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Case Number 27429: Small Claims Court

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Robocop (2014) (Blu-ray)

MGM // 2014 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 3rd, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle has been rebuilt, and he's not any more impressive either.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Robocop: Criterion Collection (published September 16th, 1999), Robocop (Blu-ray) (published November 1st, 2007), The Robocop Trilogy (published August 24th, 2004), and The Robocop Trilogy (Blu-ray) (published October 25th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

Crime has a new enemy.

The Case

In 2028, a new breed of hero will be born from the bowels of OmniCorp, a corporate conglomerate that works at making mechanical combat soldiers for the US military. When flatfoot detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, The Killing) is killed in a mysterious explosion outside his family's home, Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight) gets Alex's wife's (Abbie Cornish, Sucker Punch) consent and uses the technology of OmniCorp—run by the shady Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton, Batman)—to put the remains of Murphy into a cybernetic suit. Murphy is now Robocop, a man with a machine's strength and a machine with the emotions, fears, and instincts of a man. Murphy's new visage is the new face of OminCorp, and with his newfound technological abilities he must set right what was once wrong, as well as discover the buried secrets behind those who tried to murder him.

"Everything old is new again." That statement could be the official creed of current Hollywood. For the past umpteen years, the movies have been inundated by remake after remake after remake…after remake. I can pinpoint exactly where all this started: 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Of course, there were remakes long before 2003, but that specific film seemed to kick off a trend of taking old horror movies—Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Evil Dead—and refashioning them into modern day tools of capitalism. It's not that anyone felt a remake was really warranted (most of those original movies are perfectly serviceable relics of their era), except for studio execs who only see dollar signs where artistic credibility once dwelled. The deluge of horror remakes bled over into other realms, including the science fiction and action genres where we got reboots of Total Recall and Planet of the Apes. Now add to that growing list Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic Robocop.

*((record scratch sound effect))*

Wait…what? They remade Robocop?! Why???

That's the question most movie fans have been asking themselves. Why would Hollywood take a perfectly wonderful action sci-fi movie from the 1980s and turn it into a slick, soulless quickie cash grab? Hmmm…I just answered my own question. I am sure the filmmakers, including first time feature length director José Padilha (who hails from Brazil), had good intentions while putting together this new film. Everyone probably sat around the room and decided they were going to try to make the best new version of Robocop they could. In the end, their efforts came up short.

Three major reasons why the new Rococop just doesn't work:

* The PG-13 rating
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a movie fan—especially horror, sci-fi, and action lovers—as the dreaded PG-13. That rating tells you everything you need to know about the movie. "We're not making a movie for just anyone, we're making a movie for EVERYONE." Verhoeven's original was more than just an action movie. It was a satire, a comedy, a drama, and a true horror show. He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty with gleefully executed moments of violence that packed a real punch. From gruesome gunshots to men melting away in toxic waste, Robocop was a celebration of excess for a specific crowd. It wasn't made for pre-teens or kids (even though I saw it at the age of 11). Padilha's Robocop has clearly been sanitized for your protection, scrubbing away violence for over-the-top CGI sequences and effects. Yes, some of the visuals are striking—like when Robocop is taken apart and Murphy is shown just his lungs, brain, and bare hand—but as a whole, the film feels like it's holding back. If you're going to remake Robocop, surpass what's come before or don't bother.

* Casting
I realize the original film is so much a part of my formative cinematic years that it's hard to separate the dance from the dancer. Any new Robocop was going to a disappoint one way or another. What I wasn't prepared for was how bland the cast would be, even with the likes of Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jackie Earle Haley. None of this cast bring anything special to the film. It truly feels like everyone is in it for a paycheck. When you compare these performances to the original, it's a no-brainer. Even without big names, the original had a stalwart Peter Weller as the title hero, Deliverance's Ronny Cox as a villain, and That '70s Show's Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker, an even more frightening villain. These were performances that resonated with audiences. Here we get Samuel L. Jackson as a news reporter doing yet another variation his patented Sam Jackson shtick, Michael Keaton as Omnicorp's bland CEO, and Joel Kinnaman as the title hero who spends most of the movie fretting over his new circumstances (in the original, Alex Murphy's memory had been wiped clean making his personality as robotic as his suit). It's not that these performances are necessarily bad as much as they're unnecessarily boring.

* The Screenplay
Writer Joshua Zetumer (who's only other credit is an anonymous rewrite of Quantum of Solace, the worst James Bond movie ever) clearly watched the original and decided to eliminate all of the things that made it great. Previously, Robocop had a wife and child, but they were kept on the sidelines because the crux of the film was about Alex Murphy's struggle with snippets of his old memories and his terrible new corporate overlords. Here, Alex retains all his memories, while his wife and child (portrayed lifelessly by Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan) play a more prominent role. These relationships end up bogging down the film in sentimentality, where sentimentality isn't required. Much of the satire has been replaced with commentary on today's corporate and military partnerships, which isn't half as interesting as Verhoeven's take on the material. On the plus side, Zetumer is able to squeeze in the iconic line, "I'd buy that for a dollar," which I give him props for.

* The Action
Yes, there's action in Robocop, but it's sanitized and alien, slickly cobbled together CGI that almost always looks fake. This is a complaint that doesn't begin or end with this film. Most movies today rely so heavily on computer graphics that the human element ends up getting lost in the shuffle. There sure is a lot of heavy gunfire and giant mechanical beasts (ED-209 even makes a welcome though brief appearance), but it's all sound and fury signifying nothing.

Is there anything to appreciate in this new version of Robocop? Yes, and it falls on the shoulders of Gary Oldman's Dr. Norton, the man who puts Alex Murphy into the suit. Oldman is one of those rare gifted actors who can switch back and forth between villain and heror. Norton truly cares for Murphy (and little about making combat ready robotics), and his character is the single best thing here.

Presented in 2.40:1/1080p HD widescreen, MGM's Robocop (2014) (Blu-ray) transfer is stellar, without a defect to be found. The colors and sharp and the picture are crystal clear, offering a reference quality image. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is excellent and filled with a lot of bombastic moments featuring tons of surround sounds and directional effects. While there are a few quiet moments, this mix will give any home theater system a workout.

Bonus features include four minutes of deleted scenes, some Omnicorp product announcements, three short behind-the-scenes featurettes ("The Illusion of Free Will: A New Vision," "To Serve and Protect: Robocop's New Weapons," "The Robocop Suit: Form and Function"), two theatrical trailers, a DVD copy of the film, and digital copies for your portable device.

I readily admit to having a heavy bias going into Robocop (2014). I'm all for remakes, but when you re-imagine movies that are beloved and critically acclaimed, the odds are stacked against you. I appreciate what director Jose Padilha and his team tried to do, but all it ends up doing is reminding the viewer of how much better the original is.

The Verdict

Prime Directive: Pull the plug.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 71

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• DTS 5.1 Surround (Italian)
• DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Hindi)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Unknown, Urdu)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Cantonese
• French
• Hungarian
• Korean
• Malayalam
• Mandarin
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Thai
• Vietnamese
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Action
• Blu-ray
• Crime
• Science Fiction

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Omnicorp Promos
• Featurettes
• Trailers
• DVD Copy
• Digital Copy
• UltraViolet Download

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site
• Facebook Page








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