3 Reasons the Robocop Reboot Deserves to Fail

The new RoboCop is headed to theaters on Feb. 12. Let me tell you 3 reasons that film fans should hope this new film fails.

Jan 7, 2014 at 2:07PM

Prepare to be enraged, sci-fi fans of the 1980s -- the dreaded RoboCop reboot is headed to theaters on Feb. 12.

Although I am a huge fan of Paul Verhoeven's original 1987 film, this shiny new remake from MGM and Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Columbia Pictures deserves to fail for three big reasons.

1. It's a PG-13 take on an R-rated story

The biggest problem with the new RoboCop is that it is a PG-13 rated affair. The original Verhoeven film was a stunning tour de force due to its graphic violence and dark dystopian humor.

In the original film, Alex Murphy's death was a sadistic and gruesome one, with his arm being shot off before being murdered in cold blood. In the new film, as revealed in the trailer, he is merely "critically injured" when his car explodes. In Verhoeven's version (not the subsequent sequels), Murphy is never reunited with his wife and son -- in the new film, his wife and son apparently know exactly who he is.

Image

The old Robocop vs. the new Robocop. (Source: Thecynicalowl.com)

Screenwriter Ed Neumeier, who wrote the original RoboCop and Starship Troopers, was also a master of satire, as he eerily predicted a bankrupt Detroit selling its police force to the highest bidder. That level of satire will be a tough act to follow for a first-time screenwriter like Joshua Zetumer, who was inexplicably handed the reins of the beloved franchise.

That's not to say that films can't be dark without being bloody -- Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy pulled that off perfectly. However, RoboCop is a film of hot blood and cold metal -- something that can't be easily replicated.

When Verhoeven and Neumeier left the franchise after the first film, the franchise fell apart, both commercially and critically.

Film

Production budget

Global box office

Rating

Rotten Tomatoes

RoboCop (1987)

$13 million

$53 million

R

88%

RoboCop 2 (1990)

N/A

$46 million

R

33%

RoboCop 3 (1993)

$22 million

$11 million

PG-13

3%

Source: Boxofficemojo, Rotten Tomatoes. (numbers not inflation-adjusted)

Those numbers show that the successful R-rated balance that Verhoeven and Neumeier achieved so perfectly was tough to replicate -- no subsequent film could match the original RoboCop's commercial and critical success.

2. It tries to rewrite the established universe rather than expand upon it

With the RoboCop reboot, the Spider-Man reboot, and upcoming Terminator reboot, Hollywood is making a strange assumption -- that audiences lack the intelligence or the means to simply go back and watch any films more than 10 years old.

Rebooting a film franchise is lazy and disrespectful to the audiences and the original creators of the film. A better way to build upon a film franchise is to expand its world via sequels, rather than repeatedly overwrite the established canon. While that establishes a sense of familiarity, it is also tedious and the new film can suffer by comparison.

In the Spider-Man reboot, we are constantly reminded how much better Sam Raimi is than Marc Webb at capturing the balance between the light and darkness of Peter Parker's life. In Total Recall, we are constantly reminded how much funnier Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone were than Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale.

For many people who grew up watching the original RoboCop, Peter Weller remains the definitive Alex Murphy. Granted, Joel Kinnaman (Detective Holder from AMC's The Killing) has the acting chops to pull it off, but why not cast him as a new RoboCop instead and connect it back to the events of the original film?

Another highly questionable decision was to remove Anne Lewis, Murphy's loyal partner and foil in the original films, altogether. Instead, the new film inexplicably reimagines her as a man named Jack Lewis and possibly kills him off as an early plot point. That rewrite not only removes the strong female character of the series but also eliminates Murphy's only real connection to his human side.

3. It looks like a video game

The original RoboCop was a hit for the same reasons that Terminator 2 was a success -- the action sequences felt visceral, real, and intelligently paced.

After the original RoboCop, Verhoeven and Neumeier didn't work together again until Starship Troopers (1997), a polarizing film that nonetheless delivered the themes of political satire, dark humor, and graphic violence that made Robocop a critical hit.

The new Robocop, on the other hand, features a radically redesigned Robocop in a black suit seemingly lifted straight from Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:EA) Crysis series. In fact, it's impossible for gamers to watch the trailer without thinking of that game.

Image

The new Robocop suit vs. Prophet's suit in Crysis 2. (Source: Totallylookslike.com)

Therein lies the problem -- Hollywood wants to reboot classic action films as unplayable video game sequences.

With Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, General Zod pilots a ship that strongly resembles the Reapers from EA's Mass Effect; in Marc Webb's Spider-Man, we get a first-person-perspective, free-running sequence that looks exactly like the introduction of EA's Mirror's Edge; and now in RoboCop, we get a rebooted version of Alex Murphy who looks more like Crysis' Prophet.

Films such as the original RoboCop and Terminator 2 never felt like video games. They had bombastic shoot 'em up sequences and chase scenes, but they never felt fake or lazy. Nowadays, most action films filled with CGI feel like the scenes are built around the character on a green screen, completely removing any sense of urgency or realism.

The bottom line

Don't get me wrong -- I don't think RoboCop will bomb at the box office.

However, I think it deserves to fail for those three aforementioned reasons. If it does, Hollywood might finally understand that it needs to stop messing with classic films and start moving forward, take some bigger risks, and launch original franchises that can forge some new memories for movie audiences.

Want to learn more about the movie business?

Want to figure out how to profit on business analysis like this? The key is to learn how to turn business insights into portfolio gold by taking your first steps as an investor. Those who wait on the sidelines are missing out on huge gains and putting their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you what you need to get started, and even gives you access to some stocks to buy first. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

Fool contributor Leo Sun has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers