Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"I'd Buy That For (Just ) A Dollar!"

ROBOCOP Reboot Wins Fans, Fails It's Legacy


ARTH VADER (AV): So a hard-nosed, hard-working Detroit cop gets a little too close to some ugly truths and gets a near-fatal dose of injustice. In order to save his life and/or turn a profit, fictional tech giant OmniCorp (OCP) creates a super-bionic android that who becomes a bad-ass bastion of 21st century vengeance in Robobcop. While this movie is hardly a down-the-line remake it holds significant links to the 1980's cult classic of the same name by Paul "yes I also directed Starship Troopers" Verhoeven. How did this remake hold up for you Pontificator?

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Let me just start off by saying that the original Robocop is a classic Vader. I thought is was a bit early to remake it, but with the advances in technology, I can see the lure. There is much this film takes from the original, but there are also a lot of differences that make it just as interesting, if not just as classic, as the original.


AV: This was a stellar cast that included silver screen giants like Michael "I'm Batman" Keaton, Gary "Commissioner Gordon" Oldman and Samuel L. "Mace Windu is Dead" Jackson. Michael K. “It’s Omar from the Wire” Williams also comes in and does  a stellar job as Detective Alex Murphy's streetwise partner, Jack lewis. Joel Kinnaman takes the lead of Alex Murphy and helps put us into a trance-like state with some below-the-bar acting in the lead role. Veteran foreign and indie film director José Padilla unveils a fascinating vision of the violent, not-too-distant future world of Robocop. That vision is powerful, frightening and beautiful all at once. The intensity of the opening scenes in Tehran are some of the best in the film and that was all in the cinematography. What did you see, Ponty?

TP: I don’t have much to say about the flat performance of Joel Kinnaman except that he was better as Robocop than he was Murphy. For some reason, I just keep seeing Bruce Wayne when I watch Michael Keaton and I don’t know if it’s a nod to his performance in that role, or a slight to his performance in this one. Gary Oldman, on the other hand, was believable as Dr. Norton and delivered his character. Of course, Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak was just what I expected it to be…right down to the “motherf#@&er” exclaimed at the end. I do believe that word is in his contract, no matter what he does.

AV: With a few stand-out exceptions, this movie doesn't really move the needle on innovation in visual effects. What is eerie and exceptionally well done are the effects of Murphy's remaining body parts–namely his head, brain, lungs, heart, throat and right hand which are kept alive cybernetically and the visuals are disturbingly well rendered. A showdown with the ED209's near the film's climax is major and visually breathtaking. Highly polished and streamlined. As an added note in the win column for effects, the visual effects in the TV show hosted by fictional right-wing nut job, Pat Novak (Sam Jackson) are impressively fluid. Pontificator, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the effects. 
TP: The special effects were excellent. This wasn’t a case of bringing anything new to the game as much as it was doing everything right that has already been done before. The machines and robots were done very well and that one scene you mention Vader, in particular, had me wishing a for merciful death for Murphy when they showed the extent of the “alterations” they had to make to save him. If it were me I’d have to say “Umm…no thanks, I’m good”…but then again, it’s Robocop! Instead of the commercials ala the first film, they condensed all the television parts to Novak’s show which was superbly done. 


AV: To be clear, I didn't hate this movie. That said, I didn't love it either. Simply put this movie just didn't need to be made. Robocop belongs to the 1980's as Paul Verhoeven's screenplay is witty, violent and timely with what was–for the time–leading edge effects. It was a freakish reimagining of Frankenstein’s monster and it worked. Not so with this reboot. As reboots go this was one of the better ones–so far this year–but that's where the praise stops. Main actor, Joel Kinnaman has a boring screen presence and the screenplay is just riddled with holes (ha-ha, get it?) with a host of continuity issues. But the story does entertain. Director José Padiha is rumored to have walked off set several time over studio meddling. If such rumors are true, it transferred into the final cut. But if you want empty-headed, visual effects action, then the Robocop reboot is your movie.

TP: Despite the light hearted attempt to remake Robocop with a PG-13 rating, there was a very profound underlying theme that did not escape me. The idea of replacing man with machine for dangerous work is not a new one. Indeed, the whole uproar over the real life use of drones underscores exactly what the film was dealing with. The film went a step further by showing the complete subjugation of another people at the hands of superior technology and in the name of providing “freedom.” What I saw was order, but not much freedom. The scary part was the argument being made to bring that same type of “order” to our cities. We have to ask ourselves how far off from this fantasy is our reality…and are we prepared to accept such a lifestyle, and if not…what are we prepared to do to stop it?


AV: Like it’s predecessor, this movie would be fine if left alone. The story has already been told, no need to hammer us with it. Movies in the sci-fi action drama category tend to see lots of sequels even if they are duds. While at the core, this movie was decent, lets not overdue it here, Hollywood, ok? In the words of Robocop (1987) just, “Drop it!”

TP: It likely that Robocop is set to return in the near future. I can only hope that it comes with a better storyline, but with the same profound interest in it’s underlying vision.

ARTH VADER rates Robocop: Not a travesty but far from a victory, Robocop (2014) offers nothing new to the franchise, the genre or the movie-going experience. You could do worse things with $10 then to go see this movie.With cool effects, decent star power and a story that just plain doesn’t matter, RoboCop (2014) bionically delivers five (5) busted blocks.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Robocop: While it will never be the classic the original was, despite the better effects, it was very entertaining. It was just good enough to avoid being a total bomb, but not quite good enough to be a true blockbuster, only shooting six (6) busted blocks in the name of the law.
Robocop (2014): 5.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

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