Film Face-off: 'RoboCop' 1987 vs. 'RoboCop' 2014

Film Face-off: 'RoboCop' 1987 vs. 'RoboCop' 2014

Feb 17, 2014

Part man. Part machine. All cop. I don't know if I'm remembering a tagline from the 1987 film, or if I just made that up. After rewatching the '87 version, I realized I fell into the category of "RoboCop just kind of blended together for me with the first three films, the TV show, the animated series and everything else." I wasn't part of the fanboy cry that felt their '80s world was crashing because another iconic film was being remade, as well as going from R to PG-13.

So, without that baggage going in, RoboCop vs. RoboCop seems like the perfect Film Face-off. May the best half-man, half-machine, all justice thing win. Pretty sure that wasn't a tagline either.

 

The Lead

RoboCop (1987)

Peter Weller is great. That wasn't necessarily the case in '87. He costarred in a few films like Firstborn. He even won Best Actor at the Paris Film Festival for Of Unknown Origin. In '84 he starred in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. As Alex Murphy he takes risks; as RoboCop he follows his commands for the most part, and is prone to violence.

RoboCop (2014)

Joel Kinnaman is unknown... for me. I never watched one episode of The Killing, mainly because for everyone who tells me it's good, there are three others who say the opposite. I don't remember him in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Safe House, but he's been getting regular work since 2008. As Alex Murphy he takes risks, as RoboCop he's all over the place with his thoughts and feelings, but has no issues killing bad guys.

Winner: 1987. Weller wins this one for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which should always be the case when one can mention that insane ride of a film. When I first saw Kinnaman on-screen I thought he didn't look like a leading man. This role proved that point. Plus, once Kinnaman becomes RoboCop, there really isn't a lot of fun to be had. That's when the good times start with the '87 film.

 

The Machine(s)

RoboCop (1987)

Omni Consumer Products designs alternative law-enforcement machines, known as ED-209. It accidentally kills a board member, and an alternative program results in a cyborg design named RoboCop.

RoboCop (2014)

The ED-208 and ED-209 are used to protect U.S. interests around the world, but illegal at home. OmniCorp finds a way around those laws by creating RoboCop.

Winner: 2014. As far as RoboCop goes, you can debate between a black or a silver RoboCop all you want. I don't care. The 2014 version has a gun in each leg, that's one more than the '87 version if you're scoring at home. The '14 version can also run. At the time, both used pretty cutting-edge special effects. The ED-209s still remind me of the All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) from Star Wars. It's terribly sad that the '87 version can't even handle a flight of stairs. I like the addition of the ED-208s, though it would be been a great finale if RoboCop would have had to fight some of them as well. The big win here is what the '14 version looks like when his robot parts are removed. It's hilarious when Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) has a heart to heart with what's left of him.

 

The Partner

RoboCop (1987)

Nancy Allen plays Officer Anne Lewis. You might remember Allen from The Philadelphia ExperimentBlow Out1941 and Carrie.

RoboCop (2014)

Michael Kenneth Williams plays Jack Lewis. You hopefully remember him from The Wire, and also Boardwalk Empire, and many small film roles which include 12 Years a Slave.

Winner: 2014. Neither partner is utilized very well. In '87 Murphy says, "Pretty neat," to Anne's abilities to punch and kick a suspect. She watches him get shot about a zillion times, then once he's RoboCop she likes the idea of helping out. With the '14 version, Jack is shot when Alex leads them into a sticky situation. He heals up, and when Alex becomes RoboCop it appears they'll be partners just like old times. That doesn't exactly play out, but then Jack comes in to save RoboCop, so RoboCop can save the day. You could easily have this be a tie, but Jack gets the edge for standing in the line of fire, and Williams gets the edge for being a huge part of the greatest TV show ever.

 

The Bad Guys

RoboCop (1987)

Ronny Cox plays Dick Jones, the senior president of OCP. Kurtwood Smith plays Clarence J. Boddicker, a ruthless (there's rarely another kind) gang leader. He has henchmen, which include Paul McCrane as Emil M. Antonowsky.

RoboCop (2014)

Michael Keaton plays Raymond Sellars the CEO of OmniCorp. Samuel L. Jackson is a Glen Beck-type TV host. Patrick Garrow is ruthless gang leader Antoine Vallon. Jackie Earle Haley and Gary Oldman are kind of bad/good.

Winner: 1987. The '14 version is filled with partially bad people. That doesn't make for a very interesting conflict for a cop who is mainly robotic. There are also dirty police officers, but frankly, who cares? The film really doesn't. It is nice to see Keaton in a larger role, but they never let him go "full Keaton" with a character that is begging for it. With the '87 version, every bad guy is over the top. Cox perfects this in Total Recall. Smith doesn't play an overpowering father like in Dead Poets Society and That '70s Show, which makes his bad guy all the more amusing.

 

The Humor

RoboCop (1987)

The film is science fiction first, but it's also a satire. There are TV shows featuring catchphrases like, "I'd buy that for a dollar," and this priceless commercial for Nukem.

RoboCop (2014)

Samuel L. Jackson's Pat Novak provides some jokes. So does Jay Baruchel, who plays OmniCorp's marketing man.

Winner: 1987. For the remake, having Jackson say the new word "Robophobic" is good. Having Haley call him Tin Man is amusing. Having RoboCop get some market testing is fun. That's about it. The '87 film has all of the satire, and perhaps most importantly, it has Emil randomly driving into a vat of toxic waste. Why? Because then he can have a bloody disgusting death. It showcases Paul Verhoeven's B-movie desires with the film.

 

OVERALL WINNER: RoboCop (1987) beats RoboCop (2014), 3-2.

RoboCop (1987) has its flaws. It's not a perfect movie. For awhile, it looked like the remake would pass it by. There is some really good world-building in the new version. They fully explain the pros/cons and abilities of the machines. It's a slightly interesting debate. Unfortunately, there is very little fun to be had with the 2014 version. The more robotic RoboCop becomes, the less I wanted to be sitting in the film. Also, whoever decided it was a good idea to include a wife and kid for RoboCop really should have given them something, anything to do. For those worried you won't get enough violence in the update, I'm pretty sure it has a much higher body count, but I'm sad to report no one dies/melts from toxic waste. "Crime has a new enemy," is one of the taglines for the new film. RoboCop isn't new. The film barely has an enemy.

 

 

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