'Robocop' remake is disappointing
Ever since the success of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, we have seen countless franchise reboots attempting to emulate its tone, style and success. "Robocop" is the latest in this long line. I suppose if I am being fair, "Robocop" is better than your average remake or run-of-the-mill nonsensical action movie. If you loved "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Battle Los Angeles" then stop reading right here as I can assure you "Robocop" will be one of the greatest movies you have ever seen. Now that those two readers have moved on, let me assure the rest of you that while "Robocop" may provide a solid action movie experience, it is a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity.
Most remakes are unnecessary attempts to simply make money. "Robocop" seems to be no exception, but what makes a remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic sci-fi action film necessary is that everything his dystopian image predicted of American society, culture and governance has already come true. Brazilian director Jose Padilha previously made the Brazilian "Elite Squad" films that are two of my favorites. The films were a brutal depiction of a Brazilian military-style police in Rio de Janiero that would raid the slums and use violent force to clean the areas of gang members and drug dealers. The first film showed the toll that such a task took on the individuals while the second showed how the Brazilian government and corruption led to a profit from all the violence and poverty. I was excited to see what the man had to say about American culture, but it appears he doesn't have much or perhaps he was silenced by the producers.
Verhoeven made an extremely thrilling and violent action film to cover his subtle themes and messages. It was there for anyone who was willing to see it, but he did not care if anyone did or didn't. The writers and producers seem aware that this is part of what made the original so great, but they seem afraid to be written off and not taken seriously. Throughout the film we are constantly beaten over the head with characters literally asking the audience questions regarding its central themes. As much as we are bombarded with these images and words, the film never scratches below the surface on any of them. Samuel L. Jackson plays an angry talk show host screaming about American policy, but in the end all he says seems to be of relatively no importance and is somewhat contradictory. Nothing the film says really adds up to any one coherent message.
The film seems to want to take a stand on American militarism and the use of drones. We open with the showing of these drones in the Middle East repressing people and forcing them to commit terrorism out of desperation. It sounds interesting, but then the film never comes back to these themes again, introducing many new ones it never develops and ultimately never takes a stand or discusses anything it wants the audience to think about. It resembles a college freshman who just took an introductory economics class trying to explain to Congress how to solve the economic crisis. It doesn't understand or say nearly a quarter of what it thinks it does.
Ironically, this film is the very thing Verhoeven was satirizing. While it likes to pretend it is a deep and intellectual film, its filled with loud PG-13 action sequences filmed like video games with the intent to have the audience cheering along. It's a very promotion of the sort of violence and attitudes the original (and to some extent this film) is attempting to discuss. I promise you this is not a meta attempt to make a stance, but merely a film trying to have it both ways.
All in all, "Robocop" is well directed and never boring, but the story and screenplay are problematic. Everything is written so PG-13 that it really ruins the films' chance to tell its dark-toned story. It feels more like an expensive and slightly more mature "Inspector Gadget" remake than "Robocop." Ironically, the dialogue is well written more or less, but everything else could use some revisiting. There are a lot of good ideas in this story of a fallen cop reborn as a machine, but they're executed poorly and surrounded by too many poor ideas. The cast really gives it their all and unknown Joel Kinnamon gives what could have been a breakout performance, but the script drags them all down with a messy story and too much nonsense. When cast in the role, he must have felt like Taylor Kitsch prior to the openings of "John Carter" and "Battleship." After the poor opening and reception he must feel like Taylor Kitsch after the opening of "John Carter" and "Battleship." Somewhere, Paul Verhoeven is watching this film throwing popcorn at the screen laughing. Although I had some fun with this remake, I would gladly join him.
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