Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RoboCop (2014)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Strangely enough, those irritated about remaking RoboCop were not upset about the porn parody RoboCock.

RoboCop (2014) – 3 out of 5

"Ew, gross!  A remake?  I hate those things…unless, I didn’t know it was a remake and I also am totally okay with bands covering songs and even my own butchering of classics at the lowest of the low form of time-wasting; Karaoke.  It’s just reimagining of films that spike my ire and have me talk about how there’s no originality left anymore."  That was my impression of the knee-jerk reactions to remakes.  I used to be like that too until I realized how trivial it is to get upset because a movie was being remade.  I realized that even though a film is remade, that doesn’t mean the original is wiped from all of reality and conscious thought and that I can easily, you know, NOT see the film.  However, I’m always open-minded about watching new films (or re-imaginings of old films)—this blog and my sheer love of movies in general helped make me a little more open to all films, remake or not—not to mention that, when I saw the trailer, I was actually kinda interested to see what they did with RoboCop. ED-209 prequel origin film might have been more interesting...

In 2028, a corporation named Omnicorp is trying to have all the nation’s law enforcement replaced with robotic drones so that human lives will no longer have to be lost and to possibly greatly reduce the amount of unarmed black teens being shot by out-of-shape racist white cops who possess military grade hardware because we are completely fucked as a nation.  The only problem is that the government has banned the use of these robots but that won’t stop Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton).  He plans to play to the sympathies of the typical American but, rather than just say something about how if we don’t use robot cops it will make the terrorists win before having fireworks launch behind him and get Toby Keith to rock one of his incredibly shitty songs about loving America, he decides to put a man inside the robots (which can have a different meaning depending on what type of Google searches you do).  After fate smiled on them in its unique twisted way, Omnicorp gets their hands on Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) after he is left for dead from an attempt on his life.  Murphy is upgraded into some sort of robot cop—a RoboCop, if you will—and is set out to be the best law enforcer and PR machine that money can buy.  The only problem is that Omnicorp’s top scientists, like Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), can’t eliminate the human element from the robot and can’t stop a man dedicated to justice…even if it means bringing justice to the men who made him.

You know that iconic visor that RoboCop has? Enjoy one of the few times
you get to see it.

I know, I know…we hate remakes.  Hell, aside from vaguely racist comments about Obama, porn, the illegal downloading of movies, Redditors talking about how they're a community but do nothing but hail insults and hate each other, songs going viral and being the next big think until two weeks later when no one cares about them anymore, cats, and Twitter campaigns, talking about how remaking old movies are somehow violating and “raping” beloved childhood memories is the biggest thing on the internet (there’s also idiots thinking people want to know their thoughts on movies—I thought I would add that before some commenter does).  I won’t blow smoke and say that, often, remakes are unnecessary and I would like to see a lot of older films re-mastered and re-released into theaters but revisiting old properties is the way of the world with our entertainment bits (shit, even a lot of books are just stolen ideas redone) and, rather than complain about them, I just give them a shot.  Fuck, sometimes they are really fucking good, too!

Oh no, Cylons!

I don’t really need to say it but Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is fucking glorious.  It’s a classic in every sense of the word—even though when someone first declared that certain movies would be eternally loved by audiences, I’m not sure they thought one day that a film about a robot cop who shot a dude in the dick in one scene would be labeled as a “classic.”  The film is a loving work of commentary about an era where Reaganomics became a word, cocaine seemed to flow like wine, we never heard a bad thing about Michael Jackson, Mel Gibson wasn’t the man with the hard-on for hating Jews that he is now, and where teens nowadays think that being born in 1989 means you are a child and product of the 80s.  There’s tons of scenes that remain with you, tons of quotable dialogue, and did I mention that RoboCop literally shoots a dude in the dick?  The film was a representation of the 80s and we loved it so much that we would spend more than a dollar on it…like several dollars. 

Boy, RoboCop's design looks cheap...

Fun Note:  They are watching the remake of
A Nightmare on Elm Street.
I had no illusions that this reboot was going to be better than the original but I did think it might have some decent action and, I won’t lie, might have some new commentary to make on today’s society.  Like how the original was a big talking point on how excessive the 80s were, this film did manage to thrown in some bullet points about post-9/11 society.  This dynamic was one of my favorite things about the film and something I wish the film focused more on.  When the movie opens, we see a world going to unmanned police forces and drones (sound familiar?) and the film ends up having a debate on the price of human life.  I liked that but the movie very quickly changes its focal point and turns towards about what constitutes free will and how indomitable the human spirit is.  While that’s okay, too, (in fact, the original brings this up as well), the presentation of this theme was too dominating and it made the film extremely slow and very boring in parts.

"Don't worry, Alex.  I'll get around to finishing you after I've cleaned out
my garage..."

