Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Review: Robocop

"Better than the internet might have you think"

I went in to Robocop tonight with the expectation of disappointment and heartbreak. I was a huge fan of the original two movies (#3 and #4 not so much) and in fact can safely say that I survived my second year in college thanks to the movies Robocop 2 and Predator 2, both of which I watched at least a dozen times in the theater when they came out. Robocop is a classic.... and it is also an interesting relic of its time, a time capsule of the future as only 1987 to 1990 could envision it.

Robocop for 2014 is also a time capsule, but this time it's the future as we might imagine it now, with a veneer of the heroic and a dash of cool thrown in. I was.... shocked, actually..... to find that not only did I like this movie, I loved it. A lot.

The thing is, as much as I liked the original films, they were so much a product of their time that neither Robocop 1 or 2 have aged well. They are still fun to watch, but so much of the message is specific to the way the late eighties envisioned our future dystopia, where we were going, that it doesn't really translate into a future that looks quite like the one we're in the middle of right now.

Nonetheless Robocop did well to at least envision some concepts that are now part and parcel of our society, in a certain way.... drone technology being key. The new Robocop takes the key elements of the original and extends them from our now into a curiously, almost disturbingly logical future, all while updating the protagonist, it's future tech, and villains to comport to today's expectations. Our future in Robocop has Steve Jobsian villains, technology that has perfected the art of cybernetic limb attachments, criminals who realize they need encrypted phones just to stay off the grid lest they be found, cameras everywhere, and an Alex Murphy, whose brain and computer wiring blend so effectively that free will as an illusion isn't just a concept in this movie, it's implicit.

The movie does make some changes. People have made some deal out of how Murphy's former lady partner of the original films doesn't exist in this one in any meaningful way (the new Robocop's partner is a decent guy but there's no way in hell he can keep up with this lighting quick, considerably more effective Robocop).  The new corporate villain does indeed feel like Steve Jobs with a very slight Bond villain makeover. The relationship between Murphy and his wife and kid is at the forefront in this movie and an integral part of the way that Murphy is humanized, and it works well here because the new Robocop actor is great, and his style and approach to the character works very, very well. Having his wife and child in the film to help play off on the problem of surviving one's humanity when you've been turned into a computer is a big part of the new movie, and I think they pulled it off. This Murphy is not the older Peter Weller Murphy, but the shift is subtle and seamless, and --prepare for a moment of heresy-- better.

All I can say is: I went to see it tonight because my gaming night for 13th Age fell through, and I had nothing else to do. I did not plan to see this movie, having bought in to the hype that it was just "okay" and didn't live up to the glory of the original. Someone remind me to NEVER, EVER trust the internet on stuff like this. This movie was the best Robocop yet, and possibly the best remake I've seen since.... hmmm.... Okay yeah it's the best remake I've seen. Period.


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