Postmortem: Robocop (2014)

RoboCopI caught the reboot of Robocop in theaters, and recall at the time thinking that it was a bit weak, especially compared to the original film. That being said, having watched it again my first impression was confirmed, namely that it’s not as as engaging or as fun as the1987 Paul Verhoeven movie.  And speaking of Verhoeven’s film, a lot of the credit goes to its rating, which was a well-deserved R. While Robocop’s most recent build is PG-13, which means that it can’t be seen by anyone under 13 years of age without a parent or guardian. So it should go without saying that none of the delightfully gratuitous violence that graced the original will be anywhere near the reboot. And it suffers for it, though it also lacks the gonzo tone of the first movie.  Luckily, some of the central themes (the privatization of public utilities, such as the police, where the man begins, and machine ends, etc) remain intact, though often not quite as clearly defined as in the first movie (the heads of Omnicorp–as opposed to Omni Consumer Products in the original–in the reboot aren’t necessarily evil more than greedy, while their counterparts in the original film gave the phrase ‘severance package’ an entirely new meaning). That being said, the reboot does have some advantages that the first film doesn’t.

One being that the reboot looks more cinematic, somehow bigger and more ambitious–considering that the original cost $13 million to produce, while the reboot cost $100 million, it aught to look better (even in 1980’s dollars).  Considering how attractive the movie is, it looks like money well-spent.  It also takes advantage of the latest in CGI and motion capture technologies, techniques which weren’t available when the original film was made. Another thing is that the chemistry between the main actors is significantly better this time around.  In reference to the original the relationship between Murphy (Peter Weller) and Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) was serviceable, but never particularly convincing, while that between 2014’s Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and Jack Lewis (Michael B. Williams) has much more in the way of camaraderie and comfort with each other, which is apparent on screen.

So if you go into Robocop (2014) and expecting the excesses of the original film–as I did when I first saw it–you’re going to be Robocop (1987)disappointed because there’re not too many directors that can beat Paul Verhoeven when it comes to over-the-top, subversive filmmaking. But if you haven’t seen the original film then José Padilha’s more conservative interpretation is actually pretty enjoyable. Robocop (1984) is currenty on Netflix

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