Saturday, August 22, 2015

RoboCop Review (Classic Write-Up)

A year and a half after its release, the 2014 RoboCop remake has pretty much vanished from the public consensus, its reception neither being good enough to justify its existence nor bad enough to make it the sort of blockbuster catastrophe whose flaws one can't help but ponder. Instead, it got mixed marks from critics and audiences and bombed at the domestic box office while grossing a great $184 million internationally.

By contrast, the 1987 version of RoboCop continues to influence cinema and garner new fans, a group of moviegoers I most certainly belong to. Watching this Paul Verhoeven effort for the first time was an enriching experience that, like watching fellow classic 80's action film Die Hard, reminded me of the virtue of concise storytelling. RoboCop is far more interested in crafting unique sequences of brutality and examining the underlying turmoils that Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) faces becoming the titular creation.

After a horrific shoot-out leaves Murphy mutilated, his body is used as the basis of a new project to create a law enforcement officer like no other. His mortal frame is enhanced with robotic gizmos and gadgets allowing him to pursue the sort of mayhem-inducing criminals that populate this movies depiction of Detroit. The city is in dire need of assistance as it spirals into despair and Verhoeven illustrates the hopelessness that's seeped into the city via memorable figures that come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it's trigger happy bank robbers or power-hungry business man, there's some form of corruption around every corner in this movie.

Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner make the wise decision to not let their script get bogged down in depicting gratuitous world-building, instead concentrating on creating formidable enemies for RoboCop to face and examining the more existential conflicts Murphy faces in the RoboCop persona. I wasn't expecting the film to explore that aspect of the character, but considering how much of an impact these more introspective moments leave, I'm glad the film went down this avenue of storytelling.

Hell, the scene of Murphy returning to his home after being turned into RoboCop is probably one of the best in the movie. As he wanders around the shambles of his ex-domicile (his wife and son are out of the picture since they've been told Murphy has passed away), he sees scenes of his past life that resonate because of their simplicity. Taking a photo with your wife and son on Halloween or your wife telling you she loves you in the morning are small moments in the grand scheme of a day, let alone ones existence, but now that that life has been robbed of Murphy, such small moments become heartbreaking remnants of what feels like another man altogether. The fact that Peter Weller doesn't speak any dialogue here only further enhances the tragic elements of the scene. Simply put, it's a splendidly crafted sequence that utilizes the kind of pathos that stem from the concept of combining man and machine.

In addition to creating some thoughtful themes in regard to its titular characters (the incorporation of layered themes also extends to social commentary that's uber prominent throughout the feature), RoboCop can also claim to having some damn fine action sequences in its 102 minute running time. Blood spills frequently as RoboCop disposes of criminals and creeps and the more graphic violence feels all the more appropriate given the heightened style of the motion picture as well as the fact that the grisly violence is depicted in a manner that doesn't feel it's there just for the sake of having blood in there. Instead, it all serves the enthralling experience that is RoboCop.

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