Review Roundup: Everyone Had Very Low Expectations for RoboCop

Photo: MGM

It’s safe to say that nobody thought the new RoboCop movie was going to be any good. Remaking beloved ‘80s and ‘90s action classics generally hasn’t turned out too well for Hollywood — see the last attempt at rebooting a Verhoeven film, 2012’s disastrous Total Recall — so it makes sense that critics would approach such remakes with trepidation. Like disillusioned romantics who’ve been burned one too many times, many went in anticipating a failure to launch. Most were pleasantly surprised: not because the film was great, necessarily, but mostly because they were expecting it to be way worse. As Twitch Film’s Jason Gorber put it, “it might be faint praise, but RoboCop isn’t robo-crap.”

“The new RoboCop isn’t terrible. It’s certainly better than the recent Total Recall. It just can’t compete.” —Jordan Hoffman, Screen Crush

“[T]he film doesn’t embarrass itself or dishonor its predecessor, which is something.” —Ty Burr, Boston Globe

“Perhaps low expectations are the best approach here. For while RoboCop 2.0 is not a patch on Paul Verhoeven’s blisteringly brilliant 1987 classic, it is also not quite the catastrophe it could have been.” —John Nugent, Sky Movies

“After the dunderheaded remake of Total Recall (lift shafts through the centre of the Earth? WTF?), genre fans had every right to be trepidatious about a retooling of RoboCop. …Yet against the odds, this emerges as far less depressing fare than one might have expected.” —Mark Kermode, the Guardian

“[I]t works better than I would have guessed possible.” —Drew McWeeny, Hit Fix

“Neither the complete disaster some might have been anticipating nor any kind of cinematic landmark, the 2014 remake of RoboCop is a solid piece of mainstream entertainment that honors the legacy of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original, and is certainly better than the last attack on a Verhoeven film, 2012’s Total Recall.” —Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“Mind you, that doesn’t make the 2014 RoboCop a great film. But it makes for a much more interesting product than anyone expected — a remake that for once doesn’t feel like it rolled off of an assembly line.” —Todd Gilchrist, the Verge

“[I]t’s as surprising for me as it is for you to report that the 2014 edition of RoboCop, helmed by Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha (Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within) is much, much better than it looks. 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.” —Oliver Lyttelton, the Playlist

“How could this possibly work? It doesn’t, not completely. But thanks to a good cast and a willingness to stray fairly far afield from the source material, it’s better than you might think.” —Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

“Annoyingly for those hoping for a total dud, Padilha does some very good work with the action sequences.” —Tara Brady, Irish Times

“Padilha has successfully crafted a smart, thrilling sci-fi, different enough to exist on its own terms without ignoring or disrespecting its roots. Given the potential pitfalls inherent in reimagining a classic, you can’t say fairer than that.” —Richard Jordan, Total Film

“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.” —Guy Lodge, Variety

“Though it’s only been two years since fanboys got their panties in a bunch over Len Wiseman’s Total Recall reboot, many of those same fans have been dreading the release of the new RoboCop. It will probably come as a surprise, then, that the film isn’t nearly as bad as people feared it would be.
—Jason Zingale, Bullz Eye

“It’s an admirable thing when a movie that could have found an audience just on the basis of its concept turns out to be creative and compelling. It’s better still, though a big surprise, to see it take the temperature of the times.” —Mick LaSalle, SF Gate

“If the very premise of a RoboCop remake wasn’t odious enough, a PG-13 rating and ignominious February release date seemed to all but confirm that this would be just another glossy cinematic grave robbery, one with slim chances of even being entertaining, let alone remotely insightful. Shockingly, it manages to be both.” —Tom Clift, Movie Mezzanine

“There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical about remakes of action classics, but director Jose Padilha’s 21st-century take on Paul Verhoeven’s exhilarating, satirical 1987 RoboCop is solid and thoughtful, with a few genuinely inventive moments.” —Philippa Hawker, Sydney Morning Herald

“True, we probably didn’t need another RoboCop, but we could have gotten one that was a lot worse.” — Josh Larsen, Larsen on Film

“Let’s face it; this could have been a soulless, unmitigated disaster of an action knockoff. The fact that it never sinks to that level seems like at least a moral victory, if you’re into that sort of thing.” — Chris Vognar, Dallas News

“The movie is a lot more fun than anyone might expect. (Keaton, especially, seems to be having a ball.) It’s a fresh take, fast, funny and touching. If it’s not a masterwork, at least it’s not just another robo-remake, either.” —Kurt Loder, Reason

“As remakes go, this is no RoboCop-out. Sleek though it may be, it’s not hard to imagine how much better a version for adults would have been.” —Ali Gray, Film 4

“Remaking a classic is a thankless, some would say pointless, task: you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the production team who ever thought this reboot of Paul Verhoeven’s still flawless 1987 action movie was a good idea. But, to give director Jose Padilha and his scriptwriters their due, the new version goes out of its way to distance itself from the original.” — Tom Huddleston, Time Out

The real difference of opinion, it seemed, came down to whether our critics would or wouldn’t buy it for a dollar:

“I Wouldn’t Buy This For A Dollar.” —Tim Grierson, Deadspin

“To paraphrase one of the original’s most famous lines—repurposed here, as a wink to the faithful—we’d buy more of that for a dollar.” —A.A Dowd, The A.V. Club

“Worth way more than a dollar” — Matthew Razak, Flixist

“We live in a world where you can get a stream of the original ‘RoboCop’ on the HDTV in no time. You should buy that for a dollar.” — Jordan Hoffman, Screen Crush

“Padilha’s RoboCop is a well thought-out remake that can stand on its own two feet. Though it lacks wow factor, it’s certainly worth of a dollar or two.” —Amon Warmann, “HeyUGuys

“What’s missing is the original’s evil wit, amoral misanthropy and subversive slipperiness, but that shouldn’t stop people from spending a dollar (or 15) on the remake.” —Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“No, I probably won’t buy this for a dollar.” —James Francis, The Movies

“Sci-fi fans can look forward to more ‘new’ Robocop if this makes enough money, and I’d certainly buy that for a dollar!” —Matt Adcock, The Bucks Herald

“It’s safe to say that the film has a lot of great potential, but is too flawed to flourish. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t buy it for too much more than a dollar.” —John Rodriguez, The Young Folks

“Whether or not Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent movie needs a reboot is an irrelevant discussion at this point. However, what does matter is whether director José Padilha’s take on the sci-fi story is worth paying a dollar to see. Okay, movie tickets are obviously way more expensive than just a dollar, but the pun was too tempting and I swear I won’t make any more.” —Gregg Katzman, Comic Vine

“Still, after 27 years worth of visual-effects advancements, the idea of updating and remaking director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film?  All together now: “I’ll buy that for a dollar.”” —Mike Scott, The Times Picayune

Everyone Had Very Low Expectations for RoboCop