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First Reviews of ‘RoboCop’ Find Surprising Depth in Previously Unwanted Remake

First Reviews of 'RoboCop' Find Surprising Depth in Previously Unwanted Remake

Critics sharpened their knives as the Jose Padilha-helmed remake of Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop approached, expecting an unwanted intrusion on the original’s turf. But some of them, at least, are surprisingly high on the film, which puts Joel Kinnaman in the suit once occupied by Peter Weller. Seems Padilha, whose Elite Squad movies have been attacked for their fascist leanings and celebrated as subversive critiques of same, was a good fit to follow in Verhoeven’s footsteps, packing plenty of social commentary in along with the movie’s explosions. Here’s what the first wave of reviews has to say.

Guy Lodge, Variety

Shifting the prime target of its satire from corporate greed to post-9/11 jingoism, this well-cast, smarter-than-expected remake repairs much of the damage done to the iron-fisted lawman’s reputation by meat-headed sequels and spinoffs; it’s a less playful enterprise than the original, but meets the era’s darker demands for action reboots with machine-tooled efficiency and a hint of soul. 

Oliver Lyttelton, the Playlist

It’s far from an absolute triumph, sure, but it’s significantly smarter and sharper than you’d give it credit for going in, with a (mostly) committed cast (mostly) having some fun with it, and an admirable commitment to character and ideas, over and above action and effects. It might not be worth mentioning in the same breath as Verhoeven’s original, but it’s at least in the same circulatory system.

Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter

It’s as if someone took an original Macintosh and packed if full of the very latest chips and graphics cards — all very clever but just a tiny bit silly. That said, in some ways, the thoughtful, dense script marks an improvement on the original, and the cast is certainly tonier this time around. What’s missing is the original’s evil wit, amoral misanthropy and subversive slipperiness.

Richard Jordan, Total Film

[W]hile this version does feel just a teensy bit toned down — with no melting men or machine-gun-mangled bodies in sight — Padilha at least captures the action with a frenetic, handheld ferocity reminiscent of his Elite Squad movies, as his streamlined enforcer guns his way through a series of intense set-piece shootouts.

Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek

Padilha displays much of the remarkable talent he brought to his Elite Squad films — and explores similar themes in RoboCop — but he’s let down in part by a script that never quite clicks into gear. Where Verhoeven’s film strode purposefully from Murphy’s brutal murder to his resurrection and subsequent vengeance, the new iteration — written by Joshua Zetumer — loses its way somewhere in the middle, fumbling with an unremarkable plot involving a gunrunner and several corrupt cops.

Chris Tilly, IGN

The real problem with this remake is its lack of big, brass, robo-balls…. Indeed thanks to the remake having a more family-friendly certificate, the action often cuts away when violence strikes, leaving you unsure whether Robocop has killed, maimed, or just stunned.

Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy

Nobody should have an issue with the screenwriters for trying to remodel the script, but you can change the lyrics without losing the music or the structure. What made the 1987 movie incarnation of RoboCop so effective has been replaced by a cold wave of metallic mediocrity that showcases the advancement of effects while exposing its storytelling shortcomings.

Chris Hewitt, Empire

[O]ut goes the scalpel-sharp satire, in comes hammer-heavy swipes at US foreign policy…. Out goes the gut-busting violence, replaced by undercooked, over-CGed action scenes…. No heart, no balls, no funny bone.

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Admirable re-boot. Several nods to Verhoven's original and several "forced" nods as well. I agree with several critics who felt that several themes were not fully explored or exploited, particularly the ideas surrounding domestic security. They were alluded to, but never straight out addressed. Here's hoping a director's cut is less sanitzed. The film didn't need the ultra violence that the original had, since this one had more emotion that its predecessor. Unfortunately despite the brilliant performances by Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan, the lack of onscreen chemistry between Cornish and Kinnaman left things a bit flat. Jackie Earl Haley played a great villan against Robocop, but his ultimate resolution reminded me of how Bane's death in TDNR was rather anti-climactic. Shifting the focus was fine for me, but as I already noted, the heavier, meatier themes were glossed over almost unacknowledged.

As a 21st century reboot, it is typical, all gloss, limited substance. Comparatively speaking I preferred the Lego Movie over Robocop. However, I am hopeful a fearless director's cut is in the works that addresses the issues raised in this film, perhaps on home video release….

Steve D

Isn't a PG-13 reboot of Robo-Cop about as sensible as a PG-13 reboot of Deep Throat?


Though I am a true fan of the original Robocop, which never grows old, I will watch the update simply for the fact that Colin Farrell (Fright Night, Total Recall) is not starring.


"Shifting the prime target of its satire from corporate greed…" Why shift the target? Corporate Greed is at an all-time high. Old Detroit is more of a fortress now than it was portrayed as in the original movie. This "remake" sounds more like a dumbing-down of ideas that are too big for us to comprehend now. And, of course, one of the most entertaining aspects of the film was the over-the-top violence. We can't even stomach that anymore. Next time, remake an episode of Dawson's Creek, don't insult the memory of a great film with this kind of crap.


The Digital Spy review is by Ben Rawson-Jones, not Simon Reynolds (the music writer?)

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