Robocop (2014)

Robocop 2014 (2014)

Way back in the mists of time, we put some features up on the age-old topic of reboots: what’s the point of them? Are they better than the original? Was the original any good to begin with? Every year spawns iterations and new reasons for die hard fans to spew forth venom and shake their fists in discontent. I’m still not entirely sure this is the case when some of these films are 20+ years old. If you love the original, then great! You’ve got a favourite film. But that doesn’t mean you have to love the new one does it?? For me, I love Pulp Fiction and wouldn’t really care too much if it was remade. Simply because I know it can’t be topped! But maybe Pulp Fiction’s still a bit too modern (and iconically Tarantino)… unlike the current reboot-du-jour: Robocop. I am the law!

Robocop (2014)

Sadly, we don’t ever hear the line “I AM THE LAW” in this version of Robocop! A lot of time has passed since 1987. A lot has changed since 1987. The Phage has certainly changed since 1987. I think I was last seen getting my head stuck in a flight of stairs in 1987… I’m sure that’s going to happen again in 2014 though if I’m honest; I just can’t resist the urge to see whether my can fit into a tiny spot! Anyway… back on track! Yes, a lot has changed since 1987. We now find ourselves spending 2/3 of our day being controlled by screens of various sizes. Technology has come on leaps and bounds. This is how the cast seem to be justifying this reimagining / rebooting of the one man law machine: Robocop.

The premise is loosely the same: Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit cop becomes irreparably damaged through no fault of his own. When he wakes up he’s been fused with machine to become the world’s first Robocop – a cyborg for all intents and purposes – by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman). In this iteration though, it plays against the backdrop of Raymond Sellar’s (Michael Keyton) OmniCorp looking to break the American market for machine-based legal protection. The one thing that stands in his way is a pesky piece of legislation prohibiting robots from policing the country, as they’re devoid of emotion and rationale. This is where the idea to fuse man with machine comes about… if they can show the value of such an entity, then the law could get repealed… but obviously, things never go exactly as planned!

2014... back in black!

2014… back in black!

Much has been made of the social commentary of Robocop. And some of it is rather stark and in your face: parodies and pastiches of what’s going on in the world. Nowhere is this more evident than Samuel L. Jackson‘s Pat Novak sections where he espouses the pro’s of the right wing, pro-robot agenda. It’s obviously used to harken closest to some rather large US networks that perhaps push a similar agenda. Aside from the robot thing… none of them have pushed that yet. Not until Google take them over anyway, which’ll only be a matter of years I’m sure, using their android drone army!

I seem to have spoken in-depth about the philosophy of this film, but little about the actual content! Let’s correct that. Robocop is a solid piece of science fiction, but doesn’t go much further than that. That’s not to say it’s unenjoyable – it has some interesting concepts and some serviceable performances, but it never challenges. If I think of some of my favourite sci-fi films of recent years, such as District 9 or Looper, they challenged and dazzled in equal measures. I certainly wasn’t expecting a film of similar grandeur, let’s not make any mistakes, but I was also hoping for something along the lines of last year’s Dredd. That film offered beautiful visuals with a simple plot mechanic, but was thoroughly entertaining. But Robocop… well, doesn’t hit the same highs as his other be-helmeted cop brethren.

Robocop (2014)

It has its set pieces, but the film lacks the connecting sinew – the true plot. It’s there, but it’s not wholly fleshed out. The performances are also there, but they too fail to really blow you away. This is particularly true of Joel Kinnaman. I’m going to refer back to Dredd here by talking about Karl Urban. Karl, despite only showing his jaw for the whole film, held the screen and brought a lot of emotion to that jaw role. Kinnaman doesn’t really deliver the same… it’s somewhat bland… but that may just be fantastic character acting!

I think the biggest thing that’s lacking in this film is heart. The original had a sense of humour and over the top violence. Whilst the latter certainly isn’t needed, the former is. Samuel L. Jackson provides some much needed comic relief, but the film is sadly devoid of other respites…

Ultimately, Robocop is more like the machines than he probably realises: slick and shiny, but ultimately devoid of human emotion and heart. Whilst it’s certainly not a bad film, it’s hardly going to set the world on fire. There’s been much talk of trying to restart a franchise with this film… but with this offering, I’m unsure if that’ll happen. Having said that, I’ve been wrong in the past. Although it is nice to state that this definitely won’t be up for an Oscar, which has been a recurring comment here with several of the past films we’ve reviewed!

So, this is simply another case of a reboot failing to really re “boot” a franchise. It got a slight shoe-ing, but definitely not a booting. It’s a shame as the film had a lot to offer at its premise with the machine-driven future we’re spiralling towards. I wonder if we’ll ever get Google: The Movie – that won’t need a reboot. Well, I’m sure we will get it in 2028 when our overlords take over our lives with their Google Glass, Google Droids and Google Boogles (we made the last one up)… They are the law.

Phage Factor:

3 Star

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The Reboot Rebuke

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we ca… we ca…

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There is a single dimension that is well known to man. It is a dimension as vacuous and repetitive as infinity. It is the grey area between new and old, between unneeded and unnecessary, and it lies between the peak of man’s fears and the pit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of zero imagination. It is an area which we call… The Reboot Zone.

