Review Roundup - Who cares if it worked or not?

ROBOCOP (2014)

There's been a lot of drama surrounding this one, it's the usual noise you get from the fans of classic films being recycled by the bad Hollywood ideas factory. The 1987 film is still personally unmatched in many ways, so as one of those fans I didn't expect anything from this, especially as Darren Aronosfky had left pre-production. While it is sad that they could have spent the money used creating some interesting robot visual effects on an original project, at the same time the reason they got the kind of budget involved is probably thanks to brand awareness. Corporate decision making in place of actual creativity again. It's down to the writers and the guys behind the camera to utilise that money effectively, and here the short story is they haven't. So taking this for what it is I'm not going to be irritated about the rating or the differences with the original, as the amount of blood isn't what makes a good film. There is in fact no need to draw any comparisons or talk about why this doesn't work as a reinvention of a known property. I don't need to do any of this because it's simply a bad film on many levels all by itself.

Let's start with the big problem - characters. Alex Murphy is left dead after getting too close to solving his case. But this isn't the opening of the movie so we don't focus on him. Instead there's an odd Middle East sequence with a lot of special effects. It vaguely alludes to American foreign policy but like the rest of the film never tries to be satirical or offer real subtext for the story as a whole, which is odd considering the setting. Back in Detroit, there are scenes with Murphy working undercover that feel like a different film. Straight off there's something wrong with all of this, and it never improves - besides the shift in tone a lot of it is how wooden the guy is. Scenes are random, characters are introduced here and there, and no real arc is ever created for the hero. There's no real theme considering this is a science fiction story. It has no commentary, it has nothing to say.

There are hints of real ideas every so often but they are never explored. Without going into the whole thing about using a human being as a product or running a business for shady military deals, it's just a dull thriller. The likes of Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton phone it in throughout so even the supporting cast are flat and lifeless. There are never any engaging elements introduced considering how easy it would be to add some ideas about man versus machine or the negative aspects of surveillance and technology. On top of this there's a flimsy plot thread about Murphy's wife and child but it has no real purpose and as an emotional hook it never feels realistic. I found it surprising that with all the technology involved they didn't try and build a prosthetic body that looked human to allow domestic integration, especially when it's shown they are making replacement arms for people. Can someone live like this? Are we being dehumanised by technology? Should I care? All these things pile up during the story and nothing gets a satisfying pay off.

There are a few different set pieces involving robots and underworld goons - but none are designed to include anything memorable or use Robocop's super fast cybernetic body in an interesting way. They're just shootouts in interchangeable locations. Even as a throwaway action movie for some cheap thrills it never works when it's so unimaginative. It doesn't help that the choice of music is so strange in a lot of sequences. An early test of Murphy's skills has a really distracting pop song played over it, I have to assume for laughs - and even the scenes of corporate suits scheming have some strange rom-com type music in the background. The 1987 movie's theme get's used in the opening title but is never brought back later as a device to introduce the character or as cue for the heroic moments. The soundtrack like everything else left me scratching my head. This is without even getting to the problems in the writing by people who add plot devices early on but then drop them or bend the rules for the convenience of ending a scene. This is just another forgettable action movie, a sci-fi plot without depth and an all round tedious experience.


RUSH (2013)

Ron Howard's Formula One drama is a likeable story of two rival drivers who clash egos during their battle to become Grand Prix champions in the 1970s. The characters are a little cartoon like at times, with James Hunt as the all drinking all libido Brit and Niki Lauder the unlikable by-the-book Austrian, but the whole thing is always entertaining. The race commentary can be very distracting at times as they seem to have dumbed it down for general audiences but I can't say too much knowing zero about the sport or the real life events it's based on - I was surprised by how well the casting works seeing the real footage included. For me this also added a lot of tension during the race sequences which are gripping and at times horrifying as the realities of traveling at such speed in a "bomb on wheels" becomes apparent. The digital over saturated look detracts from the period setting, but there are enough big hairdos and loud shirts to make up for it. In the end it's good fun if a little melodramatic, with a few edge of seat moments along the way.