So, after a bit of good news during the day (can’t go into specifics yet… SOON…), I decided that rather than head home, I’d pop along to BFI’s IMAX to catch whatever movie was playing (the 2014 version of RoboCop). I was a bit apprehensive about the remake, but since I’d been planning to see it anyway (and being in a good mood), I decided to go for it.
I should say at this point that I’d try to avoid spoilers. I won’t this time…
Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 movie is a visceral, dark dystopian satire of corporate greed and societal decay. It sets us in a world where society has virtually given up and corporations are running amok making money unchecked and engaging in social re-engineering to make life comfortable for those that can afford it. It adds to this by satirising a complicit media pushing the agenda of its corporate paymasters, versus actual journalism.
The new version? it’s set in the near future in what seems to be a fairly idyllic Detroit. The biggest problem we’re told is that the US won’t allow law enforcement to use robots to pacify urban aggression (which we don’t really get to see…). Gone is the societal collapse of the original, the segregation of Delta City and Old Detroit. The satire of media is reduced to Samuel L. Jackson portraying a Bill O’Riley like political pundit, wrapping himself in the stars and stripes, whilst media colleagues report on how the citizens of Tehran are “happily” cooperating with robots scanning them for hostile intent.
OCP’s motivation for creating RoboCop has also been changed. No longer is it about the privatisation of law enforcement (with the subsequent ability of OCP to control RoboCop through the super secret Directive 4), but he becomes a media prop to convince a skeptical public to repeal a law banning the deployment of robots on the streets of the US. OCP stops being an evil monolithic corporation, and turns into a company that just wants to sell more of its products (like a militarised version of Apple, wanting to sell sentient killer iPhones). OCP focus group RoboCop’s image, trying to make him scary to criminals and friendly to kids. Robo has been focused-grouped to appeal to everyone.
The wheels come off the wagon near the end for OCP, when RoboCop learns the Chairman ordered him dead. He proceeds to OCP headquarters to confront the Chairman (stopping to fight with a whole squad of much less homicidal ED-209s). Rather than the insidious Directive 4, we see that Robo can’t shoot or apprehend anyone wearing a “red” tag, and rather than going into Dick Jones’ rant about how OCP can’t have its products turn against them, Sellars (played by Keaton) taunts Robo about how he’s just a machine (flying completely in the face of everything we’ve seen so far), and RoboCop shoots him… with no exploration or understanding of how.
It’s a monumentally poor effort, a sanitised and safe movie which isn’t designed to challenge the audience… OCP would be proud.
In short, don’t go to see it. I’ve sacrificed two hours so that you don’t have to.