Welcome to the first part of The Phage’s editorial piece on the scourge / saviour of the box office: the reboot. Over the next fortnight I’ll be acting as the prosecutor and defence team in the case of “The People vs. D.A. Reboot”. Schizophrenic? You bet we are!

I’d love to say that you’ll ultimately be the judge… but I probably will, as a) I like the sound of my own voice keyboard clacking, and b) we’re quite a new site and our readership so far are a lot like peeping Toms: often here, but as invisible as the awards in Adam Sandler‘s trophy cabinet. But hey – I’m an exhibitionist, so carry on coming back to feast your eyes folks, I’ll give you a show! Speaking of which… let’s get the aforementioned on the road…

The Prosecution

Beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen of the jury, I come to you today to demonstrate that lightning never successfully strikes the same place twice. And should you brandish a lightning rod to force the strike, you inevitably get burned. I will present evidence that will show you beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendent, D.A. Reboot, is guilty of destroying actors’ careers and modern cinema as a whole.

I urge you to think of your most cherished memory or experience involving a movie. You can still remember the sights, smells and sounds of that day. Perhaps you were with a loved one: a first date, the first connection of hands, or a stolen first kiss? Now imagine that your leading man or leading lady has been replaced by Rob Schneider doing his normal “derp-de-derp” routine (see Exhibit A: the YouTube video below) and the plot is essentially the same, but has been sapped of all charm, excitement and wonder. And what’s that smell? Oh God! The room you’re watching in smells inexplicably of sewage. Your date? Well they are not happy – you never got that first kiss, in fact he/she spread rumours that you have a weird, depraved fetish that no-one in the Western world condones (outside of Amsterdam). Yeah, that one. Not pleasant is it? Not pleasant at all. This is essentially what Hollywood is doing to so many people’s favourite films: defecating on them and sullying people’s memories. And making you out to be a pervert.

Exhibit B: Bubo the Owl. A casualty of the reboot.

I’d like to draw your attention to 2010’s abomination that was Clash of the Titans (straplined “Titans Will Clash“, honestly!): a reboot of the 1981 stop-motion classic. The UK’s Guardian newspaper put it best, stating that it is “at its best during its breakneck second half, when the 3D effects distract from the 2D protagonists and the risible dialogue is drowned out by the clash of steel and the gnash of pincers.” I applaud Xan Brooks’ scathingly backhanded compliment, which highlights the problem with so many reboots: all style, no substance. And they scrapped the lynch pin of the movie: Bubo the adorable, robotic owl. Some things cannot be forgiven, or forgotten.

But it continues: Robocop, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Godzilla… the list of reboots continues to grow. Godzilla, already rebooted in 1998, is again being rebooted in 2014. Perhaps without a rockin’ Jamiroquai theme song this time.

Exhibit C: Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Some will argue that an “adequate period” always passes before a reboot is released: typically 20 years. I refute this, highlighting 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man as a copy of the 2002’s Spider-Man, or Death At A Funeral – a 2010 remake of a 2007 original. Mistake me not, I am not citing films that re-use the title, but change the film, such as X-Men and X-Men: First Class, or any James Bond movie, as these are obviously worthy films in their own right. The prosecution draws issues with the retelling of tales that are either a) uncalled for, b) already told recently, or c) retold so appallingly that they trigger widespread disgust amongst critics and the public alike.

I now read you an account from a witness, whose identity is withheld:

“I grew up adoring The Pink Panther movies, but was so scarred by Steve Martin‘s reboot that I had a severe psychiatric trauma, which caused me to draw a moustache on my face with a marker, paint my chest pink, and parade around in a pair of torn white underpants yelling “I am le Pink Pom-Pom”. This went on from dawn ’til dusk for a good 3 weeks. I was arrested on several occasions. For unsettled legal reasons I’m unable to talk of the horrors that occurred after The Pink Panther 2 was released. But I can tell you it did involve a spate of sexual activity with packs of supermarket brand streaky-back bacon and a love for all things Rob Schneider. Reboots ruined my derp, derp, de-derp life.”

Shocking words. Shocking, bizarre words. But I hope it illustrates how damaging a reboot can be; not just to the actors and film studios involved, but to people like you – the viewers. You may be sitting there now saying “never me”, but what if your cherished series was next on the block? Could you handle it? Ever noticed how obsessed you’re becoming with food and cookery shows recently? Well that’s symptom #1 of what doctors* are referring to as “Reboot Rebuke”, or the street slang Schneideritis.

I hope that you agree with me that reboots are a plague on our cinemas: robbing truly gifted, imaginative film-makers of the opportunity to begin novel franchises. Novel franchises that amaze, captivate, and begin so many more “cherished moments” that will last a lifetime. And not only this, but the same reboots smash the memories of those that loved the original. I leave you with a question: would you rather eat your favourite flavour of ice cream for the rest of your life; knowing that every new scoop would taste more and more like sewage every time you ate it, until the point it was inedible? Or would you rather try a new flavour every time? Sure you’d eventually hit that appalling coffee flavour that no-one likes, but the next scoop is bound to be tastier! The same is true for films. If you’re with me, then I urge you to find D.A. Reboot guilty on all charges.

*Doctors accredited by the same University as Dr. Dre, Dr. Who and Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons.