Is the 'RoboCop' Remake Smart Enough to Be Satire of Blockbusters?
by Ethan Anderton
February 13, 2014
The remake of RoboCop hit theaters last night, and while the film is a pointless remake of a great 80s film that makes no attempt to have any real weight or substance, it definitely hits the audience over the head with right-wing satire. Throughout the film, Samuel L. Jackson plays Pat Novak, an exaggerated take on Bill O'Reilly (or any intense political pundit really), who hosts a program called The Novak Element. On his show, Novak is constantly berating Americans for not letting OmniCorp's robots police the streets just as they doing in foreign countries with the military. But is that the only satire that lies within this remake?
As I sat bemused and unimpressed watching Jose Padilha's remake of RoboCop, a few things struck me as intriguing about the film itself. While RoboCop makes no mystery of their parody of right-wing news network pundits and their biased viewpoints on the 24-hour cycle, I found myself wondering if the film was smart enough to contain a different target of satire: blockbuster films.
The evidence of this potential mockery lies within some bits of dialogue and even a couple of the plot points, mostly within the walls of OmniCorp. Even when the initial trailer came out, Jay Baruchel's marketing character spouting the line "We're going to make a lot of money," sounded like the studio mentality when it came to remaking a film like RoboCop. But that's not the only dialogue that sounds like it could come from the mouth of a studio executive. Michael Keaton as OmniCorp's chief executive Raymond Sellars harps on Gary Oldman's Dr. Dennett Norton about having to meet a release date, forcing him to work harder to fix the kinks in RoboCop in order to meet expectations that the public already had in their mind.
Further evidence comes from the conversation Sellars has with his right hand woman Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) and Baruchel's Tom Pope as they discuss focus group testing for the suit that RoboCop will eventually wear. There's the talk of people not knowing what they want until they get it as they look at concept art of potential suits, including one that is clearly the original suit from the 1987 film. It's almost as if they're mocking the way studios go about pleasing fans, especially in the realm of comic book movies, by going so far as to test the wardrobe of their heroes. Even the fact that RoboCop apprehending a criminal at his unveiling changes people's minds is reminiscent of the impact a movie trailer can have on a skeptical public.
And then there's one of the big plot points. After Alex Murphy is ready to be revealed to the press, with his mind and emotions mostly intact, he has a breakdown while downloading case files into his mind, traumatized when he encounters footage from his own crime scene that turned him into what he is today. In order to "fix" the problem, Dr. Norton reduces Murphys dopamine levels, rendering him unemotional and lacking any real human elements other than a face. It effectively removes the human element and emotion from RoboCop, making him heartless, expressionless, and without any scrap of real life behind his eyes.
Could this be a commentary on the construction of blockbusters and how studios try to put them together in an attempt to do the impossible of pleasing all the people all the time? The result of these kind of methods can be tragic, and result in a film not entirely unlike this remake of RoboCop: lifeless, lacking substance and devoid of any original thoughts or ideas. Is the script smart enough to contain this kind of satire or commentary on blockbusters becoming a victim to the very system that allows them to be released as hollow shells of films?
My gut reaction is no, if only because the film should have been better if it contained these poignant bits of criticism of studio filmmaking. Or perhaps these bits are there as merely tongue-in-cheek nods to the film industry and not meant to be dissected like this. Either way, the fact remains that not even this reading of RoboCop renders the film entertaining. The action surrounding the themes and story (which does nothing to build upon the concepts of the original film) is boring, and makes for a slow, grueling experience devoid of any fun or joy that doesn't shake a stick at Paul Verhoeven's original. RoboCop is dumb, heartless and irrelevant, everything a film about a cyborg detective in 2014 shouldn't be. Thoughts?
Reader Feedback - 13 Comments
Youre not the only one to think it was satire. Read the io9 review http://io9.com/the-robocop-remake-will-shock-you-being-being-so-damn-a-1521566212
Brandon V. Fletcher on Feb 13, 2014
Well, there's satire in the film, but there's nothing in this io9 review that poses the same question or interpretation that I have above. I'm sure I'm not the only one to draw this comparison, but I've yet to see anyone else lay out an observation like this.
Ethan Anderton on Feb 13, 2014
Don't make me laugh! "remake of a great 80s film"? Did we see the same three movies? Look I grew up with Robocop just like every other 80's kid, and yes they were good, but they weren't the holy grail of movies. Most people seem to have this Star Wars syndrome where they praise the original like it changed their life, when all it did was make a first impression. Did I love the original RC? Yes, Seeing him get revenge on Red Foreman was glorious, but it was also cheesy and goofy. Not to mention the heaping pile of garbage that was RC3. This new remake is a cool take on the story. And yes, like you say, maybe even a satirical stab. However you judge this reboot, please for the love of God stopping referring to the original as if it was cinematic gold. /rant
Brando Greally on Feb 13, 2014
We're just talking about the first one, because the sequels are not good. And the idea is that RoboCop is supposed to be a bit cheesy. It's satirical while still giving into the action genre, just like Starship Troopers. Also, calling a movie "a great 80s film" is not the same as calling it "cinematic gold."
Ethan Anderton on Feb 13, 2014
Just to be clear, that comment was directed to 99% of the internet (see Reddit), more than just at you.
Brando Greally on Feb 13, 2014
The original is a classic
TacoMeatMcGee on Feb 14, 2014
Remember the Fright Night remake with Collin Farrel? When that came out,people sobbed over it's deviation from the original; stating that they ruined a classic. A classic? The original was a gaddam joke. I couldn't sit through it. Yet people used the same reasoning of it being a "classic". If that's what is defined as a classic, than I hope Hollywood never makes another one. I'm not saying this this version of RC is worth remembering in six months; it's mindless entertainment. I'm pointing out that people hold onto the movies made 20+ years ago with unnecessary devotion. Robocop was ahead of it's time in the 80's, but it's very dated today. Get over it.
Guest on Feb 14, 2014
Someone should go back in time and convince your dad to wear a rubber when he banged that $10 whore you call mom
Guest on Feb 15, 2014
Guest on Feb 14, 2014
You sir are a moron
Charlie Hard on Feb 14, 2014
To be honest I kinda got the feeling that Padilha was taking a slight swing at Corporate America all together with making money during war times and the way in which the Middle East situation in the movie was handled all together. Many businesses profit from war and crime. There is a slight undertone of cheekiness towards the big studios too as you pointed out. I thought the Mattox character was a direct portrayal of studio heads who had no faith in him and from some accounts tried to remove him from the movie. I enjoyed the movie but I am sure that if I had seen Padilha's version I would have fallen head over heels for it. Those who have seen the Elite Squad movies will know what I mean. I think I said this in Jeremy's review that this movie really did feel like a product of the times we are in, in terms of entertainment. It's becoming a messy industry hell bent on bucks rather then quality. I really do feel for some of these amazing directors who come from overseas to Hollywood only to be to be told that someone will have their hand up their asses making them do this and that. No wonder Chow stepped away from Green Hornet and I hope that they wide release Snowpiercer.
TK on Feb 14, 2014
Robocop both new and old is pure garbage
DasBrando on Feb 15, 2014
ok for starters the idea of robocop is has been since i was a kid. intriguing i do love how they kinda stayed with the original story only a couple things i didnt like was the sex change of his partner and the chief of police.. and also the chief of police was not corrupt in the original and is in this movie? the corrupt cops that is fine it goes with real life and along with the original movies.. other then that i think the movie was an all around well done film just needs a few fixes that is all.. the original robocop was a very well done film and the second one was decent but should not have done a third. having said that i hope they make a second one just to get into the story a little more.
Chuck Hudson on May 17, 2014
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