Sunday, February 9, 2014

RoboCop (2014) Movie Review


Does Robocop really need to be rebooted? That was the question I asked myself when I heard that the 1987 sci-fi classic was going to be remade. And the first drastic change in this version that I immediately noticed when I saw the first trailer, is that RoboCop is still self conscious when he becomes RoboCop, a change that I was sure will piss off many fans of the original. I have to admit, I too was a little skeptical of this change when I first saw it.
But fortunately its was only after I actually saw this film that I understood why this story change was made, this version wants to explore the human emotional aspect of being RoboCop, and the ethics of using machines to revitalise a paralysed cop back to work again, a theme that reminded me of what the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution brought to the table. This really works to this movie's advantage, but unfortunately also a bit to its detriment of the fun that made the original RoboCop such a fun film.

The script overall does add something new to the RoboCop legacy, and it does it largely successfully, but it also made the film felt crammed and bloated with too many ideas its trying to bring that some of those ideas feel underdeveloped. And its not just the ideas of ethics and humanity that feel underdeveloped, the story has its fair share of problems as well. The story gets pretty confusing in the second act, and, without spoiling anything, the supposedly bad guy, or bad guys, that RoboCop was dying to catch earlier, suddenly becomes non-important in the film's final act. And that's another problem with this film, too many goddamn bad guys to care about, and none of them very interesting, except maybe Michael Keaton as Raymond Sellars. Add that to the film's more serious themes and tones, and this film, despite its great action set pieces, just simply does not feel as fun as the original RoboCop. But hey, at least it was more fun that Judge Dredd 2013. Yeah, now looking back at it, that movie was less fun than this new RoboCop, that movie was pretty much too serious on itself.

So given so many of the script problems, why did I like this movie enough to recommend it? Let me answer this by asking you this, what do you really watch RoboCop for? To see RoboCop take town many bad guys with tons of cool gadgets, right? And you know what, on that aspect, RoboCop 2014 delivers. RoboCop's tech is well updated for the modern era. Even the ED-209 gets a pretty interesting redesign, one that is less goofy that the original, to be sure, something to be missed, but also one that looks more convincing that the now-dated stop-motion animated ED-209 in the original. But not that there's no charm to be had watching the old ED-209 again, I found myself laughing at the old ED 209's intentional incompetence in the original, as well as the goofily animated stop motion model. The Detroit as depicted in this movie is pretty sleek, and actually looks pretty nice to live in, which makes us wonder if these robotic cops were ever need in that city to begin with. I mean, at least the original film depicted Detroit in a pretty gritty, corrupted and screwed up state criminally, which makes sense to want to have tougher robotic cops to make the city safer.

Now, let's talk about the new suit. Some say that this new suit looks like a poor imitation of Chris Nolan's Batman suit. While I don't entirely disagree why fans would interpret that, I don't think its a bad design by any means. RoboCop's new suit does look well updated for the modern age. It makes him feel more agile, I mean, if you remember, the old RoboCop could barely run. His heads-up-display looks something like a HUD you would see in a modern sci-fi first-person shooter game, interestingly enough. The action sequences in this film is as frenetic as you could ever imagine from what you would expect in these kind of modern reboots, although, admittedly enough, they tend to over use the shaky cam, again. Somebody decided that shaky cam is so cool that it must be implemented in every modern action movie franchise reboot?

And did I mention this film use the original RoboCop main music theme in the titles? I can't help but grin from ear to ear when I heard that theme again in the title sequence. It shows that this new movie respects the original film, unlike other reboots, which would normally discard the main music themes of the original films entirely. How many of these kind of "modern" reboots of older franchises actually reuse the original main theme?

The acting and performances in this film, on the other hand, is somewhat a mixed bag. Joel Kinnaman is rather serviceable as Alex Murphy, the cop who will soon transform into RoboCop. And as I said earlier, Michael Keaton is pretty good as the greedy CEO of Omnicorp, the company that manufactures the RoboCop. Gary Oldman, as always, deliver a great performance as Doctor Norton, who actually made RoboCop. Jackie Earl Haley is very interesting in his performance as the unlikable Rick Mattox, who trains RoboCop in combat. But Abbie Cornish as the wife of Alex Murphy delivers a rather disappointingly inconsistent performance. She tries to deliver that kind of acting, where her character is trying to supress her emotions but still cries kind of quietly, and sometimes that works, but other times when she tries that she fails to deliver that kind of emotion and looked underacted. And Sam L. Jackson? As entertaining as his performance was, the story could have omitted him and you would still not miss anything, making his character entirely pointless.

At times, it may seem unfair to compare this new RoboCop to the original, as this film is trying to bring something new and different to the table. But even with the problems that arise from the inevitable comparisons to the original, those problems are not distractingly bad enough to prevent you from the enjoyment of this new RoboCop as a popcorn sci-fi action flick. The original film is also a popcorn sci-fi action flick at heart, but it succeeds at its less complex themes than this version, which tries to cram in too much complex themes in the ethics of technology, and fails to fully explore all of them, along with its warts in its storyline and plotting. But if you stop thinking about those problems too much, or... just stop thinking entirely, you find that this is still a very entertaining popcorn sci-fi action film.

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