Thursday, July 3, 2014

Robocop (2014)

I'd rent that for a dollar!

But actually, don't. I just wanted to shoe-horn that joke into my review, sort of how it was shoe-horned into this remake of the classic film from 1987. All things considered, my joke was funnier. This remake wasn't a terrible movie -- in fact, in many ways it's a thoughtful, intelligent, emotional look at the nature of humanity -- but I don't watch Robocop movies to find epiphanies on human nature. I watch Robocop movies to watch people get dipped into vats of toxic waste and then smushed on the windshield of some guy's car.

Now, I'm not saying that films shouldn't strive to be intelligent and thoughtful -- of course they should -- just that they should be selective in the ways they are being intelligent and thoughtful. The original Robocop was a smart movie, but it was smart as an over the top satire of the greed and corporate culture of the 80s. It had a point and a serious commentary on our culture, but as a parable, not an actual story about a man who is turned into a machine. This remake offers no real satire (except for the inclusion of Sam Jackson as a Fox News type news host, but that felt tacked on and fell completely flat), nor does it offer any real commentary beyond: Being turned into a robot would totally suck.

This movie takes that entire concept and really explores it to the fullest, and it's absolutely horrific. You really feel for the character and his family in this film far more than you did in the original, which I suppose is a compliment in terms of writing and acting and direction, but as an overall concept it was so off-putting it made it nearly impossible to be entertained. I spent the entire movie wanting them to deactivate Robocop and put him out of his misery. There's actually a scene where we just see his head and his lungs attached to a bunch of cords while he begs the scientists to kill him. Who thought that would be a good idea? Who thought audiences wanted to see that?

So the entire concept was just muddy, which made the entire plot confusing and hard to follow, both intellectually and emotionally. I never really knew what was going on, who I was rooting for, or why the villains were supposed to be villains. There is some reveal toward the end, but I didn't get it. What made Gary Oldman's scientist character a good guy while Michael Keaton's CEO character was supposed to be a villain? None of it worked, and every character was pretty much unlikable and boring, except for the guy who played Robocop and the gal who played his wife. They both did a god job, although not so much that the dude got out of the shadow of Peter Weller's original iconic performance.

Visually, the film had some nice special effects and some cool action sequences, especially the training set piece that pit Robocop up against a hundred or so robots. The look of Robocop himself left a lot to be desired, however, and it was such an odd choice to start the film out with him looking so much like the original, only to later paint him black and making him completely bland and boring. In the original film, and at the beginning of this remake, he looks like a robot. In this new design, he actually just looks like a guy in black body armor. That's not cool.

Anyway, that was the Robocop sequence, which was a failure for me, but at least it was a noble failure. It attempted something new and tried to tell a wholly different story than the original, but unfortunately the story it choose to tell wasn't interesting, and the characters populating it were all boring. I say... skip it.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I kind of want to see it now. I don't know why.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Netflix (streaming) just got this, so I watched. It wasn't horrible, really, just totally not fulfilling in any way.

I'm with you on the scene where they reveal that all that's left of Murphy are a few vital organs. That was friggin' depressing.

None of it really made sense, either. So just because a cyborg with a human brain could so efficiently deal with crime, US citizens would be clamoring to have terrifying death machines marching down every street in the interests of public safety? That makes no fucking sense.