Robocop (2014) Review

Posted: September 17, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews
Tags: , ,

robocop_2014_posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I try not to get worked up over remakes, seeing how they’re pretty much inevitable at this point. Still, I couldn’t help but get a little bit pissed off at the news of a Robocop remake. Not only because the original Robocop is an awesome movie which still holds up (which it is), but also because I could easily see the flawed corporate thinking that likely went into the project. It’s not hard to predict a producer thinking the original film can be redone through modern day special effects, more sleek technology, and bigger action scenes while disregarding the satire, the themes, and the personality which made Paul Verrhoeven’s film so awesome. The PG-13 rating, February release date, and generic trailer did nothing to change my expectations. The remake would open to box-office disappointment, but more respectable reviews than expected. The film wasn’t exactly praised, but a lot of people claimed it was actually pretty decent. This roused a small amount of curiosity from me, couple that with my desire to watch an action movie and the fact that my library had it, I decided to give Robocop a chance.

In the year 2028, robots developed by a company called Omnicorp are being used by the United States as a military force in foreign countries. It’s a method which has achieved great success, at least ostensibly, for the U.S., but American citizens are still very hesitant about allowing robots to police the streets of their home country. Despite his best efforts, Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) is unable to change the minds of Americans. When it becomes clear he will not be able to put robots on the streets, Sellers finds a new sollution, to put a police officer in a machine body. He gets his opportunity when Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured in an assassination attempt on his life. With the help of Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), Sellers transforms Murphy into robotic-human hybrid who is now much more effective in the war on crime. However, the more refined Murphy becomes, the more is humanity slips away.

Every so often, Robocop will make unnecessary refferences to the classic film. Whether it be lines of dialogue, scenes, or the classic theme music, these moments stand out as awkward and distracting. However one of the more impressive elements of the film is how it does feel distinct from the original. Going in, my biggest concern was that the film would just be a cheap and soulless cash grab with nothing to say, but there are some genuine ideas and themes the film is interested in exploring. These range from satire of American foreign policy and politics, to the nature of freewill and humanity. Many of these themes are prevalent in the original as well, but they are explored in different ways here, and the satire is much more toned down. Probably the most interesting idea presented is how Alex’s freewill can be taken away at the press of a button, yet he is unaware of it.

 These differences were certainly welcomed by me, and it allows me to judge the film on its own merits without constantly thinking of the original. Unfortunately, Robocop is a pretty thoroughy flawed work on most every level. One of the biggest problems the film falls prey to is the same one most superhero origin stories have; so much time is spent exploring how the protagonist became the hero, by the time a plot kicks in the movie’s half over. As a result, the second half of the film is very rushed. Characters come and go, the villains are very bland, and the plot which emerges is not paritcularly inspired. Worst of all though, the interesting ideas and themes I mentioned a paragraph ago basically disappear and don’t get the exploration they deserve.

Before seeing the film, one of the few things which looked genuinely exciting about the film was the cast. Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman are certainly enjoyable here, and I thought Abbie Cornish was effective as Murphy’s suffering wife. Unfortunately, the whole affair is dragged down by Robocop himself. Joel Kinnaman isn’t terrible here, but he lacks charisma and the ability to carry the film. He also can’t really handle the emotional moments either. There’s an interesting scene where it is revealed how little of Murphy is still actually human but it’s held back by Kinnaman’s wooden performance.

I at least expected to have some fun with the action scenes, but that isn’t the case. None of the action scenes here are good, although they interestingly all fail for different reasons. Probably the best one is a shoot-out in a darkened area only lit by the muzzle flashes of the guns. It’s a sound concept for a scene, but the execution is more frustrating than anything. Other scenes fail because they try too hard to be cool or they descend into CGI silliness, and poorly rendered CGI at that. That’s another oddity about Robocop. Any scene where robots are doing mundane activities like walking around, they look really good. The opening scene in Tehran, particularly the reveal of the machines, is especially effective in this regard. However once the action begins, things fall apart quickly.

I expected Robocop to be a soulless product with no reason to exist other than to make a quick buck. While I’m sure those were the intentions of some, there is more genuine effort and creativity in this remake than I would have thought, so much so that it makes me kind of want to give it a pass. But the fact is the film flounders as a story, as a satire, as an action film, and as an effects vehicle. While it does have its moments, there really isn’t enough of a foundation here to get behind. While I certainly prefer it to the Total Recal remake, Robocop is ultimately a lackluster film. This isn’t the kind of film that makes me mad, but it’s the kind I’ll forgot about shortly.

 

D+

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Better than expected. Which sounds like faint praise, but is just as honest as I can be. Good review Dan.

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