It has finally come to pass. Ya know, I had really high hopes for this latest robot police action movie. I was genuinely interested upon seeing the trailer for this movie. It's laughable, I know, I admit it now. Even with all the bad effects and that weird all-black armor, I believed it could still be interesting. I figured that any film making use of one of my beloved long-time action icons would, if nothing else, come through with some solid action work. Just the same, I had hoped the pathos and character work that he displayed previously would shine through in some fashion, enough at least to elevate what for many seemed like a less than B-Movie. But lo and behold, that was a wash. This movie wounded me deeply. And even though there were some sparks of genuine social commentary and ruminations on the nature of what it means to be human throughout, all my hopes against hope for a compelling or even semi-enjoyable cinematic experience were wasted on an empty piece of shit. It's not like I can't handle a bad movie, but it's the betrayal of my long-time hero that stings the worst. How could I have been so fucking blind? How could I not see this coming? Why didn't I fucking listen? Why did I waste my time with this unnecessary film??
WHY DIDN'T I SEE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING THAT THE WORST ROBOCOP MOVIE OF 2014 IS MOTHERFUCKING ANDROID COP STARRING MICHAEL JAI WHITE?
How could you do this to me, my old friend...
What a fucking letdown. Oh well. Thankfully, I also finally got to see Robocop (2014) directed by José Padilha. It was aight.
It has been discussed that there's no true way to be objective when reviewing art, and in particular it's impossible to be completely unbiased when reviewing a film. You can of course go in with an open mind, ready to accept a film on its own terms, but you can never fully disavow your expectations of a film nor the life experiences ("baggage" some might say) that color your perceptions. As such, writing this review from a combat zone, all the substantive themes in the Robocop remake regarding our nation's military industrial imperialism, drone warfare and the ubiquity of maimed and disfigured soldiers in our modern lives who survived both physical and psychological traumatic wounds was simply too much too for me to dismiss. I was genuinely engaged with that opening in Tehran. Some people would argue that the depiction of the generic Middle Eastern suicide bomber is offensive. I can't really argue with that. Though I can tell you that after seeing so many of the severed heads and limbs of their aftermath, they kinda are all starting to look the same to me. I recall another comment about not being sure whether to be moved or laugh at the kid getting blasted by the ED-209. This one time, these dudes were firing on one of our patrols, so a gunship arrived on scene and starting raining down chain gun fire. One of the insurgents, who appeared to be lying motionless in a berm, suddenly jumped up and ran like hell. The gunship then switched to rockets. After the smoke cleared, the dude once again jumped up and broke into a mad dash. Finally, they switched to missiles and vaporized the guy who had so incredibly escaped the grim reaper's embrace. I thought that whole exchange was hilarious.
Just the same, remembering how New York felt after 9/11 and living with the dystopian nightmares come to life with the obtrusiveness of a police state, the unblinking eye of big brother and the fervor of patriotism fueled by fear is something I certainly cannot let go of and is also touched on by the film. For most people, the images of the planes crashing haunt them. For me though, what sticks out the most was was the deadly quiet morning commute several days later, and seeing the beat cop on the subway platform in full tactical kit armed with an assault rifle. The cognitive dissonance of living these two experiences, living in fear and dispensing it, is not lost on me.
The new Robocop resonated with me, is what I'm saying. But acknowledging all that, I also acknowledge that as far as a quote-unquote objective piece of technical filmmaking, the movie is mostly flat. Devin's and Evan's reviews mostly tell you all you need to know. Though I side with Evan insofar as recognizing the interesting ideas that are far from terrible, Devin's observation about the movie ultimately being ruined by the stifling of José Padilha's artistic voice is spot on. If there was anything at all I was genuinely disappointed by, it was the possibility of Alex Murphy embracing his new found killing machine abilities to the point of casting aside his humanity, as opposed to struggling to reclaim it, not coming to fruition. The scenes where he ignores his heartbroken family, driven instead by his slavish programming to duty immediately struck me as a reflection of so many veterans who come home after combat distant and cold, irrevocably changed. Unfortunately, like a lot of the ideas, they never really capitalized on it and the idea was ultimately just forced into a simple plot device to move things along.
