Tuesday, February 18, 2014


It's been almost 20 years since the first time Robocop stepped onto the big screen. Movies have changed a lot since the 80's as we all know, Hollywood has changed drastically, but most importantly, audiences have changed. And it is clear from the reviews and performance of the reboot that audiences aren't happy with what they got.

For one, its not the action movie it is billed as. In fact, besides the climax of the film, there really isn't any action in it. Of course its sprinkled throughout but if you're going into this movie thinking it is going to be an all out action movie a la Transformers or Pacific Rim, you are sadly mistaken. Where most movie goers are expecting a reboot of this caliber to be a pure visual and entertainment feast they are given something much different than what was expected of this franchise.

The sad truth about Robocop is that people didn't get what they wanted. But I also mean that people didn't get what they wanted. Or perhaps they didn't even get what they saw.

This reboot is a whole new and modern take on the idea of putting a man inside a machine. Where the original had Peter Weller in the robo-gear early enough to jam pack the film with over the top, almost cartoon-ish action we were so accustomed to in the 80's, this film explores the ethical and practical implications of actually putting a man inside of a machine. 

The stark contrast of tone isn't unlike the original Batman or Superman movies compared to the more recent iterations from the past few years albeit this film does not in any way compare to the Chris Nolan franchise. It does however drastically differ from the original idea and themes of Robocop. Where once it was an metaphor for a Jesus-like resurrection from the dead, the film debates (very much in your face) what it would take to for this to actually happen. Nothing is wildly unbelievable in the film but it's own logic is easy enough to understand and swallow. It even almost seems to fight the urge to regurgitate the original material as the studio may have wanted in lieu of wanting to make an actual film about topical issues.

Much has been said about the redesign of his robo-suit but even that is a dig at the studio and perhaps the will for the movie to think outside the robo-x. The scene in which they decide to go with the redesigned black suit is all about marketing to the people. Alex Murphy is already in the traditional grey suit but the executives at Omni Corp including Michael Keaton and Jay Baruchel think that he needs to be sleeker and more cool looking for the American people to like him. Thus the change of appearance for the titular character.

Take that America!

The actual journey of Alex Murphy's character is truly heartrendingly portrayed by Joel Kinnaman. The family man is truly ashamed of what he has become and it is surprisingly hard to watch the first time Murphy sees what he looks like underneath the suit. This character development is what replaces the action that we would expect, to give a more realistic approach to the idea of Robocop. It also explores the domestic and foreign politics of actually implementing Murphy into the Detroit police department. Does this take maybe a little too long for the most part, of course, but for those that enjoy true science fiction done well it is a welcome departure.

Of course the film builds to a climax with all kinds of robot action that is entertaining enough to watch, but if it didn't have it, the movie would have been fine as well. Obviously it wouldn't be as fun or marketable but the action wasn't the main focus of the film by far. Which brings the realization that Robocop is not a fun movie. It lacks the bombastic action and the entertainment value of its predecessor. It lacks the very soul of what made the original Robocop we all know and love. But couldn't that be the point of what director Jose Padilha was going for? To actually put a man inside of a machine blurs the line of whether or not he would actually be human any more, possibly even forfeiting the idea that he even had a soul anymore.

If you are looking for a action movie that you can turn off your brain and enjoy, you will not get it here. If you go in thinking that it is going to be like the original film you will not get it here. Unfortunately for the film, the majority of audiences won't get - scratch that - understand what this reboot is. Is it a great film? No. Is it better than the original? It terms of practicality and realism? Yes.

Will it reinvigorate the franchise? No, but that is because it tries to do something different which is rare in Hollywood now-a-days.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you thought of the movie.

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