‘RoboCop’ is a triumph and—dare we say it?—even better than the original


Let’s just get this out of the way first. RoboCop is not only as good as the 1987 original, in my opinion it’s even better.

Now that’s saying a lot coming from me because Paul Verhoeven used to be one of my favorite action filmmakers back in the day when I had an unabashed, exuberant love of cinematic violence that nearly rivaled Quentin Tarantino’s. Verhoeven certainly made three of my favorite sci-fi/action films of the 80s-90s: RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. The first two, in particular, effectively blended rousing action with social satire and commentary as only Verhoeven could while pushing the boundaries of R-rated films at the time .

As much as I love the original (and I really love it), particularly in the way it somehow pulls off balancing satire, delirious violence and a touch of warmth, one area that I always felt it fell ever so short in was in further exploring Officer Murphy’s human side. The first movie touched upon it, and even opened up some enticing romantic possibilities with Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen), but the sequels never followed through on any of these potentials and the franchise quickly devolved into B-movie camp.

Instead of adopting the same satirical angle as its progenitor, the new RoboCop takes the opposite approach in that—excepting a few tongue-in-cheek moments—it is completely sincere. It also delves deeper into the aforementioned human element. And it is a better movie for it.

First of all, the script (intelligently handled by Joshua Zetumer) does a fine job of updating the basic premise and making it more pertinent for our time. Next, unlike a lot of action blockbusters that simply use the plot as an excuse to rush into the action, RoboCop takes its time setting up its world, particularly in introducing us to all its characters and getting us to care about them. I love it when movies do this because it means, of course, that when the action does happen, it is all the more exhilarating because we are now emotionally invested in the outcome.

Unlike the original, this reboot also touches upon some of the philosophical questions that a modern science fiction work dealing with cybernetics and artificial intelligence seeking to be semi- or quasi-realistic simply cannot avoid: questions of consciousness, choice and free will, and the existence or non-existence of a human soul. There isn’t anything here that hasn’t already been explored by similarly themed works (Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, etc.) and it doesn’t go too deeply into them, perhaps wisely. Nevertheless, they are handled deftly and they could potentially be taken up further by sequels.

Speaking of sequels, if they can at least equal or even surpass the quality of this one, then this could become a series that approaches the standards set by The Dark Knight trilogy in terms of intelligent, serious handling of science fiction and fantasy material. In fact, I think the filmmakers are consciously aiming for that, not just in terms of the matte black suit, the Gary Oldman casting or the Hans Zimmer-influenced score (which, you’ll be happy to hear, does pay homage to the original) but in the way it paints a portrait of dizzyingly rampant corruption and the odds the hero faces in purging it.

Most importantly—and why I ultimately love this film and had such a good time at it—is that it takes the high road not taken by the original in terms of exploring the impact that Murphy’s transformation has on his family and relationships, not just his cyborgization but the fact that he’s now essentially corporate property. I can’t give it away, of course, but there’s one moment that was so beautiful in its hushed restraint and humanity that I let out a little gasp in the theater. It was sublime.

Admittedly missing from this film is the soft charisma of actor Peter Weller who really did give the original RoboCop its soul. Joel Kinnaman just doesn’t have that kind of compelling presence but the other factors more than adequately make up for this, I feel. And anyway the end result is that the titular character becomes more of an Everyman figure, prompting the question: how would I feel if I were in that situation (well, assuming I could feel)?

A lot of people criticize the current surge of reboots, claiming it proves Hollywood’s lack of originality or that the industry’s creative well has run dry. To an extent this may be true, but I believe that when it comes to great stories and characters, there is always room for reimaginings and reinterpretations so long as the new versions try to bring something fresh to the table.  RoboCop does this and does it in spades.

About The Pop Mythologist

The Pop Mythologist
The Pop Mythologist is the founder and editor of PopMythology.com. He has been a staff writer for the nationally distributed magazine KoreAm , the online journal of pop culture criticism Pop Matters and has written freelance for various other publications and websites.


  1. no way its better than the original

  2. Carlos, to each his own. 🙂 You saw it?

  3. not just yet but its just not possible

  4. I agree. there is a cosmic law that states that no remake of a Paul Verhoeven movie could ever even come close to the original This must be a joke, like the onion or something.

  5. Whenever this happens I always see it visually as a world full of haters getting carpet bombed by reality.

  6. All wearing nostalgia goggles.

  7. im dreading the new starship troopers remake -_-

  8. Hopefully Rico will be Filipino this time around…

  9. well paolo Nostalgia Googles are quite comfy

  10. Whatever happened to “eww, the gay guy from Glee is Flash”?

  11. You havent seen him as Flash.

  12. fine “Barry Allan” sheesh geez smartass

  13. He was a perfect Barry Allen, just sayin

  14. All the other reveiws ive read were horrible. But everyones got different tastes.

  15. Yea I was watching the bootleg version online last night and bailed on halfway in. I just wasn’t enjoying it

  16. It was poor quality though. That kind of movie has to be scene on a nice tv or the big screen. Sometimes I like to screen movies before shelling out the money to go see them.

  17. I’ll be watching on IMAX over the weekend and I’ll come give my 2 cents 😛

  18. only things I liked were the satire and three actors (Keaten, oldman and jackson). better than recalls remake, but still meh

  19. Disagree with the review but everyone has their own opinion. I liked it but didn’t even come close to the original.

  20. Great review…. looking forward to seeing it over the weekend (y)

  21. Even better than the original? pffffft hahahahahahaha

  22. Wouldn’t say it’s better then the original but it’s certainly not bad. Just a different take and I enjoyed it more then I expected.

  23. Thems some bold words there pal

  24. i do not know have not seen the new one love the old ones

  25. Thanks Daniel. Will watch with an open mind. I trust your advice.

  26. In my opinion, one of the best points of the original was that it didn’t try to shoe-horn a love story in.

  27. Every time I see this post, I keep having to to remember it’s not related to Crysis. Lol

  28. Every time I see a picture of it I just keep seeing a generic cash in with no soul or substance

  29. Great review…. looking forward to seeing it over the weekend (y)

  30. The new film is far from awful and it does have a different take on the original. But the original is far far superior, a genuine classic and all this new film does is kind of piss on its heritage with the pg13 rating and lack of substance.

  31. I saw an interview with Gary Oldman yesterday and now I am curious about this movie.

  32. I was astonished by how much care went into most of it. I thought he first two acts are actually really good. The final act seemed rushed and several plot points went unanswered. There are little nitpicky points (some cartoonish CGI, guns that never run out of bullets, the bizarre choice of music, etc.), but overall, it certainly exceeded my expectations. The original is one of my favorite movies of all time, but this one doesn’t damage the original at all. I’ll still watch the one from the 80’s about once a year, just like I usually do, and I don’t think I’ll watch this one again, but I didn’t leave the theater angry. This remake is it’s own thing and it takes a lot of time with the story to get things moving. I was pleasantly surprised.

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Hey, Justin!
      Yeah, I do agree with some of those quibbles: ammo that never runs out (lol), etc.
      And I also agree that the final act felt a bit rushed. I wouldn’t have minded a longer movie at all and that’s the only slight bit that was a wee bit disappointing.
      But, still, on the whole, and as much as I like the original as I’ve mentioned, I still like this one better if even for just one single scene that made all the difference for me.
      Thanks for your comment!

  33. Gary Oldman was very good in it. As usual.

  34. Siriusly? Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

  35. My husband convinced me to watch the original for Valentines Day (it was perfect for our bloody movie tradition!) and now I’m curious about this reboot…but I know he never wants to see it.

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