Indeed one of the most unnecessary remakes of all time, this one has five times the ammunition with much less of the cinematic punch.
I could grind my teeth over getting there early and being subject to advertiser cliches and Hollywhore bimbos hawking TV shows, Coca Cola, cell phones and the rest of the corporate mindless culture we all know and despise. But I’m pretty clear where I stand on that, and it may have given me the dose of blinding anger I needed to get on board an anti-corporate crime film.
If only they’d played Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic instead, where black comedy is understood, where shots are framed and held for more than two seconds.
I thought of hating the new Robo, all the choices made that were lesser than the original, particularly his transformation. But, this was a distinctly different take on the world, a man/drone for a more fascistic America, a post-9/11 lobotomized America.
The first problem that tipped me off about the tone deafness was in the opening sequence. We’re supposedly in Tehran, Iran, as part of a right wing propagandist’s TV show. The idea was to push the robot warriors so that America would demand robot police across the land here. Only, when we get to the occupied Iranians, who are they?
They’re generic Hollywood “suicide bombers” from whereveristan. With suicide vests, they launch an attack on the invading ED-209s, and are pretty much wiped out in the process. The reason America’s lethal invader robots are marching through Tehran in the first place is irrelevant. Who the occupied people are is irrelevant. Nothing here is black comedy, and nothing here is done well to rise to the level of actual drama.
Then we’re onto Murphy, the new tough undercover Murphy who’s out on a limb, a loose cannon, a hot headed son of a bitch with a badge dodging 8,000 assault rifle rounds with ease. Someone should have told them that each bullet fired diminishes the impact of the one before. Here the bullets are nothing more than light shows, flickering props.
But onto RoboMurphy. The difference here is with the doctor assigned to the Robocop development project. Now we have a doc who’s essentially the protagonist and Murphy his Frankenstein’s monster. An odd choice, but the relationship between Robo and his support team is perhaps more feasible than in the original. How long could a few slabs of meat remain alive without intensive care?
Also Murphy’s wife gets more lines. But is she going to become a generic damsel by film’s end? How could she not?
I had a serious problem with Robo torturing suspects as some kind of routine now. There’s a lot of fascist imagery, but not all of it intentional it seems. Now, I do recall a scene in Robocop 2 where Murphy beats up a dirty cop who sold out the police and set them up for assassination. That was an uncomfortable scene, and perhaps I’m in the minority pulling that one out for mention. Here we live in the cops as torturers world. Torture doesn’t merit a second thought. The idea of selling torture to young people, but hiding behind a PG-13 rating, like this is an acceptable version of violence, really irks me.
We’re at a point where our society is slipping into medieval barbarism, more and more each year. In the original Robocop, Murphy was meticulous about responding to situations with only the appropriate level of force. Here, I don’t think this was as big a concern. It isn’t so much about the law, morality, what is justified or any of those concerns. It’s more about which action sequences look cool with half a million bullets flying for almost no reason – a video game. Video games have corrupted drama, and that’s how they did it. They replaced mindless shooting for meaning and character development.
We get a last opportunity to rewrite the Tehran / foreign policy question at the very end. I can’t see the redneck slobs in my theater actually getting it though. Maybe I’m underestimating someone. That’s possible. It’s a sticky situation, calling out US foreign policy and global bullying, to Americans. It seems they wanted to try and please everyone, for marketing’s sake — for Mammon’s sake — and ended up pleasing no one.