Saturday, February 8, 2014


ROBOCOP (2014) 

Review By:
G.P. Manalo

Directed By:
Jose Padilha

Joel Kinnaman
Michael Keaton
Gary Oldman

Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop was a sleeper hit back in 1987; Robocop has that satirical yet honest message about crime and corporation could affect the society in the near future but it was built in the metallic shell of a smart yet violent Hard-R science fiction movie. But some years later, Robocop has become part of the short list of Hollywood where there is a need to bring back the best of the 80s through either sequels, prequels or most typically re-makes or reboots. Jose Padilha’s version stripped away almost everything that makes Verhoeven’s version great and it is the satire it had and the violence that does make the world of Robocop not a great place to live in. This version of Robocop is more of a political message and at the same time focuses more on what makes man - man. The only question left that is floating in the audience’s mind is whether or not Robocop is better off dead or alive?

In 2028, a company called OmniCorp has become a worldwide brand of robotics and advanced weaponry that can defend the world from both crime and terrorist attacks, but a publicly-supported government bill known as the Dreyfuss act is stopping the company from putting drones and weapons in American soil. The CEO of Omnicorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) has vowed to counteract the act by putting a man in a machine. He handpicked a Detroit Cop, Alex Murphy (John Kinnaman) for the Robocop program after being brutally murdered in a car explosion by the local gang for interfering with their plans and exposing their crimes. He is meanwhile suited in a robotic armor with the help of Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) and he trained for months until he is free to serve his country for proving the world that drones can make America a better place. But it didn’t take long for Murphy to fight the program stopping him from solving his own murder and finish the case he took in the first place.

I was one of those people who are not really looking forward to this movie at all ever since the first announcement that they will be doing a PG-13 Robocop re-make. I’ve told myself this in the announcement “didn’t they learn anything with the Total Recall reboot?”, It shows in 2012’s Total Recall re-make that it is impossible to have the same success like the old one did and it also shows in this re-make of the 1987 classic, especially when the new one does took away almost everything the classic was standing for. That same problem does happen in this movie and it shows if you do have a background with the classic Robocop film, but it didn’t go downhill the same way Total Recall did, but at the same time still feels like a huge missed opportunity.

First and foremost, this film lacks violence, but not only the blood and gore kind but actual violence that makes crime, crime. The film visualizes for the audience   the world as a better place than it is meant out to be, which makes the concept of having a Robocop be irrelevant in this world. Michael Keaton keeps saying “I want this world to be a better place” and I’m just sitting there going “FROM WHAT?!”, the fact that banks, offices and grocery stores are still standing can be considered as a victory, it’s not like the city is exploding in fire and ash every day. 

The point of the 1987 film is that they needed a Robocop to stop criminals from going out and wreak havoc in this anarchic world foamed by sex, drugs and gun violence (Because that’s their everyday life in a nutshell), but you barely feel anything at all in this movie. The film lacks substance to most of the characters in this film and you can definitely tell by the villains in this film, the villains don’t feel like threats at all, they feel more like cardboard cut-outs than they are actual characters and at the same time barely do anything make them be called a “bad guy” but more of a laidback businessman or track jacket drug dealers.  

The concept of Robocop is 80s cheese at its finest and for one could think that it couldn’t really be taken a lot seriously at first but then you realize the underlying story of the nature of both man and machine, the story that makes Robocop being one of the most self-aware and smartest sci-fi films in that decade. Here there was a surprising amount of room to breathe, but maybe too many. The comedy or (for the lack of a better word) light-heartedness is also lacking, granted, there were a few scenes of comedic dialogue and one liners but the film still comes out as a very dull film due to it's extensiveness and disjointedness towards as the film progresses from the second to third act. However, I do like how they explore more on the psychological problem Alex Murphy is going through in this transformation and him fighting the program for him to be more human than he is a machine and also a father-son relationship between him and Dr. Norton. Both of those stories were definitely the best part of the film that does make this film seem new in a way as a reboot but those things are shadowed by a very extensive political message that takes too much time in the first two acts.

 The performances in this movie are both serviceable and to some weren’t really given a lot to do in this film. Joel Kinnaman doesn’t really do much of an impression than Weller did but his performance is definitely serviceable, physically he is a believable Robocop and there where he does portray the despondency of not being human anymore. Michael Keaton wears the suit of being a corporate asshole very well but with the material he is given he leaves off as a cardboard cut-out in this film and a bit of a joke. Gary Oldman was one of the best parts of the film (Samuel Jackson as well, but we’ll go to that later), like I said earlier he does share a good father-son dynamic with Joel Kinnaman, and that is one of the most interesting parts of this reboot. Abbie Cornish is more of a plot device too, but her performance was just "ok", but I do feel invested on the sub-plot she has, I thought his family was under developed in the original films and it really shows the impact she had in this movie. Jackie-Earle Haley was also fun to watch and great in this film  but he was barely in it the whole movie and i wished that he was given a little bit more time. Last but not the least is, Samuel L. Jackson, he is probably the best performer in this movie. He only appears by the first and last scenes, and a few segments in between; replacing the satirical TV ads from the original, this loudmouth TV show host of the Novac Element segments were fun to watch.
Peter Weller the original Robocop pretty much took the words out of my mouth (during the Star Trek Into Darkness premiere) that “there’s only one thing that changed; the technology has changed, storytelling and movie making is still the same. That’s the gift of ROBOCOP is its humor and its poignant story of resurrection/redemption and its particular political message” and concluded his message by saying that the original is a “hard movie to beat”. Which is very much true, the movie only upgrades the special effects of the old film with sleeker and cleaner effects that takes away the grit of the film. Sure, the CGI does make the new Robocop actually be believable as a robotic machine along with the drones, and the ED-209s look real and it does look cool to see them come to life in this movie. Not to mention there were a few action scenes (thanks to Padilha’s experience in Elite Squad) that weren’t really nothing new but fun enough, his use of the shaky-cam wasn’t overly-obnoxious like most films we have had so far (*cough* Paranormal Activity: Marked Ones). 

I do like that they did give a nod to the classic silver suit as he started off, and the way he sees through his visor is a great upgrade. Though the black suit is a lot to get used to as the film progresses, I do admire the sleeker and fitting but it still comes off to me as a rubber suit or hockey pads. Speaking of nods, this movie does have a lot of the nods, they brought back the classic music in the credits (that actually made me stay at the theater) and the gun coming out of a  spring-loaded holster (yes, i got that from my action figure box, shut up), though there were some nods that feels forced; mostly this problem occurs through dialogue and the climax in the third act.


In the end, I left the theatre having the same experience like last year’s Carrie re-make which I said “it was ok” and that being said, i did enjoy it but I still left the theatre asking myself “what was the point?” or to answer my question earlier that Robocop is "better off dead". As much as I want to say that I somehow admire Padilha and his crew for bringing an up-to-date version of the classic where they touch up on the existence of drones and advanced weaponry in this day of age it does result to a very dull and forgettable film - still.

 A re-make of Robocop is definitely unnecessary despite the fact that you spend millions of dollars just to update the effects and strip everything away that made the classic a timeless classic. Granted, there are still enough to enjoy in this movie, the action is good and there were a few of the story lines in this film to keep you going but as a whole the movie is more of an enjoyable rental if you are a true fan of the old, if you aren’t this could be fresh for you and you will definitely enjoy this movie. If you would have a prime directive it would be that you “see the original”. 

Even though the film ends anti-climatically, if they were to make a Robocop 2, I hope it will be better than this one and the Robocop 2 we had years ago. 




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