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the idea to fuse man with machine comes about… if they can show the value of such an entity, then the law could get repealed… but obviously, things never go exactly as planned!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

Advertisements

The World’s End (2013)

The World's End (2013)

It’s weird how most successful film franchises come in threes. It seems we all like a trilogy, but get a bit bored when a series hits four or five films, for some odd reason. Indeed, the era of the four-to-five film franchises seems to have ended in the early 1990’s / late 1980’s. Well, on the whole anyway, as it seems that horror movies have no problem pumping out sixth and seventh instalments in franchises (I’m looking at you Saw). But then again, they’re typically low budget, high return films, so it’s no surprise. That’s not always the case with the pricier films. So with all that said, we now see a film emerging to conclude a trilogy. And this is no typical trilogy. In fact, the only tenuous link between the three films are its two lead actors and director / writer… oh, and an obsession with talking about that classic coned ice cream treat: the Cornetto. Yes, the thrilling conclusion to the The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is here… enter, The World’s End.

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Confused how this is a trilogy? Can’t remember the films that went before? How can this be true?! Almost a decade ago we had the awakening of Shaun of the Dead: a film about romance set to the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse in London. Three years later we had Hot Fuzz, a buddy cop movie about life in rural England with murderous, bombastic undertones. And now, some six years later, we have The World’s End, a film about a pub crawl with an apocalyptic setting. What ties the films together? The Cornettos, the acting talent on display and the most valuable asset of all… British humour.

The World’s End, at its core, stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with director Edgar Wright who co-writes with Pegg. This time around, Pegg plays Gary King – the leader of the gang (from school). He’s intent on reliving his youth and completing a 12-pub pub crawl he couldn’t finish with his buddies when he was 18. So, he reunites the gang, rounded out by estranged best friend Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine), to once again undertake his crawl some 20 years later. But things are awry in Newton Haven (a typical British town)… everyone’s acting somewhat oddly. Yes, Gary and the gang uncover a somewhat sinister secret of a global takeover by an extra-terrestrial force. Best reach for the Cornettos then.

The World's End (2013)

Shaun of the Dead is a hard act to follow for Pegg, Frost and Wright. I’d argue that Hot Fuzz didn’t live up to my expectations and fell somewhat flat. Others would say that Hot Fuzz was superior to the zombie-fuelled exploits that went before it. And obviously, people will argue where The World’s End fits into this threesome. Plus, for the sake of argument, we’re not including Paul in this debate, as Wright had no part in the film… and it’s set in the US. We’re strictly British here I’ll have you know! Where do I figure that The World’s End lands? Keep reading… Or skim to the end if you’re bored of reading already.

What I particularly enjoyed about The World’s End was the dark tone of the movie, particularly Simon Pegg‘s Gary King. In previous films you’ve been able to warm to Pegg‘s character almost instantly. Particularly in Shaun of the Dead. But here? I found myself strongly disliking him almost immediately. I was worried actually, as the first 20 minutes dragged somewhat for me, as I found myself unwilling to take Pegg‘s King under my wing and care about him. He has issues. He needs to grow up. And therein lies the message of this film… we all have to grow up and move on at some point. Life marches onwards and sometimes you have to march on alongside it or be left behind.

The World's End (2013)

Sorry, I went a bit deep there didn’t I? Aside from Pegg‘s character and the plot’s undertones, the film is replete with laughter-inducing moments. Not many belly laughs, I must add, but a lot of smiles and sniggers. But then again, I’m a hard Phage to impress; some might say I’m a snob for comedy. What I like? I really like. What I don’t? I detest. But The World’s End worked in the humour stakes. It also worked well in the plotting stakes too. The film constantly twists and turns to try and buck the viewer off its back, right up to the final scenes. I like this. Especially when it’s coupled to the deliciously British dark humour that the film draws on.

The World's End (2013)

As for the acting talent on show… we’ve got some fine British acting on show here. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of talent marching across the world stage thanks to “newbies” such as Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbach and James McAvoy. You can also say the same of Simon Pegg nowadays, as he’s in hot demand, which is good to see. Arguably, it’s Nick Frost‘s character that was the highlight for me. A somewhat stifled lawyer who’s clearly shellshocked from his past. But when he lets rip? He lets rip. His character had the most interesting arc for me here. But having said that, the whole ensemble add real weight here thanks to Wright and Pegg‘s scripting fleshing out each character. Similarly, this is definitely an Edgar Wright film, from the stylistic shots of pints being pulled to the flavour of the dialogue. Let’s hope he can bring the same bold style to Marvel’s Ant-Man when that hits in 2015…

The World’s End will definitely be a hit with old Cornetto fans; it brings back the humour, the bromance and the clever social commentary that was present in the previous two films, but adds a new plot on top of it. Having said that, there are slow moments and it’ll take you time to warm to all of the characters, but once the film really starts rolling towards the apocalypse you’re sucked into the world entirely. Once again, us Brits show the world how humour should be done… less raunch, dick jokes and boobs, and more sarcasm, wit and use of the c-word. Yeah… we know how to offend and amuse in equal amounts!

So which Cornetto flavour is my favourite? Is it strawberry (Shaun of the Dead), vanilla (Hot Fuzz) or mint (The World’s End)? In the real world, I’d plump for mint. But perhaps it’s telling that my last trip to the supermarket saw me return with a box of five strawberry Cornettos (for 99p! Cheap!)… it was an omen. For me, Shaun of the Dead will remain the best in this series of three films, like your first true love, it’s sometimes hard to top (but can happen). The World’s End is a very close second though and is one I could go back and watch again. I’m always partial to a bit of mint, especially if its sprinkled with some truly dark chocolate / humour…

Phage Factor:

4 Star