**SPOILERS** I'll start this review by making it clear that the
original Robocop is my personal favourite movie and has been since I
first saw it 25 years ago. Having felt much trepidation about the
direction the remake was going in (PG-13 rating in particular) I went
in with fairly low expectations but still something of an open mind as
I really wanted this reboot to faithfully kick-start a new, successful
I was pleasantly surprised by the first hour of the film and how Murphy's quite horrifying physical transformation was depicted (there wasn't much left of him) and the emotional impact upon him. I particularly liked the first few scenes of him coming to grips with his new form and his little meltdown in the Chinese factory in which he was built. Unfortunately the film starts to take a significant nose dive at the point of Robocop's big public unveiling. A stupidly convenient plot device whereby the entire Detroit PD database including 17 years worth of the city's CCTV is uploaded to Murphy merely minutes before he's about to make his big appearance. This causes Robocop to overload requiring a change to Murphy be necessitated resulting in him then becoming more robotic and ultimately making an arrest for murder upon his big unveiling. This was a clumsily handled plot device done for the advancement of the plot but defied logic. Why give him a massive upload at such a crucial time? Others have pointed to a lack of a true antagonist and this is very true. Main criminal Antoine Vallon is utterly woeful compared to Kurtwood Smith's vile Clarence Boddiker and even Micheal Keaton can't hold a candle to Ronny Cox's performance in the original. There is also little chemistry between Alex and Clara Murphy both before and after his transformation.
The film is best when it isn't trying to ape and nod towards the original. The use of Basil Poledouris' majestic music in Pedro Bromfman's new score is particularly jarring and poorly orchestrated. When I watched Man of Steel at about the 50 minute mark I realised I hadn't heard John Williams classic Superman theme but also realised that this was a new take on the Superman mythos that didn't need to borrow from it's predecessors. Shame this film didn't follow suit.
The effects are generally good but alas the Robocop/ED-209 battle is just a typical modern day CGI fest and has none of the weight of the same scene from the original.
The film's biggest issue is undoubtedly caused by the constrictions of the PG-13 rating. Hearing arch criminals talk without any swearing pulls me out if the film and destroys any sense of realism. In one scene as Murphy approaches a drug factory to make a bust images of the classic drug factory shoutout of the original came to mind. Alas this version turns out to be a total anti-climax almost totally devoid of the carnage so required from such a scene. This follows on to Robocop taking down Vallon in a night vision shootout where men are shot but no blood, death or injury are shown in even any mildly satisfying manner. This shows clearly that gritty subject matter is not befitting of a teenage rating and similar target audience. Would something like The Wire work if it was aimed at a teenage audience? No.
There aren't any particular standout performances other than Gary Oldman who almost always delivers no matter the role or movie. Kinnaman is somewhat wooden in places but gives a decent enough performance even though at times he looks uncomfortable with the role. One aspect of the film that did nothing for me was Samuel L Jackson's character who opens and closes the film and offers his very one sided views throughout. If this is their replacement of the satire of the original they can keep it. It's ham fisted and provides little more than uninteresting commentary on the power of the media and plot exposition. It tells us nothing interesting that we don't already know and Jackson does his shouty thing to excess, especially at the cringe-worthy end.
I wholly embrace the need to make this reboot from a fresh angle to that of Verhoven's original but Sony MGM have played it way too safe with something that would clearly play better if it were aimed at an adult audience. I genuinely believe that an R rated movie, devoid of such tight restrictions would have been a far more satisfying experience. The original Robocop franchise died when they aimed at a younger demographic. Hollywood greed I fear has caused a repeat of this mistake. It's not a bad film per se, it's just painfully average and therefore unable to get out from the vast shadow of its forebear and like the Total Recall remake, it tries too hard too often to remind you of the original whilst offering nothing new to compete with it. I doubt there's even a harder cut tucked away for home release and even if there was there are plot issues that damage the film as much as the tame approach. Other gripes include a lack of clarity as to Omnicorp's role (if any) in Murphy being blown up, and plot threads not being followed through to any satisfying conclusion such as Murphy's relationship with his family. The best bits revolve around Murphy's initial awakening as a cyborg which are very well done indeed.
Alas there's not really that much else that's in any way as memorable as the 1987 classic it's based on. As an example of how modern Hollywood has become all about excessive studio control above creativity and maximising ticket sales at the expense of a film's overall artistic quality then this film succeeds. In all other aspects it's a bit of a wasted opportunity really.
Action / Crime / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Action / Crime / Sci-Fi / Thriller
The year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years - and it's meant billions for OmniCorp's bottom line. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) - a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit - is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine pursuing justice.
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May 09, 2014 at 07:42 AM