Not only did the new version of “RoboCop” get taken down by little plastic LEGOs, it couldn’t even beat a remake of “About Last Night.” That’s gotta hurt.
Things aren’t going to get any better for the José Padilha-helmed remake because, as promised last week, I’m going to play comparison/contrast with the 1987 Paul Verhoeven original. For the sake of simplicity, I will henceforth refer to the original as Robo1 and the remake as Robo2 (not to be confused with RoboCop 2, which was pretty bad).
Spoiler warning, if you need one. If you haven’t seen Robo1 by now I have no sympathy.
While it’s true Peter Weller did not win an Academy Award for his work in Robo1, odds are Joel Kinnaman won’t either. Both actors did decent with the role but Weller was better at being robotic. But then, Robo1 didn’t know he wasn’t a robot until later in the film, whereas Robo2 always knew he was Murphy. Still, I gotta side with Weller.
Easy. Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) helps Murphy come to his senses. I don’t recall Robo2’s partner doing anything of note.
This is really a no-contest. While I love Michael Keaton, his OmniCorp CEO role had no bite. He didn’t even seem villainous, just sleazy. Gary Oldman couldn’t make up his mind which side he was on. Jackie Earle Haley was probably the best, but even he’s a pale imitation compared to the trio of evil that made up the OCP hierarchy.
Robo1 had the wonderfully opportunistic Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), the young executive who gets his just desserts when he crosses OCP Senior President Dick Jones (Ronny Cox). This was, I believe, Ronny Cox’s first turn at playing the bad guy and he was so good. And my favorite Robo1 villain: Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). When I first moved to St. Charles there was a car dealer named Dick Jones and every time one of his commercials came on TV all I could think of was Boddicker yelling at RoboCop. DICK JONES! I WORK FOR DICK JONES!
Honorable mention to Emil Antonowsky (Paul McCrane) as one of Boddicker’s goons who crashes into a vat of toxic waste and is horribly mutated — then run over!
Murphy’s wife and child are only seen in flashback in the original but play an important role in the remake. I prefer them being this ephemeral thing that’s always out of Murphy’s reach.
One of the unique aspects of Robo1 was the use of news reports and commercials to break up the story. That’s been replaced in Robo2 by Samuel L. Jackson playing a smarmy news show host. While I love Sam Jackson, the first film did it better.
The Special Effects
Finally, I can give props to Robo2. Obviously the visual effects of a 1987 film can’t hold up to today’s standards. The opening sequence with the robot soldiers and the RoboCop/ED 209 fights were pretty nifty. However, there’s something charming about the old ED 209s and how out of place they looked in every scene. Still, gotta give the edge here to Robo2.
Robo2’s motorcycle is way cooler than Robo1’s police car.
Did Robo2 have anything to compare to “I’ll buy that for a dollar!” I think not.
I can go on and on about how much smarter the script of Robo1 is.
* In the original, RoboCop shuts down when he tries to arrest Jones because Jones put a directive in his programming preventing him from arresting OCP executives. This pays off beautifully in the end. In the new version, RoboCop can be shut down if his opponent is wearing a bracelet with a red ball on it.
* Robo1 earns public support through a series of vignettes showing him stopping crimes. Robo2 arrests a criminal who just happens to be attending a public relations event in front of police headquarters.
* Robo1 enters a drug factory and systematically shoots every thug firing on him, never wasting a shot because, you know, he’s a cyborg and has a targeting computer inside him. Robo2 shows no such finesse in a similar situation.
* In Robo1, the ED 209 is heavily armored and equipped but it can’t figure out stairs.