Though the movie mostly plays it straight and lacks the same biting satire of the original, I truly felt like Padilha channeled that frustration of executive mandates and interference into Michael Keaton's Raymond Sellars character, much more so than the more obvious satirical bent of Samuel L. Jackson's Pat Novak. I could almost feel the "fuck you"s to the suits in all the Sellars scenes, particularly the Transformers bit. I mean, y'all really think Padilha doesn't know the new robots look like Transformers and Halo and shit? Just recently FilmCritHULK sang the praises of Lord and Miller and their super-subversive Modus Operandi. I feel like maybe Padilha isn't getting enough credit for what little of that subversion he was trying to get through. Try this analogy on for size: it sorta feels like 12 Years a Slave to me. We see both Patsey and Solomon are talented, deeply thoughtful and emotionally complex human beings dealing with a terrible situation. Both are slaves, but ultimately only one of them gets to leave the plantation. If they haven't already broken Padilha on Hollywoodland ranch, they're probably gonna just ship his ass back to the jungle they got him from. Maybe that would be better anyway, as opposed to spending time in movie jail like Guillermo Del Toro did. Although I was less disappointed by one director's CGI robot movie than the other, so maybe there's still hope.
In my marathon of Cybernetic Crime fighting cinema, I also decided to take a look at Our Robocop Remake. So a lot of websites was all "durrhh this is the better Robocop movie to come out this year, don't go spend your money on some empty corporate trash you might only moderately enjoy you disgusting plebs," but I really wasn't feeling this movie at all. I know humor is an even trickier thing to gauge and appreciate than standard drama, but I simply can't get down with this remake. Yeah yeah, it's made with love and appreciation and all that nonsense, but to me it just feels like more of the same ironic detachment hipster filth that plagues so much modern comedy. "Oh let's make the most violent part of the movie with babies and puppets and interpretive dance because that can't be worse than the neutered remake right?? lololol we are so fucking clever in our love for Robocop unlike those soulless Hollywood suits!!" C'mon son, get the fuck outta here with that bullshit. This might be the kinda thing for people who are down with the online magazine Vice, but 30-round-magazine Vyce ain't havin' none of that. Admittedly, there are some moments of pure hilarity and brilliance in this compilation, but they are surrounded by middling to intolerable scenes that just barely make it worth sitting through. You know what other movie I saw recently that had some moments of brilliance surrounded by garbage? Movie 43. The only edge this joke remake has over that joke of a film is that I was actually dumb enough to pay money for Movie 43 (it was a long lonely weekend and I was bored, sue me.)
So yeah, the new Robocop wasn't all that great, but there was enough there that I still dug it. I'll probably only watch it once more in my life, but it wasn't a waste. If I were to rank this film along the spectrum of Robocop entries, I would buy this movie when it comes out on Blu-ray, buy the complete original Robocop Trilogy Blu-ray set that will no doubt be placed next to it on the shelf at Best Buy, throw Robocop 3 in the trash/use it as a coaster, replace it with Padilha's remake, and place my new custom Robocop collection on my TV shelf next to Blade I and II and my copy of Attack The Block which sits in the slot where Blade 3 would be if it weren't so fucking terrible. Blade 3 now has to settle for a spot in my dusty CD binder where I put all my old bootleg anime DVDs.
By the way, all this Robo madness got me curious to check out a piece of Robocop history that seems lost to the annals of time. I heard that the movie miniseries Robocop: Prime Directives was pretty decent. Apparently it tried to stick pretty close to the tone and feel of the original, although ultimately it couldn't escape its cheap DTV trappings. I've just started the first movie, Dark Justice (which I'm pretty sure is an incredible black people pun), but in the first five minutes I get the line "How'd you like to wear your asshole for a necklace, Sandra?", so I think I'm in good hands. After all, that dick-shooting massacre clip might have been great for an ironic joke, but this right here is the kind of sincere craziness that comes from the heart and is what BAD is all about: