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RoboCop (2014) (Blu-ray Review)

4 Jun, 2014 By: John Latchem

Box Office $58.61 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.
Stars Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle.

A problem that remakes will frequently encounter is the inability to emerge from the shadow of the original, often revered work. Filmmakers can find themselves so inspired by the original work they often forget to infuse their new version with anything that sets it apart, which raises the question of why it was even necessary to begin with.

RoboCop cloaks itself with a solid cast, impressive visual effects and a message about drone warfare so obvious that Samuel L. Jackson (as a blowhard cable news pundit) has to shout it at the audience, just in case anyone didn’t quite pick up on it. Yet the result seems more like an echo of the classic 1987 original from director Paul Verhoeven.

Where that movie was taut, efficient, energetic and brutal, this remake comes across as deliberate and ponderous, heaping social commentary upon a thin storyline that isn’t developed much beyond RoboCop being created and coming to terms with the fact that he was.

In fact, this new movie seems more like a treatise in trying to explain in painstaking detail all the scientific, psychological and computational processes inflicted upon slain police officer Alex Murphy in his transformation into the ultimate law enforcement machine. At the very least, the film gives us a chillingly effective scene that strips away all of RoboCop’s layers to reveal just how little remains of the original Murphy, something the original films always left rather vague.

However, the franchise’s primary motif of humanity within the machine takes something of a backseat here, as the focus is less on the RoboCop character than on a conspiracy plot involving a wealthy industrialist (Michael Keaton) who wants the government to repeal a ban on law enforcement robots.

Fortunately, the original film’s theme music pops up in a few places, so at least there’s that. The music, when used, definitely infuses the film with a level of energy it’s otherwise lacking.

All in all, genre fans are more likely to geek out over the fact that “Batman” alumni Keaton and Gary Oldman have scenes together.

The Blu-ray includes several interesting but inconsequential deleted scenes, plus an assortment of faux promotional advertisements for the robots, weapons and vehicles used in the film.

There are also three behind-the-scenes featurettes. One looks at the reasons for making this new version, another looks at the weapons used in the film and how the actors trained for it, and the third delves into the creation of the new Robo suit. While the process of making the suit is interesting, the featurette is also notable for allowing Keaton to reminisce about his own days wearing uncomfortable costumes for the “Batman” films.

About the Author: John Latchem

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