3 Reasons the Robocop Reboot Deserves to Fail

Watch stocks you care about

The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...

Your own personalized stock watchlist!

It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...

Click Here Now

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.

The old Robocop vs. the new Robocop. (Source:

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.


Production budget

Global box office


Rotten Tomatoes

RoboCop (1987)

$13 million

$53 million



RoboCop 2 (1990)


$46 million



RoboCop 3 (1993)

$22 million

$11 million



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.

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

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.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 3:35 PM, MatthewZa wrote:

    I dislike people who write whole columns to condemn movies, or anything else, before even seeing them. It takes a particularly mean type of arrogance to damn the hard work of other people when you don't even look at it first.

    Every one of your comments has been already written, ad nauseum, for a solid year by nostalgic, and now nearing middle-aged, men in movie comments sections. No surprise, all got their first taste of explicit violence and naked women as preteens by watching the original movie.

    No, the movie is not a 'sacred event that cannot be repeated' to a lot of us who are not part of this demographic. It's just another movie. It's just that the above demographic of men has 100% control almost all movie blogosphere websites, and constantly feed off of each other's idolizing mantras about what is 'cool' worse than any tween fangirls ever could imagine doing in their tumblr blogs.

    If this movie were not coming out, there wouldn't be the constant repetitive "droning" about how great the old one is, or much present-day thought about it at all. There sure as heck wouldn't be a new DVD of it being marketed as there is now. At least have enough courtesy to thank this movie for enabling you bandwagon-jumpers to buy an upgraded DVD and increase the value of your tween boy toy collections.

    Jose Padilha is a wonderful director who has done great works of social commentary. I'm most of all sorry that all you haters are trying so obsessively to make a good director and good man a failure before he even gets a chance.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 9:38 PM, JoeBlowHoe wrote:

    MatthewZa, the movie is a donkey dungheap, barfing dry heaves of hackneyed hollywood crapola. That dead horse has been whipped till it was screaming into a coma, and it got resuscitated to be only whipped gleefully again.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 3:01 PM, rororoe77665 wrote:

    Leo Sun wears clown shoes and deserves a bad case of diarrhea.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2785461, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/3/2015 9:55:56 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Leo Sun

Leo has covered the crossroads of Wall Street and Silicon Valley since 2012. Follow him on Twitter for more updates!

Today's Market

updated 39 minutes ago Sponsored by:
DOW 16,374.76 23.38 0.14%
S&P 500 1,951.13 2.27 0.12%
NASD 4,733.50 -16.48 -0.35%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/3/2015 4:02 PM
SNE $25.32 Down -0.15 -0.59%
Sony Corp (ADR) CAPS Rating: **
EA $65.79 Up +1.12 +1.73%
Electronic Arts CAPS Rating: ***