Interesting ideas, but not without its problems
from North Shields
, 15 Jul 2012
I first saw Robocop when I was 5 years old...yes I was only 5. I've got my grandparents to thank for that little mistake. I remember being absolutely petrified by it. Walking armoured machines with really sinister voices saying I had 20 seconds to comply, Murphy's disgustingly disturbing death, Robocop's struggle to hold onto his humanity....and THAT scene (which I'll get to in a moment).
22 years later, the remake has been announced with a few impressive names attached to the film and with the first Omnicorp viral doing the rounds I thought it may be time to revisit Detroit's finest. So for the second time in my life, and considering my ever-growing experience watching fantastic pieces of work, was it any good? Hmmm sort of.
What I would say immediately is that (believe it or not) Robocop is not really about a cyborg policeman. The film tries to relay a message so much bigger than the future of law enforcement. Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier have gone on record to say as much. To be honest without their conformation the film does blatantly show this. Robocop is an attempt to expose America for what they think it is, money hungry. The film is bathed in images and dialogue which portrays a disgusting country that has lost its sense of pride.
In my opinion, the best parts of the film involved key executives of Omnicorp, the villainous organisation that has its grip firmly on Detroit. The suits are portrayed as the school frat boys of business desperately wanting get ahead of the other in popularity and riches. The famous ED-209 scene in the board room is particularly important to show this. To this day it was still pretty scary to watch and incredibly violent, but what was interesting to see was how dumbed down the reactions were from the members of the board. I don't think this was a case of bad acting or direction, I think this was an intentional move to show that to us it's a tragic death, to Omnicorp it's a set-back.
I was also surprised by its attention to media brainwashing. Showing us news coverage and full screen commercials as if the movie has stopped for a break, suggesting WE need a break to here from their sponsors, like WE need a product fix. The catchphrase 'I'd buy that for a dollar' is used so much over the course of the film that it becomes embedded and never goes away. The affect works very well. I've talked quite a lot there about Robocop's intention as a social satire but what about the literal plot that most people remember the film for.
Unfortunately in its literal sense, Robocop as a few flaws. Don't get me wrong, Murphy's transition from human to robot is great. The shots are well planned and gripping and Robocop himself looks amazing but it falls pretty flat by the lack of emotion shown by other characters. Murphy's so-called partner Lewis is so wooden that it's hard to believe that in such a short space of time that she has become emotionally involved in Robocop's problems. She is pretty forgettable to be honest.
Another real problem with this film is that its action sequences to me are pretty dull. I honestly don't think they pack any sort of punch to keep anyone interested and unfortunately the soundtrack is awful. Listening to the main theme that has become so iconic over the years made me feel a little embarrassed to the point where it can't really be taken seriously as an 18 certificate action flick. But having said that, Robocop has one of the most disturbing sequences in the history if film involving a vat of acid.
It was a sequence that really disturbed me as a 5 year old boy and the affect has not worn away. It's so relevant to early David Cronenberg body horror images that it feels extremely out of place for a film of this nature. However, this scene alone cannot save Robocop from its bland action moments.
So, did I like it? From the many 80's action films that came our way it's definately the worst I've seen. It tried to take a lot from Terminator and certainly didn't have the grit and horror that James Cameron achieved. On the plus side, Robocop has some really interesting ideas to try and explain where we are as a society and where we are heading. These parts are brilliantly done, I just wish the final product had more meat on the bone so we could watch it for what it is, not for what it was trying to say.
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