Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Robocop (2014) Review

I'm struggling to figure out how to put Robocop into words. Reboots are always difficult to review because no matter how you look like it, your opinion of the reboot is always going to be colored by your affection of the original series. The more you like the original, the more difficult it will be to accept the changes of the reboot, therefore preventing you from being as open to the change as you would normally be. Not only that, but most of the new reboots are targeted at a very specific audience that is very difficult to sway; people who view the originals with nostalgia and want to try and modernize that same feeling they got in a much more modern setting, usually so that they can make money off of a brand name yet make it just similar enough so that no one can call it a blatant cash grab. I guess this is a really long way of saying that Robocop doesn't feel like a cash grab, but it completely misses the point and spirit of the original movie.

Alex Murphy is your normal everyday cop. He tries to do the right thing and tries to save as many people as possible from criminals. However, one day he is nearly killed in a car bomb aimed at him by his fellow officers that are on the payroll of the biggest crime boss in Detroit. Thankfully, he's able to stay alive by becoming Robocop, a half human and half machine officer that is out to save the streets of Detroit... kind of. In actuality, he's a patsy that is being used by Omni Consumer Products, or OCP for short, as a way of allowing them to sell their products in the USA. You see, OCP primarily makes mechanical soldiers that are used for war, and they want to try and start selling them in America because it would theoretically make them an insane amount of money if they can start selling them to cities and use them to replace officers. However, because of the government, they can't sell their mecha soldiers, so Robocop is created as a way to bypass the system, and slowly they start to erase Alex Murphy's memories and emotions so that he can function exactly like their mechanical soldiers.

Right off the bat, you can tell that this movie as a political agenda and hammers in the point constantly. The movie opens with Samuel L. Jackson as a host of a O'Reilly Report-esque news show that goes on about how great it is to help out foreign countries with OCP's mechanical soldiers and shows that forced intervention in foreign nations is a good thing! And not only that, but the government is evil for not allowing OCP to sell their mechanical soldiers to corporations and law enforcement and even goes so far as to say that the government is "pro crime" if they don't allow OCP to sell their walking military arsenals. Wow. The heavy handedness is palpable.

"Come on! Let OCP sell the walking death machines! Don't
be rude to them!"
Not only that, but OCP are 100% the villains. They have no regard for human life, only about how they can break into new markets and get richer. They want nothing more than complete economic control, and they're of the mindset that war makes business, so let's go and sell human shaped tanks to people because MONEY!!! Oh, and Robocop is in there somewhere too I think.

I can't even talk about the movie that much because what really irks me about the movie is its political agenda. I don't really like to discuss politics at all when it comes to reviews since that's something that we all can leave at the door, but this movie is less about Robocop and more about making a statement and making it clear. It's a political message disguised as a reboot of an 80's action movie. Just watch this clip from the movie and tell me that there isn't some kind of message that the movie is trying to make abundantly clear.

So do you kinda notice that Robocop is barely in the thing and that it focuses a lot more on the business and political angle of his existence? Well guess what, that's pretty much all true. Just to set the record straight, as an independent, I pretty much am middle of the road when it comes to politics and I think that both parties have flaws in their general philosophies and actions. At the same time, I'm not someone that professes to know everything about politics and there are several things about the whole thing that fly over my head. That being said, I know my propaganda when I see it, and to make something that is as blatant as this rubs me the wrong way.

Political motives aside, the focus on politic is kind of head scratching when you compare it to the original Robocop. In that movie, OCP was still a corrupt company, but the villain in the movie was a corrupt executive. He made his own walking death mechs called ED-209's and they were used as a foil to Robocop and prove that the ED-209's are the better products. There was no real political angle behind it except for the fact that crime is rampant and needs to be solved. It was more a movie about humanity and the spirit of the human condition than anything else. If there was a political message to be gained from that movie, it was purely by your own reflection than anything outright stated.

Big surprise as well, the original was better. Do you want to know what the original Robocop was like? It was a movie that featured Alex Murphy get shot at by five men with massive guns at a near rapid fire basis until he was pulp. It was the movie that dunked a man in acid and had him walk around for a little bit screaming in agony only to be run over by a truck. Christ, it was the movie where this happened! It was a violent as hell movie that had some great action and character pieces. In the remake, all of the action scenes are tepid at best and the characterization is bland as vanilla.

Gotta make him look sleek. Sleek is cool with focus groups
Robocop himself is just boring to watch and see. Alex Murphy is a boring white guy with a boringly perfect family that has this misfortune thrust upon them. In the original movie, when Alex became Robocop, he was more machine than man that had to regain his humanity and try to remember that he was a man named Alex Murphy. He had to remember his family, because for the most part of the movie, he couldn't even visualize their faces or names. He had to physically make himself remember that he had a loving wife and son. In the remake, we see them from the beginning and they are active characters. He still sees them on a frequent basis until OCP tampers with his programming and makes him more machine, thereby missing the point of the original. The original wasn't about Alex struggling with him being a man and machine and being manipulated by people to do their bidding, but about trying to regain his lost humanity and remembering who he was. Most importantly, there was no political agenda motivating the story.

Then we have the action scenes, which couldn't even hold a candle to anything the original had. The remake just had Robocop as a badass that couldn't be defeated no matter what happened to him. He literally destroys over 40 other OCP mech like it was nothing, not even breaking a sweat. He even gives off a few one liners while fighting them. He's almost too perfect to be defeated. A general rule of thumb is that watching someone do something effortlessly is boring. Watching Robocop decimate a small army like it was nothing has no weight behind it because we know that he's just going to defeat them without breaking a sweat. It's boring to see someone unstoppable. In the original, even when Alex Murphy was Robocop, he was thrashed around a few times, and we saw him overcome the struggles he faced and defeat his enemies. He couldn't beat the ED-209, but one rematch later and he was able to win. He couldn't defeat some gangsters at first, but after going through a spiritual awakening of sorts he could. He overcame his struggles, which made him more interesting to watch. Watching someone be a cool badass and not even try at it is boring to me. All of my investment in the character is gone when that happens cause I know he can't be beaten.

Too cool for school
There's a big point in the movie that in order to make Robocop more marketable, they put him in front of focus groups to see what will yield a better reaction. It's not necessarily what is better as a whole, but what people think they want to see in a half human half robot crime fighter. That's what this movie is perfectly encapsulated. It's a movie that is played for focus groups about what Robocop should be. He should be cool looking. He should be a badass. He should be played by a gruff white guy. He should be everything that makes him generic and boring. So surprise surprise, this movie is generic and boring, or at least, it would be that if it wasn't for the blatant stab at politics the movie makes. Nothing irks me more in movies than seeing a movie try to have a political message, and it irks me even more when it's not even subtle and forced into a movie that it has no place to be in. This is a movie about a cyborg cop that is trying to solve his own murder, not a movie about the ethicality of weapons in the Middle East and how evil corporations/republicans are. This is a movie that should be fun and filled with brutal, over the top action, not a movie that's as bland and mediocre as this. What a waste.


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