Sunday, February 16, 2014

ROBOCOP (2014)

I tried. I tried really hard to enjoy this remake. Turns out, ROBOCOP (2014) is one of the better remakes to come out in recent years; unfortunately, the movie is just down right boring. What I mean by saying that its one of the better remakes is because they actually try different things instead of just being a shot for shot clone. Too bad the film is boring and suffers from serious pacing issues.

It's clear from the beginning that director Jose Padilha is not trying to mimic the classic 1987 original. The filmmakers update the 'franchise' by giving the story a face lift and making it topical by adding drone warfare into the mix. Added to that is a story that focuses on the science of what is to be a RoboCop. This is all interesting and different, but do we really need to spend what feels like half the film going over the origin of turning a man into a machine?

We get repeated scenes dealing with the construction of RoboCop. Too much time is also wasted on talking heads wondering if what they are building is safe/ethical. Seeing the science of RoboCop is cool but after awhile it gets boring. How many scenes do we need to have of OCP executives sitting around a table talking? I kept telling myself to be patient, they are building up to something. Not to worry, RoboCop will be kicking ass any moment now.

So RoboCop finally makes his debut to the public and things start off great. We get some decent crime fighting scenes. Overall the action isn't too bad for PG-13, except for the overabundant use of his stun gun. I realize cops use stun guns all the time, but this isn't real life, it's a movie. It's a blatant PC move that I didn't much care for. In this day and age PG-13 is a real disservice to action movies. What teenager is going to find your movie cool or memorable if the hero is going around kicking ass with a stun gun the majority of the time? The video games he or she are playing at home are more bad ass than your boring PG-13 action movie.

The film starts to get interesting (for the most part) when Alex Murphy/RoboCop begins to solve his own murder. Now I don't know if it was an artistic move by the director or a flat out mistake but RoboCop forgets to kill the man that murdered him. Wait! What? That's what I thought leaving the theater, that RoboCop didn't even kill his murderer . It took me a second to realize that he did, but it was done so nonchalantly that you barely notice it.

Here is where the movie really starts to slip off the rails.

Now that RoboCop has started to piece together his murder and all who were involved, we're ready for a climatic conclusion. Wrong. The final act of the film goes in a direction that makes no sense. RoboCop has the bad guys dead to rights when all of a sudden the villains change. I'll try and not spoil it completely but it's as if the studio came in and told the filmmakers that their movie has no Dick Jones in it. Remember Dick Jones? The memorable cooperate bad guy from the original film. Yes, how could you forget. Well, at the end of this movie the spirit of Dick shows up because Drone warfare is bad. And while nobody at OCP is truly bad enough to be considered a 'villain', just the thought of Drone warfare is bad enough I guess? Weak! RoboCop just killed an innocent man if you ask me.

All in all this film just wasn't for me. Kudos to Padilha for trying something different, it's just too bad that the finished product is a studio attempt to reboot a 'franchise'.


Anonymous said...

First of all, there are a few points we're just going to have to agree to disagree on. I personally find the long conversations about the science of human consciousness, the science of biomachinery, the ethics of modern warfare and an examination of the role the media plays in shaping public opinion FAR more interesting than an hour and a half of shooty shooty bang bang. But, you make it sound like the film just shows people talking about these things. The thing is, it shows serious conversations about these issues. And these are issues with a lot of grey area, and the film actually takes the time to explore the nuances, as opposed to just having a flat out good point of view and a bad point of view. The themes the movie wants to explore are not black and white, and the screenwriter approached them with maturity.

And it's some of these nuances that I don't think you grasped. You say that we see RoboCop shoot people with a stun gun most of the time because the filmmakers have neutered RoboCop. But the real answer for why they did it is exactly what you already said. Police are moving more and more toward non-lethal tactics. It's very easy to extrapolate that idea into the future and see the most badass new piece of technology being used to stun people instead of kill them. You say that makes the movie less cool and memorable to teenagers. Fuck man, this movie is not interested with being cool to teenagers. That is simply NOT the point. Thank god they didn't approach this with the idea of "Let's be as cool to teenagers as possible". You, as an adult, should appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

Another nuance I don't think you got was with our villain. You say that the movie just decided to have RoboCop kill him because "drones are bad". No, they set him up all along as someone who had no regard for the law. All that he cared about was appealing to the public politically so that he could expand his business into the United States. Now, I made it sound much more black and white, admittedly, than the movie does. We see that he's a real human, instead of a movie villain, who tries to justify his actions and convince himself that what he's doing is for the greater good. He believes that he's making the world a safer place. Just like anyone in such a situation would. That just makes him a well rounded character. But, he violates the law. He has Oldman's doctor character remove Murphy's humanity piece by piece to make him more machine. This is, of course, without the consent of Murphy or his family. And all to make it APPEAR that he's got a machine that's more human than it actually is, which makes it more acceptable for public consumption. And of course, beyond that he eventually comes to the conclusion that his only hope is to murder Murphy and make a martyr out of him. He even ends up threatening the life of Murphy's wife. So when RoboCop finally kills him, he's not innocent at all like you said. And it's not just because the movie wants to cram a half-baked anti-drone message down our throat. It's because a three dimensional character made very human decisions that led to his demise.

Another smart bit of commentary that I really liked involved the suit. Leading up to the release of the movie, people were bitching on and on about how they changed his suit to be a sleeker, "cooler" black suit. I won't deny it, I hated it too. But that was the movie pulling one over on us all along. They put him in the RoboCop suit we all know and love only to have the corporate marketing people at OCP decide that they need something that looks cooler. So they make the new black suit. By the end of the movie, once the suits have been dealt with, RoboCop's back to the suit that's right. The movie was making the exact same point that people were bitching about the entire time.

Anyway, it's a smart movie that handles a lot of really difficult and complex issues about as well as any movie can in 2 hours. The cast is great. It's well written. And yes, the action is pretty generic. But man, when it gets so much else right, who cares?