‘RoboCop’ Review

RoboCop

“RoboCop 2.0 is new, and not exactly improved, but it’s still worth the upgrade.”

I have an iPad 2, and I really liked iOS 6, and was perfectly content with it.  Soon enough, Apple came out with iOS 7, and when I upgraded I didn’t like it.  It was all shiny and colorful, but different than I was accustomed to.

That’s exactly the way felt about José Padlha’s “RoboCop” reboot:  Sure, you can do it, but why?  I like my old RoboCop just fine, thank you!

Like Apple, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “upgraded” anyway.

Anyone who has read this blog before has probably noticed that I hate changes made just for the sake of change.

With iOS 7, once I got used to the changed appearance, I noticed that it offered certain benefits that iOS 6 didn’t.  The same thing applies to the new RoboCop.  It may not be the one that I remember, but for the most part it doesn’t feel like the changes were done just to change something (or as a cynical money grab, which is also popular with Hollywood).

You see, studio executives realize that if they reboot a popular franchise, name recognition is built-in, as is (they’d like to think) the audience.

But there’s a problem, especially when the film you’re rebooting a masterwork, which I honestly think the original film is.  It was a proudly R-rated stew of jingoism, bad taste and violence so extreme that the the original film was rated X before Paul Verhoeven cut it enough to warrant an R rating.

So when I learned of the reboot, directed by Brazilian director José Padilha (“Elite Squad”) was going to be rated PG-13, something stank.

The odor that aroused my attention must have been the laundry that’s sitting in the hamper next to my desk, because Padilha’s “RoboCop” differs from Verhoeven’s in ways that are mainly good, and the film was actually pretty enjoyable.

Part of what differentiates it is that, unlike with the original, this isn’t Murphy’s story.  Office Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, who I’ll get to in a moment) is transformed into RoboCop by an act of violence (one not nearly as extreme as the first film, though it did the job) but the film seemed to spend more time more time on the arc of Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman).

It’s an interesting shift of direction.

Though it’s a bit of a pity because if you’ve seen the “The Killing,” you probably noticed that Kinnaman is a talented actor.  Though what I didn’t know is that his range is so great that there were times during this film that I actually didn’t recognize him from one scene to the next, despite it obviously being him.

I read somewhere the José Padilha had a miserable time directing this film, mainly because of studio interference.  That being said, you don’t see any of his frustration on screen, though I did notice what I thought to be a disdain for technology, as opposed to people.

To imagine what this was like, take any of the Michael Bay ‘Transformers’ films, and imagine almost as much time being spent on people as opposed to whatever CGI creation was dreamt up.

It bears mentioning that Sam Jackson, as Pat Novak, a television host in the vein of Bill O’ Reilly and Sean Hannity, is hilarious.  It’s when he’s on screen that the film most resembles the original because he adds a touch of welcome jingoism.

Unfortunately, the film could have used a bit more of such snark, because it goes off the rails a bit in the third act.  It’s not enough to ruin what came before, but it makes not sense, and feels forced.

All in all, I went in to “RoboCop” expecting that I would want a downgrade to the 1987 version; imagine my surprise to learn that I actually enjoyed the update.

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