There are certain things in this world that you know are going to be awful from the get go: the McCrib sandwich, imbibing any alcoholic beverage that is SO blue it looks to be made from blended Smurf, and dating a stripper. Remakes of classic 1980’s films are certainly on that list as well, so when I first heard RoboCop was getting the reboot treatment I had all the apprehension of taking an exotic dancer, named Skittles, to meet the parents.
Sitting in that theater this past weekend, bracing for what my gut was telling me was a huge mistake, I tried assuring myself that it can’t be that bad. Right? RIGHT?
Wrong. It was 108 minutes of agony. I felt as helpless as an ed209 does having to take the stairs.
So let me tell you my biggest problems with the movie…and just so no one gets mad at me…SPOILER ALERT…I might be giving away some plot details in hopes to save you from this abomination.
Okay. The original 1987 RoboCop is something to behold–it’s highly stylized, satirical, and gory. It tells a good story and is as unapologetic with its social commentary as it is its body count. It certainly earns its “R” rating and is a more enjoyable because of it…
This PG-13 RoboCop is the complete opposite. It’s generic, too serious with its social message, and is as violent as an after school special about kittens; more people get tased (TASED, PEOPLE!!!) in this film than the total number shot in the original.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…my problem with this film was that it wasn’t “ultra-violent,” but no, that’s not what I’m getting at…
My problem is that this is just another example of Hollywood making a film that’s product first, and a picture second. In trying to be “safe” and walk a line that will appeal to everyone (i.e. sell the most tickets) they create a flat, insult to the original.
That aside, I had some other major problems with the film as well. First off, the film diverges in story from the original in that Alex Murphy’s family, after he becomes RoboCop, is still very involved in his life. Now, I’m fine with this significant change of a plot point and think it necessary in that it’s crucial to the message this RoboCop film is “trying” make, which is we can’t let technology replace our humanity. That’s all fine and dandy. However, the emotional anchor of Alex and his family’s struggle with his accident and transformation, which is supposed to ground us in the humanity of the characters and make us care, is made of some pretty flimsy material. Both the writing as well as the performances by Joel Kinnaman (Alex Murphy/RoboCop) and Abbie Cornish (Clara Murphy) were so one-dimensional. Here’s a film that’s supposed to show the stark contrast between a computer processor and the human heart; instead I feel the human drama here comes off as empty as a wiped hard drive.
Speaking of the performances in the film, this reboot of RoboCop does have an impressive cast: Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson. Yes, they are great actors…performing badly written roles well. Joel Kinnaman’s lackluster performance only stands out that much more since he’s surrounded by such heavyweights. If you’re going to have three such actors play supporting roles in a film, you’d better make damn sure your lead can hold his own. I don’t care if he’s known or unknown…they’d just better be GOOD…because if not, you’re going to have what you have here, which is a vacuum anytime Kinnaman is on screen with, or following, a scene with either Oldman, Keaton, or Jackson.
I can go on and on about what I didn’t like about this picture. Half of my disdain for it comes from how the film itself fails on its own merits, and the other half stems from how Hollywood is failing in their churning out reboot after reboot.
I caught an interview wherein Samuel L. Jackson was asked why he thought remakes are so popular these days and his “scripted” response was that there is such loved material out there that deserves to be seen by new generations, and Hollywood is merely trying to give new audiences the “gift” of these classic stories.
(Isn’t that just so sweet of Hollywood?)
If Hollywood really loved the originals SO much they’d leave them just as they are, and instead use them only as inspiration for telling new, original ideas and stories. But that would require Hollywood having a soul…something I think it has less and less of with each reboot and remake that floods the theaters.
Now, if you don’t mind Skittles the stripper and I are going out for McRibs.
P.S. Come back next week my reboot of this blog post with some CGI and a lower body count.
“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”