5 February 2014 | SeussMeTub
Too Much Exposition, Meandering and Bland
With Hollywood at a loss to make original movies, it was inevitable that the Robocop franchise would eventually get the reboot. In 1987, the original Robocop became an instant box office hit with its mixture of witty satire and over the top violence as well as top notch acting by Peter Weller, Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox; the deciding factor in what made that movie so fresh at the time was the addition of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven who seemed to understand what the audience at the time needed: a high tech cyborg (artfully designed by special effects whiz Rob Bottin and its robotic suit would become a cinema icon) who fought crime in a near future world overwhelmed by greed, hypocrisy, corruption and excessive, almost cartoonish violence.
In this reboot, the studios were able to acquire the services of Brazilian director Jose Padiha (who directed Elite Squad and its sequel, two intense police thrillers set in his native Brazil) but unfortunately they forgot to give him a good script to work with (there were rumors during production that Padiha had a lot of ideas that were nixed by studio bosses. Figures.). The other reason why the original movie also worked was because its R rating worked in its favor: the enormous amount of bloodletting added to its satirical view of the future as well as that of American culture which really spoke to the audience. With this reboot aimed at more family friendly crowds, the PG-rated violence is filmed using rapid jump cuts which makes it totally confusing, its like watching a video game on fast forward so that by the time your mind registers what's going on the scene is finished.
The movie itself also suffers from pacing problems- just when the narrative is about to steamroll forward, the scenes abruptly change so that any emotional momentum is lost because there just isn't much characterization of the main parts; everything that should have an emotional impact is glossed over by a jump to a new scene with way too much focus on explanations of what the characters are doing so that the audience fails to gain sympathy for anybody.
I can't really judge Joel Kinnaman's acting in the title role since there really isn't much for him to do other than walk around in the Robocop suit and utter a few words every now and then- he seems to spend too much time bug eyed and in shock more than anything else. The supporting cast also seems wasted, with Michael Keaton and Jackie Earle Haley's screen time largely limited to trying to explain whats going on rather than actually doing anything. Even Michael K Williams seems lost as Robocop's sidekick. Patrick Garrow as the heavy is pretty much a cardboard villain compared to the 1987 version with the menacing Kurtwood Smith and his gang of killer psychos. Gary Oldman's performance is pretty much average since he's also got nothing much to do.
Alas, the biggest disappointment is the movie's absence of any sort of humor: the 1987 film had boatloads of wacky commercials that interrupted the narrative yet provided a great view on how that future world was set up as well as crazy, sadistic villains and a pun on the name of the chief baddie (Dick Jones- best name ever). Instead, we get snippets of a news media show run by Samuel L Jackson whose presence in this movie is also wasted since he spends more time recapping what we already saw and his jokes fall flat.
The only good scene happens right at the beginning with a battle between Iranian insurgents and the robot army but soon after the movie quickly loses momentum and never regains it. Better to skip this one and wait for the rental, or better yet, watch the 1987 version- its way better.