Time/place: 12:15 showing at Aliso Viejo 20
Well, after last week’s disappointment with The Lego Movie, I realized that even if I didn’t love the movie, it’s darn time I get myself back to the movie theater on a regular basis. I wasn’t dying to see RoboCop, but I was really interested in seeing if they’d pull off something special with it. At the very least I’d get to watch a number of great actors that I love. I’m happy to say, I was able to love more than just the actors.
I remember watching the original movie on KTLA 5 on Saturdays (ah, those were the days), and I’ve enjoyed it plenty of times since then – it’s good, obviously-80’s fun. It’s hardly the type of movie that would land on a list of my favorites, but I like it. I went into this remake hoping for something deeper, something that would engage me at a more emotional level (generally, what it takes to capture my love), and I got it. The original isn’t a bad movie, and a quick perusal of the Internet let’s me know that I may be in the minority for this upcoming opinion, but I like the new RoboCop much more. Haha, of course, most folks loved The Lego Movie, so I learned some time ago that I don’t speak for the masses 😉 .
RoboCop started off well, with a fun introduction to the world by a mass-media blowhard (Samuel L. Jackson), and I gradually fell in love with the movie as I found appreciation for the structure, performances, the script, and the eventual emotional toll of the lead character’s transformation into his titular form. The movie remained somewhat light and satirical at points, but it never lost focus of the emotional human element. The action elements were necessary, and played out well, but they didn’t draw themselves out. Just as the mechanical, computerized body of RoboCop is designed for efficiency, the action scenes weren’t flamboyant – people and machines died quickly and that was that. Movies are going through a trend of “gritty realism,” but I’ll ascribe a better word to RoboCop – grounded. Character reactions, plot points… everything felt grounded in a way that really appealed to me. With all of the changes to the storyline and feel of the original, this remake still had some wonderful nods to its predecessor. I won’t ruin them here (and no spoiler section below for this one), but I definitely smiled a number of times because the director made a choice that echoed the original but felt new and satisfying or because the writers set up a classic line to carry a wonderful new meaning.
I already loved Joel Kinnaman from his work on The Killing, and I’m thrilled to see him in a leading role like this. He brought a real heart to this character, but that humanity was present in other characters, as well. I really liked that the villains weren’t really villains, too. The original movie features bad guys who loved being bad guys, and that’s fun in its own way, but the remake features much more rounded characters. Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley – all a pleasure to watch. Oldman, especially, brought wonderful nuance to a character that could have been played much more broadly in lesser hands. It was also quite a pleasure being able to watch Keaton and Oldman in the same scenes together – I experienced the actor-appreciation version of a teenage girl giggling over her favorite boy band members teaming up.
Not everything in this movie was perfect, however. Actually, the fact that I loved the rest of it all so much made the one negative stand out even more… and yes, I only have one complaint. The aforementioned media pundit that Samuel L. Jackson plays pops in and out of the movie at various points. We only see him as if we’re watching his show – a futuristic version of a media pundit who offers a political slant to the news. There were plenty of messages in the movie regarding current events, and even though Jackson’s scenes tended to lay it on pretty thick, it was forgivable because I loved the “actual” movie so much. For the most part these scenes actually felt a little out-of-place, and I think the movie would have been fine without them, but the only thing I really didn’t like is how they used it one of them to end the movie. I know, this isn’t in the spoiler section, but I’m not ruining anything valuable. I wasn’t disappointed with the story’s conclusion (not at all, boy), but I was disappointed with the ending. The original ends with a great final line, followed by that fantastic theme, and for as much as I’d enjoyed and smiled throughout the entire remake, the very ending left me wanting. Also, I could’ve actually gone for a longer cut of the movie, too – 2.5 hours would’ve been grand – but that’s mostly because I was just enjoying their setup so much, that I would’ve liked to see more of this story 🙂 .
RoboCop was pretty much everything I’d hoped it might be – it was clever, fun, and dealt with emotions that felt appropriate for this situation without being heavy-handed. Minor, minor criticism aside, I absolutely loved this movie and walked out with a big smile on my face. Of course, I spent the rest of my day humming the theme, too.