A review by Nalini Haynes
On Friday night I saw Robocop 2014 at IMAX. It was science fiction on a big budget with a robot and guns.
In Tehrahn with reporters tracking shiny droids policing the streets, locals responding with force in an attempt to free their obviously cowed people, Robocop was off to a strong start.
Back in the States, big business looks for a loophole while manipulating politicians then popular opinion to get their droids on the streets, policing their own population.
In the reboot it is fear not fact motivating resistance to change.
In the original, EDT – the AT-AT style droid (looks a bit like chicken legs with a small body and BIG GUNS – is demonstrated in the boardroom. It malfunctions, killing one of the execs, motivating the board to be conservative to avoid disastrous risks. Another exec steps up, practically stepping over the body of his deceased friend, promoting his Robocop program as a substitute.
Thus both the original and the reboot had strong storylines, at least in the beginning. Both storylines included corruption at some level; the reboot’s corruption was more systemic.
Both stories were flawed but neither more nor less flawed than Pacific Rim, a recent blockbuster. The original Robocop aimed for a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon-style action flick with humour, achieving its goal to some extent. It’s funnier now than it would have been in its day because the SFX are so bad – just walking, that EDT is funny – and we’re a more sophisticated audience, expecting more these days. The reboot took itself too seriously, avoiding the camp and omitting humorous visuals.
Both movies fail the Bechdel Test. Women are incidental: wife, mother, love interest. In the original, Lewis, Robocop’s erstwhile female police partner, talks low and slow, swinging her hips or thrusting them forward until you expect her to start a strip routine. She’s used more for deep and meaningful looks than dialogue.
In the reboot, Murphy’s wife is tricked into giving permission to use Murphy in this prototype experiment. He’s short one arm and one leg, he’ll be blind in one eye and he has some damage to internal organs – so they keep one hand, his lungs and most of his brain along with his face. Yeah, right. The wife seems to be under the illusion that there might be a future for them together now that he’s a talking head, captive of Omnicorp’s R&D division.
The original handled this so much better, claiming that Murphy signed over his rights as a condition of employment. Declared dead, he has only vestiges of memory, piecing together personality and responses over time.
The reboot tries to regain ground by uploading data when Robocop is due for a media event. AS IF. Anyone involved in the public service or politics knows that they’d be buffing Robocop’s armour at that time, NOT taking risks with the software.
The info dump backfires so Robocop is pacified by lowering his dopamine levels. He triumphs but offends his wife who goes to the media. Deus et machina. Bleh.
Lewis figuring out Robocop was Murphy in the original was better.
Everything is about the menz, the wimmenz aren’t real people.
Technological Fan Service
The reboot’s slick tech and gritty feel trumps the original’s camp visuals and comedic stop-motion SFX animating the EDT although the EDT definitely added necessary comedy to the original in a mostly serious story.
I’m also a bit partial to the purple robo-armour in the original. It was made of titanium with Kevlar, justifying the pretty hues. Every time I saw the very purple rear helmet, I wanted Robocop to prance and sway his hips; sadly I was disappointed.
In the reboot, Robocop’s armour was silver with a black underlay, being converted to black paint for most of the movie to increase the ‘cool’ factor (as one of the characters said) before inexplicably being restored to silver at the close. When the armour was converted to black in the trailers, I anticipated cool stealth armour with an appropriate storyline but, again, disappointment.
The biggest technical disappointment is that, with this massive SFX budget and other contemporary movies setting the standard, Robocop was just some dude with a slow, heavy tread presumably caused by faulty mechanics causing hissing hydraulics reminiscent of Marvin, the paranoid android.
Tester dude WHO SHOULD TOTALLY HAVE BEEN CHUCK NORRIS threatens to kill Robocop. Sif you’d allow John Wayne to trash million$ of R&D work just because the prototype is sub-par.
Robocop is set a test to take out 50 mechanicals and one should-have-been-Chuck-Norris. The two-dimensional Robocop strolls through with fancy shooting while giving us SFX visuals but NOT ONE superhero move. Not a single one. No jump to the mezzanine, no punching (unlike in the original), no nothing. Robocop is a gun-toting geriatric. Sad face.
Pacific Rim robots had super-hero-like powers. Pacific Rim was ‘SPLODEY.
Robocop the reboot has a promising beginning and features cool armour with a shiny sexy motorbike. It needs humour and explosions to liven it up; some sexual tension might help. Although taking itself too seriously, Robocop follows through as a science fiction police procedural story.
Three and a half stars.
Nice on the big screen. IMAX was in 2D; I doubt Robocop would benefit from a 3D treatment.