OBJECTIVE ROBOCOP (2014) REVIEW

The Paul Verhoeven directed Robocop which starred Peter Weller in the title role is a sci-fi master-piece and will always be remembered as such. Despite bad sequels and poor television adaptations, the original's reverence and influence on the genre can never be denied. A recent attempt to revitalize the franchise didn't fare as well as hoped when the Robocop remake hit theaters to mixed reviews. More negative than positive. Most, good or bad, always compared the 2014 interpretation to the original 1987 classic. The following review will judge the film on it's own merit and will not be compared to the original.

Reviews Opinion

 A remake/reboot is almost always compared the the original. Often falling victim to two paths of logic:  ¨It's too close to the original. It's exactly the same, what's the point?¨ Or If the new interpretation strays too far from the source material: ¨It's too different from the original.  Why call it Robocop if they make a completely different film?¨ Though complete contradictions, these are valid points of discontent to be sure. The trick is to satisfy both trains of thought, which is never an easy task. Which is why film makers are under extreme pressure to cater to an established fan base, while satisfying new/general audiences. As well as fulfilling their own artistic vision. Meanwhile, nine times out of ten, film studios are trying to cash in on a successful franchise/brand name. As apposed to taking a chance on something new and different. Though most remakes fail to recapture the essence of the source material and suffer from being too derivative. There are a rare few which mange to accomplish the opposite and desired affect. For example: John Carpanter's The Thing (1982), originally The Thing From Another World (1952) and The Fly (1986) directed by David Cronenberg, based on the 1958 film of the same name. More recently, The Evil Dead and the Planet of the Apes franchises have also produced successful reboots. So quality remakes aren't an impossibility. However, when remakes are turned out just to hold on to rights to a property or to cash in on a beloved classic by taking advantage of fan nostalgia, quality is diminished. As fool-hardy an endeavor as reboots may seem, the small window of hope left open by the hand-full of triumphs coupled with curiosity and devotion of die hard followers, hit or miss, remakes/reboots are here to stay.  

 
The 2014 interpretation of Robocop incorporates many socially relevant and well meaning ideas/ideals about society. Specifically on the use of drones to diminish the loss of human casualties of war/collateral damage, but plays it safe most of the time failing to be as edgy or gritty as it most-likely was on the printed page due to the PG-13 rating. Restricting the film from being overly violent or gory. However it still manages to push the action to the limits within its ratings confines. The idea of putting a man inside a machine and creating a new product to circumvent an existing law only enforced on American soil, which favors human judgement, emotion and instinct over the use of computer programmed mechanical drones as police-officers/soldiers is interesting. Another compelling development which differs from most films in the genre is the lack of a central villain. That is in the traditional sense of the term. OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers is a very intriguing character, mostly due to a stellar performance by Michael Keaton. Sellers starts out as a normal business minded philanthropist, believing what he's doing is right. Then becomes a victim of his own ambition. Which dictates his unethical/criminal behavior. Gary Oldman shines as Dr. Dennett Norton. Norton's crisis of conscience and struggle with his own personal code of ethics as well as his Hippocratic oath can only be portrayed by an actor of Oldman's caliber. With the little screen time he's given, Jackie Earl Haley delivers an excellent performance as OmniCorp's military technician Rick Mattox. Mattox's politics make him a compelling character. Believing human emotions and natural hesitation when making judgments in the field makes Robocop less efficient than a fully mechanical drone. Which makes him the perfect opponent for Robocop. Haley manages to add levity to tense situations while being threatening at the same time. Unfortunately Mattox is under-used. 
 
Michael K Williams is given even less screen time than Haley as Detective Jack Lewis (Murphy's partner) and is given hardly anything to do in this film. Though it's always fun to see Sam Jackson deliver any dialog he's given, he feels oddly out of place in this film. Playing televised media personality Pat Novak, Jackson is a delight to watch but his segments don't fit in with the tone of the rest of the film. Unfortunately Joel Kinneman doesn't deliver a very engaging or likable performance as Detective Alex Murphy/Robocop. Mostly due to the fact that there's hardy much time spent getting to know him or his family before he becomes more machine than man. The fact that Abbie Cornish gives a one-note performance as Alex's wife Carla throughout the entire film doesn't help either. Cornish lacks any realistic emotional reaction what so ever as to what has happened to her husband. Kinneman isn't bad as Murphy/Robocop, there's just not a whole lot to draw you into his character or to make you root for him. Other than the fact that he's the title character.    
 
This modern interpretation of Robocop directed by Jose Padilha is very visually stimulating and has in essence what a good remake should, a good amount of fan service without alienating new/general audiences and adds something new to the existing cannon. Unfortunately the compelling concepts mentioned fall short due to execution and lack of development. There's a lot of good concepts thrown into Robocop (2014) but it tends to lack focus. The ED 209 drones are impressive and provide more threatening combatants for Robocop to overcome. Only a few scenes of action are overly CG heavy and lack realism. But such is the case with most big budget films in the genre now-days.  I give Robocop (2014) 3 out of 5 stars, for great performances from Keaton, Oldman and Haley, high octane action and although underdeveloped, some very interesting concepts.    
 


 

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