By Tyler Hersko
So, here’s the idea: we’re going to take “Robocop,” a classic ‘80s film about anti-capitalism, corruption and human nature, where a police officer is reconstructed as a cyborg to patrol the poverty-stricken hellhole of Detroit, and remake it.
We’ll call this new film “Robocop,” and its themes will include anti-capitalism, corruption and human nature. This modern update will replace the original’s cold war paranoia with a healthy dose of middle fingering towards the United States’ recent quasi-imperialism in the Middle East. To further adjust the film for today’s audiences, Detroit has been reimagined as it is today: a poverty-stricken… Oh, right.
It’s hard to justify a “Robocop” remake. Thanks to a darker tone, new “bad boy” black armor and a supposedly watered-down PG-13 rating, approaching the new “Robocop” film with any sort of optimism may prove difficult for most.
And that’s a real shame, because if you can look past the admittedly major fact that there’s no reason for this remake to exist, the 2014 “Robocop” aptly surpasses all reasonable expectations and delivers an intelligent, well-paced and remarkably endearing sci-fi flick.
Series purists may take offense to the numerous liberties taken with the source material. Sans protagonist James Murphy, whose backstory has received significant alterations, and his family, nearly every major character has been scrapped.
While the overall plot is still largely faithful to the original, the new “Robocop” enjoys a far improved script, pacing and cast. The remake sheds additional light on not only Murphy, but the fictionalized world at large. Most of the more incredulous moments in the original, (seriously, we were just supposed to believe that you could simply plant a cybernetic cop on the streets and everyone would run with it?) have been believably explained, but it never comes off as overly expository.
The superiorly fleshed out backstory serves to supplement the series’ longstanding themes. For better or worse, the hilariously gory action scenes the films are notorious for have been relegated to the sidelines — again, hello PG-13 rating — in favor of the series’ psychological aspects.
As Robocop, Murphy has a far greater deal of autonomy than he did in the 1987 classic. While a stark departure from the original, the relative retention of Murphy’s personality offers a deeper look into the emotional and moral consequences of putting a man inside of a machine. Though the themes and plot twists on display may be more than a little heavy-handed, they manage to stand on their own while remaining faithful to the original.
Given the numerous upgrades to the series’ intellectual aspects, it’s a minor tragedy that the original’s wit, humor and action scenes failed to shine through. Though a smattering of hilariously biased news broadcasting segments provide legitimate laughs, the original film’s memorable cheekiness is unfortunately relegated to a repetition of the series’ famously unmatched one-liners.
While the remake’s scenes depicting Murphy taking on hostile robots are quite impressive, “Robocop” largely fails as an action film.
When Robocop finally hits the streets — mind you, this is nearly an hour into the movie — he spends much of his time being criminally nonviolent. While never dull, those hoping to see robbers and drug lords get thrown through an endless cycle of glass panels or watch a rapist get his dick shot off will be thoroughly disappointed.
It’s a testament to the film’s numerous strengths, then, that “Robocop” is still a shocking success. If you’re willing to tolerate a little intelligence with your action, “Robocop” is an entertaining dark horse of a science-fiction remake. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Tyler Hersko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lego Movie
By Ryan McGinnis
Behold: in front of you is a mountain of Legos as high as the eye can see. You can build anything you want, master builder, but please dismantle Will Ferrell’s quasi-Orwellian state before he destroys the Lego-world-as-we-know-it on Taco Tuesday.
While this may seem like a maniacal concept for a film, “The Lego Movie” pulls it off flawlessly.
When is the last time you had a Lego Adventure? When’s the last time you had an intergalactic pirate space battle with Batman and some funky spaceship you built from lost pieces under your bed?
It’s been too long, huh?
Well, in the probable event that your Lego collection is lost somewhere in your parent’s attic, don’t worry. “The Lego Movie” will bring back some of that giddy joy you had as a kid. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street”), “The Lego Movie” is a flashy endeavor of fun-sized grandeur, fast-paced action and non-stop wit.
It’s like diving head first into a toy box. The special effects team used 3,863,484 unique virtual bricks and 15,080,330 total pieces to create the film’s world. It is vibrant, yet the stop-motion action is playfully blocky— like if you’re actually playing with Legos. Very few movies give 3D technology justice. “The Lego Movie,” however, is an exception. The cinematic experience is visceral and nostalgic to those good ol’ days of play-time.
But there are some politics to be dealt with. Will Ferrell voices an evil dictator named Lord Business. With a set of instructions oddly familiar to those you might find in a Lego set at home, he rules the world with an iron fist. People are in line. People are happy. That is, until an ordinary Lego named Emmet discovers his prophetic destiny to botch Lord Business’ diabolical plans of destroying the world.
Along the way we meet nearly every Lego character imaginable: from Lego Batman to Lego Abe Lincoln. Together they help Emmet harness the power of creativity to save the world.
As simple as the plot may be, the team captures how ludicrously spontaneous a child’s mind can be. Every twist and turn is as dumb-witted as an eight-year-old’s imagination, but the film stays relatable and fun for all ages. It hilariously pokes fun at politically heavy subject matter. The end result feels like a satirical “1984” children’s book, mixed with slap-stick action and devilishly dry humor.
“The Lego Movie” carries magic most kids’ movies miss. You won’t find fart jokes. Nor will you find lazy storytelling. Just as “Toy Story,” or any great kids’ movie made before, “The Lego Movie” captures why it’s fun to be a kid, which is not an easy task.
So screw all of those other critically acclaimed “mature” films of late. Go see “The Lego Movie.” Go be a kid again. You won’t regret it.
Ryan McGinnis can be reached at email@example.com.