Saturday, February 15, 2014

Robocop (2014)

A Little Too Much Beta-testing Before the Release

A re-boot of Robocop may be a little too on-the-nose when describing this movie. It's a new version of "Robo-cop," what else are you going to call it but a "reboot?"

Thing is, you usually CTRL-ALT-DELETE when you want to improve the performance of your device. Given the way this one turned out, the third key-stroke of the sequence seems the best course of action—"Delete," then "purge."

1987's version was a roaring Paul Verhoeven movie with a goofy satiric eye towards everything American—the media, capitalism, societal stratification, cut-throat office politics, law-and-order and police impotence, technology, technocracy, and over-the-top violence. Nothing was sacred. Verhoeven's Robocop was so giddy with blasting its societal targets into jelly that it made the movie hard to take seriously, other than as a violent, jestering romp, bordering on camp (you can say that about a lot of Verhoeven movies).

This new Robocop starts in that direction with an advocate news program (hosted by Samuel L. Jackson in the same arch mode as his CapitalOne commercials) wondering why if we can send robots to police the streets of Iraq, why can't we do it in this country? Sure. What's good enough for countries we're at war with, should be good for the people at home, right?

That's as subtle as the satire in this one is.  And it depressingly plays the rest of the movie straight, as the execs of Omnicorp (CEO'd by Michael Keaton, who's always welcome) try to find a way around a legislative ban of their armed robots on continental soil in order to drive up their earnings. The plan (envisioned by Keaton and not some lackey) is to create a "robot with a conscience," in order to gain the trust of the American people, as what's keeping the ban in place are the opinion poll numbers (And see, that's a plot-hole, too, as it's assuming Senators actually listen to their constituents).

The companies prosthetics genius (played by Gary Oldman) is put in charge to make a robot-cop with the mind of a cop, and pretty soon he gets the body of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) to play with. Complicating matters is that Murphy has a wife (Abbie Cornish) and a son, and although she's agreed to all this to have her husband back, when Murphy's put on the streets again, she never sees him, making a natural enemy to the corporate scheme.

Meanwhile, we're supposed to be concerned that Murphy is still Murphy inside the can; this was an issue with the first movie, too, but Verhoeven swept it aside, until the last to keep the action moving and the sentimentality to a minimum, until the revelation that Murphy was himself again, only galvanized.
On every level, this one falls short, not only in how it's presented on-screen, but also in the deeper meanings and messages that is the movie's after-taste. We're meant to take everything at face-value (and that face doesn't even crack a smile), not even making good on its "Frankenstein" parallels. As far as a vision of the future, there isn't any. All the tech and gloss is inside, while houses and cars are pretty much the same as now (how's that for a statement of progress?).
No, this one's concerned with family values and finding 'the man in the machine." If it was trying to do anything else, it might be interesting, but it might as well be a domestic drama with chrome.

So, "they've" made a weak version of Verhoeven's Total Recall, and now a weak one of his Robocop. Can't wait to see what they're gonna do with Showgirls.

No comments:

Post a Comment