RoboCop (2014)

If you think he looks like Judge Dredd
now, just wait until he starts shooting.
"Crime has a new enemy."

And by new here of course we mean torn from an 80s movie. Hello everyone welcome back, this week I'm going to start off by talking about the recently released reboot of RoboCop, the story of a Detroit cop in 2024 named Alex Murphy (Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman), who gets blown up in the line of duty and is brought back as RoboCop, because literally all they manage to save out of this guy are his heart, lungs, most of his head, and one of his hands. It was a pretty good sized explosion suffice to say. The purpose of his reconstruction is of course far from altruistic, and part of a gambit on the part of Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton, playing a wealthy person who is not Batman this time) to repeal an act keeping him from selling humanoid robot peacekeepers as law enforcers in the US. The movie treats us to a brutal look at how efficient the Omnicorp drones are at killing people in foreign countries, which I'm sure is not alien to anyone who keeps even remote track of real things happening in the world right now. With air drones blowing up targets with impunity right now in contested areas, it isn't too difficult to imagine what sorts of killer mechs we'll have cooked up in ten years. Will they better at killing people than other people? I don't know, but I'm sure they'll be at least okay at it. That's besides the point though, let's get back to RoboCop.

We've all been tempted at least once to strangle Gary Oldman.
Murphy, while still nominally in control of himself, is now interfacing with a machine, and at the very least, when he goes into his visor down combat mode is not fully in control of his actions (though he believes that he is). This is part of a system designed by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman, here also not playing a character from Batman) who is under extreme pressure from Sellars to make the project work, so that he can keep his prosthetic and limb replacement research funded. This obviously results in some serious infringements upon basic human rights, but hey, who cares so long as we build a better killbot. I mean police officer. Right, totally. While Murphy might only be sort of in control of himself, and is like Darth Vader more machine now than man, he still has human motivations, like wanting to see his wife and son again, and also wanting to brutally gun murder everyone involved in what was basically his assassination. As it turns out, Sellars and others discover that another downside of a Robot that is part man is that he can root out dirty cops and backstabbers, get mad, and then shoot them with a taser so strong that it can make you poop yourself. Which seems maybe like it could be a little bit less potent, but hey I guess if you really want to make sure a person is down, or threaten someone with tasing like Murphy does in the movie, the whole lose control of your bowels and suffer organ failure thing is a pretty strong bargaining chip.

I think he should've changed INTO a motorcycle.
So okay, we know what the movie is about, and you probably knew that going in, especially if you're familiar with the original, but how does it compare? Well for starters, if you can believe, it is not as over the top as the original, at least in part because it isn't directed by Paul Verhoeven (who I talked about at length during my review of the Starship Troopers movie), who displays an almost pathological need for violence and graphic gore to be on hand from start to finish of any project he's working on. While this film is still pretty violent, and seeing Murphy as just a hanging head with lungs attached was probably the grossest thing that happened to me this week, it doesn't approach the first film, which was so violent that it originally carried an X rating. This movie manages to keep it PG-13, though there are still a few relatively gruesome moments (nothing compared to some of the other stuff I review on here though that's for sure).

Things I don't want patrolling the streets.
In terms of subject matter, the themes explored in this film are similar to the original, though a bit different, and I think their effect on the audience is different given the historical context. The original RoboCop was a similar sci-fi, but being in the late 80s was more overtly cyber-punk (the evil corporation was trying to wreck parts of Detroit so they could build their own extraterritorial residential area called Delta City for instance) and more dystopian. Detroit in the new RoboCop is a crime ridden death trap, but it ultimately pretty much looks like a real place (so like the real Detroit basically). The new film is still concerned with issues of morality, corporate and personal greed, and the corruption of government and law enforcement officers, but the ways it goes about contending with these issues felt a lot more personal. For instance, Samuel L. Jackson is featured as a right wing pundit in hosted segments of the fictional "The Novac Factor" in the film, arguing in favor of an imperialist, militaristic police state spearheaded by the capitalist efforts of Omnicorp. This feature presents one-sided arguments in favor of such policies, using language talking about "true Americans" and patriotism to support this line of thinking. For many, this might seem all too real, and I think it helps the movie to really sell its concept.

When a robot loves a woman.
I have to say overall I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't really have high hopes for this reboot, fearing a quick cash in, but honestly I thought it was rather thoughtful, both about the issues of man vs. machine, and also the above mentioned issues of drone use vs. civilians, imperialism, and corruption. You can watch a movie about robots and people being shot with guns, and you can also give some thought to actual things. A rather nice compromise I think. Anyways, that's all for today! Join me again on Thursday for a movie that has all the gun violence and none of the thoughtfulness.

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