It’s impossible to watch this film without the 1987 original being on your mind. Paul Verhoeven’s classic movie was such a perfect film, part action-thriller, part satire, part commentary of the times in which it was made, a remake/reboot seems so unnecessary, other than as an opportunity to make some easy money from an established IP and fanbase. Indeed MGM has tried to run with the franchise with inferior sequels and tv series for so long and with such limited success, that in retrospect a remake was inevitable. But it just feels so wrong, especially with it so toned-down with a PG-13 rating (a 12-cert over here) to maximise the films potential audience. The extreme violence of the original was part of its message, part of its success, neutering it like this just feels wrong.
The biggest crime of this film is its inability or unwillingness to really bring anything new to the table, other than a typical cgi polish brought to the proceedings (the original’s budget was limited and fx rather ropey but that’s since become part of the old-school charm of it). Biggest contention for me is the humanising of the title character. The original Rob Bottin design was more machine than man, but this new version looks more like a bloke in a metal suit. This humanisation is furthered by Murphy always knowing who he is, maintaining his personality, memory and emotional ties, while in the original, Murphy was dead and only fragments of his memory/personality remained. At the original film’s end, he may reply “Murphy” when asked for his name, but he isn’t really Murphy at all, just adopting a dead man’s name. In this 2014 version, he is always Murphy, always a good cop, and eventually rejoins his wife and child, a vindication/outcome denied in the brutal original.
Perhaps I was never an impartial viewer. That 1987 original and its long shadow just can’t be escaped. While I can understand the materialistic/corporate sense of trying to reboot the original, it just remains wrong in an artistic sense, especially when its so sanitised as this. It may not be a really bad movie, but it remains a pointless movie, as far as I’m concerned anyway. I’ve no idea if it was successful enough to merit a sequel of its own but I rather hope not.