DIRECTOR: José Padilha
It’s 1987: The action genre is dominated with R or 18 rated movies, often starring Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sly Stalone and kids wanted and expected nothing less than to see these action packed movies, even though they were violent and littered with sexual references. And our parents didn’t seem to be too concerned about all this.
My mates spoke about little else other than A Nightmare On Elm Street and I was would watch Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990) with by mum, in fact it was her who introduced me to The Terminator (1984) when I was 12, the same age that I was when I first saw former two titles, and she was a bit of a prude to be honest, keeping me away from horror!
But Robocop (1987) left its scars on me, with its uber sadistic violence and a tone which was much more horrific that I was expecting as a child watching the latest blockbuster, Robocop! But that was the charm of this classic, intelligent satire, packed from start to finish with commentary on the decadent 80’s corporate and consumer culture, and the perverse Frankenstein lengths which society might go to if we were to continue down that path. But that was 28 years ago and…
…Well, we not quite there yet but that’s another story.
So, here we are in 2013/14 with yet another attempt to reboot or simply revive a franchise with so much potential that has never been realised, with Robocop 2 (1990) failing to recapture the tone of the original, which strangely and successfully enough, used it uber violence as a form of comedy, and it worked. But Robocop 2, helmed by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) director Irvin Kershner failed to capture that twisted tone, one best left Paul Verhoven and with another sequel, a cartoon, live action show and mini-series to follow, Robocop was just one failure after another, leaving its progenitor, Robocop (1987) as the classic.
The first or many errors in judgement in this 2013 reboot was the casting of someone ever more wooden and uncharismatic that Peter Weller in the form of Joel Kinnaman. They also spend way to much of the film dealing with his humanity. Unlike the first film where dead cop Alex Murphy’s body was effectively bought and paid for by the ghoulish corporation, OCP, with his memories erased and his brain reprogrammed to become a cyborg cop, this version has Murphy’s memories intact, within reason and a much more conventional and safe take at the concept.
But that was the point of Robocop, like Frankenstien’s monster, he was a grotesque abomination, not the $2.6 Billion Man! And the rivalry between the frighteningly practical and yet flawed ED-209 and Robocop was as much a reflection on the two battling executives and their rival projects as it was the thinking cyborg vs. the mindless machine, as it is portrayed here.
Here is just another robot for our hero to kill. Like most aspects of the film, it says very little and there’s certainly little beneath the surface to contend with. Everything is telegraphed and spelt out for us and it is not exactly Shakespeare to start with.
In the end, it’s got some interesting ideas and it is probably up there with Robocop 2 as the second best feature of a bad, if not appalling bunch but Paul Verhoven’s original Robocop (1987) is still safe. A true classic with relevance even today, almost three decades later, cannot be supplanted by something which tried to pacify such a broad audience with 12a rating.
Points for effort though, as well as the bold choice NOT to do this in 3D, it does look pretty good, I will give it that.