December 14, 2013

RoboCop Trailer: A Sleek Black Mess

RoboCop 2014
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This trailer is a toilet. That is to say, it may be made of shiny, sterile porcelain but you know what’s inside it.

Instead of drawing out what only needs a single poop joke to be properly described, here’s a review of the original RoboCop to better explain just how the trailer fails to encapsulate a movie with even the slightest potential to live up to the original Paul Verhoeven classic. It’s incredibly frustrating just how soulless it seems in comparison. Say what you will about the director’s style, but he had a panache, a style of exuberance, cynicism, and satire that hasn’t been available in theaters as of late. Those happy places apparently live a hermit’s life in the 80s now.

This isn’t even the first time they’ve gotten Verhoeven so wrong. Remember that Total Recall remake starring Colin Farrell? No one else does either. It was a succubus cast in celluloid designed to suck all the money from movie goers’ pockets while it dashed the hope in their eyes for an exciting retelling of a classic movie. A movie that deserves to be left by the wayside. Here, I daresay this remake is even worse. Because RoboCop isn’t a movie that needs to be remade. At worst the computers are a little dated but the rest of the movie is timeless. A story of corporate fascism, redemption, sacrifice, and the wringing of total control from total chaos. All of those themes are completely adaptable to today’s problems. Is this movie going to try addressing those problems or will it blandly attempt to skirt them in a shallow, cynically referential style that only serves to remind one that they could theoretically be watching a better version of the same movie at home? Unless you opened this review and your eyes skipped straight to that question the answer should be obvious.

Omni-Consumer Products, OCP, is a massive corporation with significant clout and control in a crime ridden Detroit. Things have gotten so bad that they’ve even privatized the police because there’s no other way for the local government to handle things. And yet crime gets worse. That’s because now that they have control, they can practically sink Detroit into chaos to sell the city a means to regain law and order. Using a recently shot to hell cop named Murphy, they build a police officer cyborg named RoboCop. A twenty four hour crime fighter that they can theoretically duplicate and build more of to phase out human police officers. However, when memories of Murphy’s past life start rising back to the surface, RoboCop discovers a greater conspiracy involving some of the worst criminals in Detroit and some of the highest officials at OCP.

Like it or not this movie is about twenty five years old now and some of the special effects used make this very apparent. That said Robocop still holds up costume, gadgetry and all. He reminds one of an assembly line automaton with the way his limbs jerk and emit the sound of an electric motor. It’s able to draw you in beyond the more dated effects that may take you out of the experience. Not only that but the atmosphere of the movie is enthralling. The satirical ads and news shows that play intermittently build up a world that’s more than a little troubled by the onset of corporations gaining control and a public that shows a general apathy. Once you’re brought into the dominion of OCP you witness a gradual devolution to the point that you are trapped behind the programmed eyes of an actual person who they’ve transformed into a product. Everything is so cynical. It’s timeless.

For his limited characterization, Robocop is actually a relatively compelling character. Like the trailer for the new movie suggests it’s all a competition of free will between his programming and his humanity. How to stop being a drone and how to become a person again. Of course, the bigger problem is an acceptance of yourself when your body has been turned into something so Kafkaesque it might not even be worth it to some to continue living. He has the archetypical cop life of someone who can easily have his life ripped apart. A family man, appreciative of his job, tries to do good, and the world pretty much says no to the tune of a shotgun blast to the chest. What happens to him afterwards is just so different in comparison to all the other movies with cops as main characters who have once had a family. He’s trapped in a second life he didn’t ask for and should he have been confronted with it, probably wouldn’t have even wanted. Yet he tries to make the best of it in what way he can. He tries to be a good cop. Whether or not that’s just his continued programming, that’s up to you.

By Marc Price

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