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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Movie review: Robocop is all machine with no soul

Hindustantimes.com  New Delhi, February 14, 2014
First Published: 15:22 IST(14/2/2014) | Last Updated: 16:43 IST(14/2/2014)

Fell in love with the subversive undertones and wicked wit of the original? Then this Robocop is not meant for you. This one has all the right ideas but falls way short in execution, say critics.

The basic premise of the story is familiar - a good cop fighting crime in Detroit is critically injured and is reborn as a cyborg protecting the city's streets. Behind this experiment is a conglomerate which is in it for profit and is, obviously, crooked. It is finally left to our metal hero to find a human face and be at peace with all the circuitry in his head. The film stars Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson, Abbie Cornish and Michael Keaton.

Dana Stevens of Slate says the premise of the film has outlived its 'shock value'. "For one thing, the basic premise -- a Detroit cop is saved from the brink of death via reinvention as a cyborg, only to be programmed by the corporation that designed him as an indiscriminate killing machine -- now feels as unradical to the average filmgoer as the latest episode of Fox's new cop-with-a-robot-partner procedural Almost Human. In the era of sophisticated digital prostheses and Google Glass, who among us isn't something of a cyborg?"

Another grouse that critics have is that this film has done away with exactly those things which made it a classic.

Joe Morgenstern of Wall Street Journal writes, "The original Robocop became a classic because of the clarity, and sly humor, with which it dramatised a potent idea. This remake, reflecting its era all too accurately, bounces from one hyperlinked notion to the next -- and one videogame-like simulation to the next -- while Alex, or what's left of him, undergoes acute information overload, thanks to networks of security cameras and criminal databases that he's been plugged into."

Another grievous omission is lack of a true villain. Colin Covert of Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, "The 1987 film gave us numerous colourful villains whose comeuppance was thrilling. Here they're a colourless lot, anonymous bullet fodder."

What filmmaker José Padilha and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer offer instead are ponderous themes. "They've overburdened their story with underbaked notions about US militarism, corporate greed, the importance of empathy and the nature of consciousness, as well as robotics versus what the film calls organics-not pesticide-free veggies, but free-willed flesh and blood that, in the case of unlucky Alex, has been reprogrammed for ruthless efficiency."

What works in the film is the film's cast which performs well, its scale and Padiha's action sequences. "This is no cheap rip-off. It looks impressive. The cast is seriously talented. The script is an honest effort to address our current anxieties of total surveillance and police state overreach," Covert writes.

Unfortunately, the film collapses under the weight of its own seriousness.

 

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