Monday, 22 September 2014

Sci-Fi September: RoboCop (2014)

Despite my love for the original movie, and my worry at the sanitisation of the material in an attempt to reach a wider audience, I was willing to give this new version of RoboCop a shot, I really was. Let's be honest, despite the intense violence of the original movie, the main character was eventually watered down and repackaged for kids anyway, in everything from TV shows to action figures to computer games. Yes, I have fond memories of that side-scrolling shooter that I played on my chunky little ZX Spectrum, and I'm sure many others of my generation have similar recollections.

Anyway, here's the thing, RoboCop starts off quite well. It's taking a different tack from the original movie, deciding to focus more on the idea of free will than the struggle between man and machine parts, although that also plays a big part in the film. Joel Kinnaman is the main character, Officer Murphy. He is seriously injured when he gets too close to some major criminals, and OCP gain permission from his wife (Abbie Cornish) to give him a second chance to live, albeit in a robotic shell that will house the small remains of his organic body. Gary Oldman is the doctor in charge of the project, Michael Keaton is the man looking for a return on his invested money, and Jackie Earle Haley simply seems intent on appearing in as many piss-poor remakes as possible.

Jose Padilha is a great director, he has some titles that are well worth checking out, but I won't list his filmography here. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from his work here. He's saddled with a lame script by Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, and Michael Miner, but that's not really an excuse for how badly he starts to fumble and drop the ball after the first 20-30 minutes. A sequence showing RoboCop going through an evaluation test, accompanied by a Focus song, Hocus Pocus, holds up as the first major low. It's bloodless, unexciting, messy, and far too similar to just watching a videogame, albeit one far more advanced than my ZX Spectrum games. And most of the scenes that come along afterwards just stick to that level.

Kinnaman is far too bland in the lead role, unfortunately, and Cornish is stuck with the same motivation for 80% of the movie - to get near her husband and feel that he's still the man she knew and loved for so long. Thankfully, there are other performances that help to make the whole thing bearable. Samuel L. Jackson is a lot of fun as an opinionated TV presenter, Jay Baruchel is enjoyable in a small role, and Haley actually does his best with the character he's given. But it's Keaton and Oldman who are the undoubted highlights, with the former able to rise above shallow characterisation simply thanks to his natural charisma, and the latter benefitting from the fact that he has the best character in the whole film. He may do what he's told by Keaton, but it's always clear that he struggles with his own urge to help his fellow man.

As everything meanders to an unexciting, and entirely predictable, finale it's all too easy to start agreeing with the many people who cursed the movie before it was even released. Many expected the worst, due to the rating and redesign of the central character. They got it. We all got it. This is a stinker. So bad that I wouldn't even recommend buying it for a dollar.


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