Sony, not going as far as it could. Still, it goes above and beyond most action movies, and is worth noting.
As far as the director is allowed to go in social commentary, it is commendable that he manages to touch several very up-to-date issues which are a very real concern to world politics in general. In the context of Hollywood blockbusters, the message contained in the movie is sound. In the context of the Robocop legacy (inevitable comparison) though, it is too timid and shy. It rips off the bandages like a nurse in PMT which just lost her boyfriend for the neighborhood hottie, but does not have the guts to tuck the finger inside the wound and push the maggots out, like the original does.
So given the factors that Sony stinted the story, because she IS Novak after all, that bad remakes removes desire from subsequent remakes, and that the American audience is not that much used and comfortable with such a candid view to its own plagues, the result is a domestic flop, with overseas moderate success.
The fact that opinions are divided on the movie is telling that it is worth noting though. A movie with unanimous average reviews is very different from a movie with very good and very bad reviews.
I am giving it 3 stars because it has so much wasted potential, but I think it's almost impossible to have anything better, given that the franchise is in the hands of Sony.
My hope lies now in seeing in the future a 'director's cut' with a PG-17 or M rating, like it should have had from the beginning, giving the director more leeway in the story than it was allowed to him in this initial release.
Given the box office flop though, I think it's very unlikely to have a Drirector's Cut anytime soon.
HERETOFORE SPOILERS ABOUND:
With the spoiler tag behind me, now I can talk about what bothered me most.
The movie forces characters in 2D good-vs-evil characters too hard, without enough justification.
First Beef: Mattox, the military guy who programmed the EM208 models (and presumably ED-209 too). He is too setereotypically boisterous and arrogant, with too little redeeming qualities, pushing him into the evil-nemesis-bound-to-be-killed-at-the-end corner in a few shots.
Also: he programmed the AI? Alone? Where is his programming team etc.? While it's OK to have a muscular ner sometimes, he is a typical grunt/sidekick for the 'covert villain' that is Sellars, to whom I will spare my punches for a later date.
Also: taser vengeance between him and Murphy was tacky. I sense Sony fillers in here.
Second Beef: The fact that the original Robocop had his family's memories erased and the he slowly begins to recreate/rediscover his identity is a powerful motif. It works wonderfully in the original movie, and we feel his pain as he goes back to his abandoned house in the original, and recovers small, scattered parts of what he used to be, before having a fit of anger while trying to deal with it.
The introduction of a family and the implications on how he is/is not a product are squandered though. His wife and kid are cardboard cuts, so much bidimensional they are. Wife is a bad cast, she never convinces the audience of her suffering. Boy similarly has no opportunity to show his grief, or perhaps naive detachment - what if he found it cool to have a robot dad? He could just be an 8-year old and just not having enough emotional baggage to understand the full personal implications of losing your organic body, even if it is to get a kickass-robot one.
The wife complaining to the media has little consequence to the story. If she was better cast, she could have had a more prominent, non-action, whistleblowery position with more impact.
Third beef: That should have come before really. A CAR EXPLOSION. It tears away one arm and one leg and burns 80% of his body. But... an explosion should expand outwards and upwards! His body should be blown to smithereens, especially his head should be severed/gibbed, given the nature of the explosion.
And... No facial scars. STILL HAS HIS EYEBROWS HAIR even though he has been through an explosion which burned 80% of his body.
Yeah children must like him, must sell action figures. Eyebrow hair, no facial scars.
Maybe, just maybe, he could have like dropped his keys or phone while he was moving to close the door, so that the door acted as a shield to his face - partially. But that would be enough just to have his head to be severed out, not to save him from burns of the rapid energy release of an explosive device, which would engulf him, door or no door.
That is a moment which could have made use of a bullet-time, MAYBE.
Redeeming factor: the explosion was a nice, unglorious depiction, of an actual explosion, with his body lumping at the house stairs.
The commercialy-driven concessions made to the damage to Murphy's body are regrettable though. The eyebrow-less, stretched skin of the original are superior.
Fourth beef: ED-209 not going rogue on innocent americans or police force. Should have payed service to the original here, not just blowing up a middle eastern holding a knife in the beginning of the movie.
Fifth beef: The wife is blondie, and the corrupt police Chief Karen Dean is afican-american. We alreay have two other bad guys, with her three, which are non-white. And ALL higher-ups which are non-white are bad. Only his partner is a 'good' black guy.
Maybe if his wife was afro-american and the comissary white, it could be a better story.
Redeeming factor: the 'at least now you are the right color' joke seemed to be fit to me.
Sixth beef: Final face-off at the top of the tower.
Sellars pulls an all-out BAD GUY SPEECH at the end? SERIOUSLY?
Someone should have given him a red lightsaber and black cape, or some white paint and a green wig (and purple tuxedo). And borrow Christian Bale's sore throat voice.
That was the most cringe-inducing moment. Threaten Murphy's family at THAT moment? For what purpose? It was completely unnecessary, as was his death.
That polarization of the character only serves to paint him as an all-out bad guy, to make the movie more 'upbeat' - bad guy gets punished in the end, is dead, game over, end of story. Shame on Sony.
How Murphy mysteriously is able to override the RED ASSET directive is never made clear. It's just spooky magic, to the detriment of the story, a big WTF moment.
The movie could have had a darker ending, with Sellars never getting out of the 'vilalin closet', Murphy getting in fact shut down at the helipad, and later his wife whistleblowing the RED ASSET as a military directive which was intentionally introduced in Robocop's programming in violation of police protocol and the law, since Murphy was unable to make his arrest as he should be able to as a cop.
OCP would cut down the funding to the Robocop program, but be barred from shutting down life support for Murphy, as that would be murder.
She should keep fighting along with Dr. Norton to force OCP to live up to the contract they had with her and completely rebuild Robocop, and to have free access to her husband, as Sellars tries to buy his way to freedom or 'house arrest' in a very comfortable penthouse, which would amount to practically nothing, as he would keep doing business as usual.
It would be bleaker, but open-ended, paving the way for a sequel.
Instead, what we got is a shitty 'villain dies in the end' superhero movie. Granted, the bad guy dies in the end of the original too, but in a more grandiose way. If Sony just let the movie go harsher in real-life parallelisms, money should have helped the bad guy get away.