Wednesday, 19 February 2014

RoboCop Film Review

As science fiction the film was excellent exploring themes such as machine versus human intelligence, machine control over life or death decisions and the moral ethics of cyborg technology. As a RoboCop remake, it just paid lip service to the original and made the overall plot very clunky. The characters were flaccid irrelevant versions of their earlier counter parts. The satire of the original replaced with a biased mainstream media mouthpiece, played by Samuel Jackson, who frankly was just annoying.

The film starts showing ED-209's and other robotic soldiers patrolling around Tehran, the overtone was clearly American Imperialism. During a live television interview a band of locals launch suicide attacks at the ED-209s, an irate Iranian kid with a bread knife then confronts a massive ED-209 which quickly decides he is a threat and the kid is promptly blown away. I don't know why but I chuckled!

Apparently these cold killer droids operate all over the world, but not in the USA because America is special (puke!) and a certain senator says he doesn't want machines making life or death decisions. This simply serves as a cringing plot point so that OCP, the big bad ass corporation, have to come up with a cute lovable cyborg version of the killer robots.

In the earlier film it was fascinating seeing through RoboCop's point of view as he was being made, the booting up, the scientists fixing him and Bob Mortimer getting his hand crushed - "You're gonna be one bad motherf*****". In this version Murphy wakes up confused from a sweet dream but then panics when he realise he's a machine. Gary Oldman who plays the Frankenstein chief Scientist tries to calm his creation down but lets him roam out of the lab. This is clearly not Detroit as he wanders through a huge Foxconn like manufacturing plant in China. A prescient politic touch showing how economic power and technological prowess has moved out of places like Detroit to the Far East.

The film delves in to the robotics and science of the cyborg tech which is great. You are shown how RoboCop is put together and that the only human part is the brain, face and lungs. Unfortunately the human part makes RoboCop slower than the droid soldiers and so the chief scientist comes up with a clever trick. During combat computer control will take over but the human subconcious will think it is making the decisions. Considering that the movie started out by making the case that a human needs to be pulling the trigger, the legal and moral implication that a machine is still in control is skipped over. Hmmm! The Seargeant at Arms in this segment is the only character I liked, with his gung-ho attitude and jokes about RoboCop being a Wizard of Oz Tinman.

Over at OCP headquarters the marketing guy is wetting his pants over the feedback from the Robocop focus groups. Michael Keaton, the CEO, puts his infinite wisdom into action and demands to see a more tactical makeover, make him black. These pair ain't no Dick Jones or Bob Mortimer, think more Laurel and Hardy, here the film begins to disappoint.

There's no Clarence "Can you fly Bobby?" Bodicker, a very nasty vile bad guy, up there with Christopher Walken in a View to A Kill. In this remake all I can tell you about the villain is that he had weird gingery sideburns. The criminal element is just a sub-plot to explain how Murphy was killed and they are quickly dispensed with when RoboCop gets going. This means ultimately that Michael Keaton's (can't remember his character's name!!) characters only crime is that he ordered RoboCop to be switched off whilst he told Murphy's wife some porkies that he had died due to a malfunction.

Needless to say, RoboCop isn't going to die. Cue 15 minutes of cartoonish, low violence CGI as RoboCop hops around ED-209s. Yawn. No bad guy falling into toxic waste here and getting splattered. Just Keaton panicking and then getting shot. In the finale, a battered RoboCop is rebuilt ready for a bunch of sequels.

Considering we now have drones that kill people and companies like Google (Cyberdyne Systems?) moving headstrong into AI and robotics, we are quickly approaching the AI singularity. This film asked important questions about superior machine intelligence, its application and the moral implications it will have. One slogan in the film said "People Need Jobs Robots don't". Here we have a great sci-fi film clumsily shoe-horned into a RoboCop retelling.

I'd wouldn't buy that for a dollar!
Pig Dog Bay

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