Thursday 13 February 2014

Review: RoboCop

Year: 2014
Director: Jose Padilha
Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Samual L Jackson, Michael K Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel

Synopsis is here

I’ve never had a truly strong affinity to RoboCop, although I do enjoy watching the original movie a lot. It’s not really a fault of the film; however, the 90’s kid in me often kicks in when viewing the movie. The 80’s consumerism and Jesus imagery feels commonplace now despite being so outrageous in 1987. Personal preference has me warming to Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers as I get older as it still feels radical. The original RoboCop, while still a smart sci-fi, almost feels like it lost the war it was raging at the time. I remember watching the film again while at university and seeing a class of kids glaring uninterested at the film. I’d dread to think how millennials would see the film.

It’s talk like that which probably helped make a reboot of the property so appealing.  It’s hard not to think of executives probably spying the Boba Fett merchandise fetish that spurred on the sequels, TV and cartoon series. While not an uberfan of the 80’s feature, I do remember feeling a slight discomfort at the remakes’ first press leakings. From the drab trailer to the new suit, I couldn’t find anyone too impressed with the shiny new direction the filmmakers looked to be going.  

It’s been stated that Brazilian director Jose Padilha (Elite Squad) had a lot of trouble on the production (one that was already halted due to “creative difficulties), yet he and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer struggle on to craft a broad sci-fi procedural that display enough hints of ambition. Robo 2.0 toys with the idea of PR led, globalised crime fighting in entertaining ways, from its impressive Middle Eastern opening and Samuel L Jackson’s winking media “news” presenter, to the sudden realisation Murphy gets when he discovers where his new parts come from. The film’s humour may not be as strong as Verhoeven’s, but Robo 2.0 displays the type of smarts that some remakes simply don’t bother with.

The film does struggle over certain hurdles due to the pressure of what it now needs to become. The original films feminist and urban readings take a strong hit, while the amount of violence use for a 12a is beyond problematic. It never thinks why Verhoeven’s use of gore was considered. Yet despite this, the philosophical element of man and his tools, the marketability of safety and talk of free will, still engage. One shouldn’t regard the clean Apple design of Omicorp or the chilling use of surveillance that RoboCop once uses to try and track his killers. There’s enough with the film to remind us just how close we are to certain possibilities. It helps that Padilha brings his Elite Squad energy to the action, although the sequences become less interesting towards the end.

With all this said, Robo 2.0 is a serviceable entry to a franchise that was completely fine as a one shot. Take that last sentence as you will, but if producers are to be incessant with ramming these types of reboots in our faces, at least, they saw sense in hiring a socially conscious director with something to say and a screenplay with an amount of texture under the surface. Total Recall Remake this is not.