Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: RoboCop
June 19th, 2014
When the RoboCop remake was announced, a lot of people thought it would be a disaster. The original RoboCop is widely considered a classic that not only offers a lot of action, but is also a smart satire. Some where expecting the film to be a complete train wreck. That wasn't the case, at least not with critics. Granted, 49% positive isn't a good score, but it is better than expected. Will I like it more than I thought I would? Or will I recommend skipping this movie and sticking with the original?
The film begins on The Novak Element, a political talk show starring Pat Novak. He talks to a general, General Curtis Monroe, about military robotic drones being used in Iran to maintain the peace. While watching a feed from Tehran, a patrol of drones run by Rick Mattox comes under attack by a group of suicide bombers, which results in the destruction of a couple of the robots, as well as one child. (Although this isn't shown on the air.) Pat Novak asks why, if these robots are so important for security in war zones, why they can't be used here? Currently, the legal reason is the Dreyfus Act, named after the senator who authored the bill, Hubert Dreyfus, but OmniCorp CEO, Raymond Sellars, is looking to repeal the bill or find a way around it.
It is then we meet Alex Murphy, a cop who is coming off a bust that went really poorly. He and his partner got a lead on Antoine Vallon, whom the cops have been chasing for years without a break. Alex Murphy assumes this is due to some dirty cops, so when they finally get a lead, they go in without backup, to prevent the mole from tipping off Antoine. The plan doesn't work and Antoine is tipped off anyway. Vallon gets away and Murphy's partner is sent to the hospital.
After this, we see a Senatorial hearing with Hubert Dreyfus and Raymond Sellars facing off. Dreyfus doesn't want drones on the streets, because they are unfeeling. Sellars says the drones are ideal cops, because they don't have prejudices and never tire. It is not enough. This is a serious problem for Sellars, because, as his head of marketing, Tom Pope, says, it is a $600 billion market. Liz Kline, his head of legal, says the donations to numerous politicians haven't budged anyone and Tom Pope pipes in with, "They don't want to vote against their constituents."
I rewound the movie and turned on the captions to make sure I got that right. "They don't want to vote against their constituents." ... I thought this was science fiction, not fantasy. In the United States, if you are on the Terrorist Watch list, you are legally allowed to buy a gun. When the government tried to pass a law to change that, the NRA "bribed" enough congressmen / senators with legal donations to block it. "They don't want to vote against their constituents." That's pure crap. They will do so in a second for a relatively small campaign donation. WOLF PAC. Get money out of politics. ... Moving on.
Raymond Sellars has an idea to get around the law. Since drones are not allowed and Americans don't want an unfeeling robot, they have to come up with something different... A cyborg. We then meet Dr. Dennett Norton, who is the lead researcher and uses his work to help people with cybernetic prosthetics. We see him help a man who lost both of his arms play the guitar. It works at first, but as he gets too emotional, the systems goes a little off. Sellars explains his plan to Dr. Norton, but for this to work, they need the ideal candidate. They need a cop that suffered catastrophic injuries that can handle the mental strain of the operation and someone the public can get behind.
We then look in on Alex Murphy's home life, which is unfortunately one of the least interesting parts of the movie. While at home and making out with his wife, his car alarm goes off. When he goes outside to stop it, his car blows up.
The film skips ahead three months and we finally get somewhere. I know, in the original, it took a while for RoboCop to show up as well. But here's the difference, I enjoyed learning about the characters and the world they inhabited in the first movie. So far I haven't been given a reason to care about the characters in the new movie. First we see Alex Murphy dreaming about better days before he is woken up in his new cyborg body. At first Murphy is confused, he thinks this is the dream, then he tries to escape. When he realizes the extent of the damages done to him in the explosion / transformation, he wants to die. Dr. Dennett Norton convinces him to live, for his family.
When it comes to testing, RoboCop is put under some drills by Mattox, who claims the organic components will just slow RoboCop when compared to his fully robotic drones. And he's right. Because Alex Murphy is making decisions, his human brain is the slowest link in the system and that means he will always be slower than the drones.
Here's a question... Who gives a damn? RoboCop is not going to be going up against drones, so being a little slower than the drones isn't an issue. In fact, it is the best thing that could have happened to OmniCorp. You can use RoboCop to get the American public to accept cyborgs. Crime goes down and the people love OmniCorp as a result. Then, RoboCop is sent into a situation where he can't save everyone and Sellars explains this happened because RoboCop isn't as fast as the drones, because of the human element. Before you know it, the Dreyfus Act is repealed and the mass produced drones are on every street. Problem solved. But nope, because of bad writing, Sellars tells Dr. Dennett Norton to get rid of the delay, no matter what it takes. What it takes is automating RoboCop's responses, so he's no longer in charge, except he's been programed to think he's in charge. That's the big conflict in the movie. Can Alex Murphy overcome his programming and regain his humanity? But since it is based on bad writing, I was not emotionally invested in the answer. That's a huge flaw in the movie.
I already mentioned that I wasn't drawn in by the characters and there's a huge flaw in the central plot. So is there anything that works with this movie? Some of the acting is good. Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael Keaton were all good in the movie and were able to elevate the material. Joel Kinnaman wasn't bad, but he didn't have the charisma Peter Weller had, while most of the rest of the cast were not given enough to work with to judge. Likewise, some of the action scenes were good and the technology certainly has come a long way since 1987, but that doesn't come close to compensating for the weak script.
Extras begin with a three-part, 29-minute long making of featurette. There are also three minutes of commercials for some of OmniCorp's military products. Finally, there are four-minutes of deleted scenes. That's not a lot for a first-run release.
On the other hand, the technical presentation is excellent for a first-run release. The movie cost $120 million to make and you see and hear those dollars in action. The level of details is fantastic, as are the colors and black levels. There are no compression issues or digital artifacts. The audio is just as good with clear dialogue and lots of separation. The surround sound speakers are used to their fullest effect with dynamic effects.
The Blu-ray costs $20, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is acceptable for this type of release.
When the reviews for the RoboCop remake came in and were nearly 50% positive, I thought maybe it will be an enjoyable film, albeit not as good as the original. This isn't the case. The weak script, the uninteresting characters, and the lack of humor all seriously hurt this film. I say stick with the original and pretend this one doesn't exist. On the other hand, if you really liked the movie, the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack don't have a lot of extras, while neither format is a much better deal than the other.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Filed under: Video Review, RoboCop