Commentary

February 28, 2014

Fly Over: ‘Robocop’, and ‘The Lego Movie’

Robocop-poster

In theaters

‘Robocop’

Honestly, I have never seen so much hate for a movie. In the months before 2014’s “Robocop” release I heard people complain over and over again about this thing or that thing, every little tidbit the studio released to the public (in a few cases, I’ve seen people complain about things that were praised in the 1980’s original.) Just like 2012’s “Total Recall” remake, “Robocop” was doomed to be at most, “OK, but not as good as the original.” There’s practically no avoiding that. So, is this remake of an 80s action gem worthy enough to make it to that point? Meh.
While rooting out the corruption in his precinct, police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is nearly murdered in front of his home by a powerful criminal. It just so happens, however, that the mega corporation OmniCorp, which creates drone and other robots for the U.S. government, is looking to improve their public image by “putting a man inside a machine.” To save him, Murphy’s wife (Abbie Cornish) allows the corporation to transform her severely deformed husband into “Robocop,” so that he can return to his job in cleaning up the city of Detroit. But as Murphy’s human side proves to be stronger than the easily controllable robot side, OmniCorp tries to erase more and more of his emotions.
Honestly, I can understand this remake of wanting to include more of Murphy’s family to make his loss of humanity seem more tragic, but the way it was handled seemed sloppy to me. In the original (I’ll try not to say that too much in this review), Murphy was an emotionless drone as soon as he became “Robocop,” and had to struggle greatly to get his identity back. Here, the movie seems to go at it backward, then forward, which made me feel like it was wasting my time. Also, I never really felt like this version of Detroit was so corrupted that “Robocop” was needed; in fact, I think this Detroit doesn’t look too bad. This is probably because, aside from Murphy’s attempted murder and drug dealing, not much crime is actually shown. I felt that most of the villains in this city were stupid jerks rather than cold and corrupted.
As far as most people are concerned, Peter Weller from the original IS “Robocop.” That said, Joel Kinnaman makes a good attempt at it, and while his may not have as much charm as Weller’s did, this “Robocop” does come off as a little more tortured, which is good with the additional scenes of him interacting with his son. Abbie Cornish’s characterization of the wife, however, probably could’ve been replaced by a different character (uh, Officer Lewis maybe?); she just seems so dull and angry all the time. Michael Keaton was actually kind of fun to watch as the CEO of OmniCorp, and he and Samuel L. Jackson seemed to be the best link to the original’s satirical nature. Gary Oldman does fine as the doctor who creates “Robocop,” but his character seems to change motivations so many times, I found it hard to like him. The character that stuck out to me most was OmniCorp’s military expert played by Jackie Earle Harley, who really could’ve used more screen time.
While the effects look nice, much of the action feels weightless. Sure, there’s a loud stomp every time “Robocop” takes a step, but when he’s jumping around everywhere that kind of loses its effect. The suit design is serviceable as well, but what I’m sure every single fan of the original has asked about is why they let him keep his human hand this time around? It looks distractingly out of place, even if it does allow a pretty creepy effect when “Robocop” is stripped of his armor. The designs of robots like ED 209 look really good, and that’s one thing I expect even the most die-hard fan to appreciate. Also, I’ll admit the updated version of the theme sounds awesome.
As its own movie, the boring story is what really holds it back. As a remake, its failure was to make itself feel like it was necessary. For those who haven’t already made up their minds on whether “Robocop” would be good or a sin against God, it will probably come off as pretty mediocre.
“Robocop” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.

Lego-movie

Also in theaters:

‘The Lego Movie’

It’s rare to come across a movie released in February that has everyone talking about it on social media and at the office water cooler. After all, the big holiday movie season ended a month and a half ago and we’re still two months away from the blockbuster summer movie season, so movie studios tend to release movies they don’t expect to do well at the box office during this time of year. Now I’m thinking to myself: the people behind “The Lego Movie” are either reckless gamblers or extremely clever business folk.
If you’re not a parent or have spent the past few years living in complete isolation, “The Lego Movie” is based on the popular building block toys. The story focuses on Emmet Brickowski, voiced by Chris Pratt, an ordinary construction worker who greets the world with a smile and always follows instructions.
Emmet falls down a hole one day and finds a mysterious artifact, the legendary Piece of Resistance, which he is compelled to touch. He does and experiences strange visions before waking up with the artifact attached to his back. Emmet is questioned by Bad Cop, voiced by Liam Neeson, who demands to know where Emmet found the artifact and why it’s attached to him. During the interrogation, Wyldstyle, voiced by Elizabeth Banks, appears and rescues the construction worker. She takes Emmet to see Vitruvius, voiced by Morgan Freeman, who tells him of a prophecy of the “Special” who will use the Piece of Resistance to defeat Lord Business and prevent his evil plan to glue the entire Lego universe with a secret weapon called the Kragle. Unfortunately, Emmet quickly proves his inability to create without instructions, leading Wyldstyle and Vitruvius to believe he can’t possibly be the Special. In fact, he’s not even a Master Builder, a Lego citizen who can create anything from imagination. Watch for Emmet’s only creative idea and how it plays a role in the plot.
In spite of proving he really is a nobody, Emmet goes on the quest to defeat Lord Business, joined by a motley crew of characters including Batman, voiced by Will Arnett; Unikitty, voiced by Alison Brie; and Metal Beard, voiced by Nick Offerman.
“The Lego Movie” is the classic story of the underdog who overcomes challenges to prove he is “The One” who can save the day. And yet, “Lego” is so cleverly written it almost feels like the underdog story has never been done before.
The story pacing is great, never giving the audience a chance to wonder how much longer this movie will last. Also, the gags and jokes are delivered in rapid-fire fashion. I missed a joke or two, which were drowned in loud laughter. The humor appeals to both children and adults. I was amused to hear children laughing at a couple jokes a second or two after the adults, attempting to be part of the fun. There’s also a movie/comic book joke at the end of the movie that only a select few caught on to.
Speaking of comic book jokes, watch for the interaction between Superman and Green Lantern. Find out who the voice actors are during the end credits and you’ll understand.
By now, you’ve probably heard friends or coworkers make references to, or sing, “The Lego Movie” song, “Everything Is Awesome.” It may sound like a silly pop song at the start, but before long, you’ll find yourself embracing it and singing it shamelessly. Go ahead and indulge. We all did.
My advice: if you decide to go see “The Lego Movie,” prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
“The Lego Movie” is rated PG for mild action and rude humor.




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