However, when the boring parts about how Alex Murphy is a human with machine parts and not a machine with human parts starts to get to be too much, the action begins.  While the action isn’t very memorable (read that as no dick shots) and is pretty bland with some straight forward “shoot this guy, shoot that guy” stuff, it’s enough to satisfy if you are fixing for some action.  Although, it’s kinda weird to see RoboCop running and jumping but that’s because, in our modern society, we don’t see robots as slow-moving, heavy devices that lumber around like we thought they did when the first was made.

Sure there is less dick-shots but there's more Keaton in this one.

"Let's talk about a time before my shitty Playboy
One thing I will say that this film did better than the original is the fact the cast is absolutely freakin’ fantastic!  You have proven great actors like Gary Oldman (his asshole-tendencies aside, he’s still talented), Michael Keaton (who, did you know, adding him to a film’s roster makes it cooler by at least 45%?), Jackie Earle Haley (who seems incapable of being bad, even in another remake as an iconic horror character), Jay Baruchel (who seemed like he wouldn’t fit in this film but did), and the baddest mother fucker to exist, Samuel L. Jackson.  The film is just overflowing with talent and they are all doing a fantastic job.  Keaton is addicting to watch as the slimy, yet charismatic, Omnicorp CEO.  Oldman is engaging as a scientist who wants to do good in the world but is stuck answering to a pushy boss.  Haley is stone cold and entertaining in his antagonistic ways towards Murphy as he plays a military technician for Omnicorp and Jackson is all kinds of fun as the Fox News-esque talk show host who tries to spin Omnicorp as the heroes of the world and how they are basically doing “God’s work.”  Every actor in this film really delivers and is capable of making this remake look ambitious.

Some times, he even surprises himself.

Every actor except one…

Take one wild guess on who that actor is...

Peter Weller is, and will always be, RoboCop.  Shit, when I see his name credited as the director of some of my favorite shows I find myself saying, “Hey, RoboCop directed this.”  His shoes were probably too big to fill and anyone who took the role would never have come close but the production failed mightily with bringing in Joel Kinnaman (who?) to play Alex Murphy and the man we all squeal over when he says, “Dead or alive you’re coming with me.”  Kinnaman is completely lifeless in his portrayal of the robot cop.  While this lack of emotion and vanilla delivery makes sense in some scenes where his personality is robbed from him by Omnicorp, it doesn’t explain when in other areas of the film, like before the accident and after he defeats his programming, he is only giving about 10% more emotion than he did in the other scenes.  I wasn’t too thrilled with his crazy eyes either…

"Allow me to stare at you, my wife, like I am a fucking lunatic."

Seriously, put the visor down.  Your eyes are creeping me out.

"Okay...and with that, you've lost the ability to play
the piano."
Kinnaman, without a doubt, is the weakest part of the film and that hurts because he is playing the main freaking character.  I can overlook the generic color scheme of the iconic character and how he looks more like he’s wearing a discarded Batman suit from The Dark Knight.  I can even overlook how the production hates having the visor over their actor’s eyes (have you learned nothing from Dredd?).  However, I can’t overlook that Kinnaman is presenting the character as something that isn’t worthy of paying attention to.  Kinnaman never once commands attention and seems unable to master the ability to come off as both robotic and emotional—something Weller made look freakishly easy.

Shown, Kinnaman's version of overflowing with emotion and talent...

Now, you’re probably thinking that since I couldn’t get behind the lead actor how the hell was I able to give this film my average score of 3 out of 5.  Yes, I thought Kinnaman was incredibly weak as RoboCop and thought the themes weren’t what I thought they were going to be, and that the action was pretty “by the numbers” but the rest of the cast is easily picking up the rest of the slack that falls in other categories.  Hell, even certain elements of the story—like Keaton’s character trying to sway public opinion of robot cops or Jackson’s character and his show—made the film entertaining and watchable.  Shit, I even liked the new design of ED-209 and felt the film really succeeded with its special effects (except jumping RoboCop…fuck that just looked weird).
Was there a demand for a leaping RoboCop on the 'net that I was
unaware of?

There was clearly some ambition to this remake and, at least to me, didn’t look like some quick attempt at getting some Box Office returns by half-assing a remake of a beloved film.  Even with its convoluted themes, the movie was clearly trying to comment on society and bring some philosophical questions about what it means to live when technology is concerned to the table.  Sure, the main guy was absolutely forgettable in his performance and made for some really awkward moments and the overall look of RoboCop is quite generic but the rest of the cast is so good that it made up for all shortcomings and I started to see RoboCop as a side character (which, truthfully, is kinda a crime all by itself).  The movie has a buttload of problems but, in the end, I didn’t feel like my time was wasted or that the remake somehow destroyed the integrity of the original.  There were elements that worked and a lot of elements that didn’t but it felt like director José Padiha was trying to make something that was relevant to these times but was also forging new territory as it honored the original.  While I didn’t think he succeeded in making a remake that is extremely watchable, he did make a film that didn’t feel like a waste of time for me and had enough working for it to make it one for my average, one-time viewing scores.

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