Hidden Gems – What Have We Missed? Robocop 2014

Now, people often ask me – “Gavin, since you’re so awesome, can you recommend any good films for us to watch? As with all things, we defer to your judgement.”

At this point, polygamy is legalised and my simultaneous engagement to Jessica Alba, Nicole Scherzinger, and Kelly Hu is announced. And then I wake up … but I digress.

In all seriousness, folks, I routinely stumble across films that slipped past me in the cinema or that I might have dismissed at the time of release, but which then turn out to actually be awesome, or at least pretty good.

The 2014 reboot of Robocop is one such film. I’d like to say it was awesome, but it would be fairer to place it in the latter camp. That being said, as I am a loyal follower of the 1987 classic original film, I had expected much badness from the reboot.

I was wrong.

Not as wrong as I was with Thor, but lightning doesn’t strike twice. (That’s actually a myth, but the gag still works. Thanks folks, I’m here all week). The new Robocop film is actually pretty enjoyable, taken on its own merits. The action’s a little more sparse than I would have liked, but when it happens, it’s well executed and exciting. The special effects are great, and fans of the original will get a kick out of seeing how technology has evolved since then, even if only science fiction technology. It’s great to see how current Robocop’s abilities compare to the classic model.

The story is a little slow at times, but only a little. I’ve heard it criticised for that, but while I think a better balance could have been struck between action and character / story development, I can’t help but feel it’s better to err on the side of caution in this area. Too much action with no real character can really damage a film’s credibility … coughcoughTransformersfranchisecoughcough.

The acting is good, with the lead turning in a convincing performance, both before and after being blown to bits. The emotional content of the film was handled very effectively, and it was a tricky area to explore, I think. Obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of anguish and psychological trauma involved in limbs being amputated in real, everyday life. Alex Murphy, however, basically had his entire body and part of his brain amputated, so you’d have to imagine that the word “anguish” would be something of an understatement. That being said, people came to watch a science fiction action film, not a touching emotional drama. I felt they acknowledged that aspect of the character and spent a respectable amount of time on it, but didn’t dwell on it to the point of depressing the audience into a coma.

I was initially concerned they were going to make Robocop too human, but for a reasonable portion of the film, his human side is effectively erased, and I felt the actor did a good job of portraying a more robotic aspect.

Really, all the actors did a great job, although with Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson on the roster, I really don’t think that could come as a total surprise. I’m told that the film performed better than a lot of people feared, but by all reports it didn’t do well enough to get a sequel greenlit, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing any more Robocop any time soon. Pity.

Well, hopefully you found this review informative and … even a little entertaining? It’s only my second entry and I’m new to the exciting world of blogging, so I’d appreciate any and all comments you care to leave. Would it be helpful, for example, if I introduced a ratings system? Are there any films you would like me to review? Let me know and I’ll do my utmost to get to them as soon as possible.

PS. For those of you who have seen this film, or who now go on to watch it … bonus points for anyone who can explain to me why Robocop still has a human hand. I still don’t understand that, because as near as I can tell, he no longer has either arm …

Guardians Of The Galaxy – The Best Marvel Film Since The Avengers?

No.

It’s not.

Now,  don’t get me wrong. This is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. The special effects are amazing, the story is pretty good and, by the end of it, it did kind of put me in the mood for a little intergalactic adventure of my own. That, sadly, not being an option, I instead bought some chocolate biscuits, a microwave meal, and went home, but I digress.

Guardians works hard to give us flawed, quirky characters that we can all love, but it could be argued that it works a little TOO hard. For example, Peter Quill / Starlord is a child of the eighties, having been abducted from Earth when he was around ten years old. His only real link to the planet of his birth is a personal stereo with a mix-tape of his mother’s favourite music. It’s a good plot device and lays the groundwork for some solid character development. I don’t, however, think that it needs to be pretty much the entire soundtrack for the whole film. I mean, the character’s backstory is pretty solidly established; we really don’t need to be slapped about the head with it every time they have a few spare moments or need a light-hearted montage sequence.

My only other complaint would be that the humour seemed a bit forced at times. While I do like characters that don’t always take themselves too seriously all the time, I think it’s something that can be overdone. Without spoiling anything, I’d again like to use Peter Quill as the example, although I should stress that he is far from the only character to suffer from this. He’s just the best example.

I’d also like to point out that he seems to have been raised by Space Hicks. Some of you may recognise the actor playing Yondu, as Michael Rooker, who also played Merle in the Walking Dead series. It could just be me, but near as I could tell, Yondu is basically just Space Merle, which is even more annoying if you’ve read the original comics.  Listening to some of the guys working with him, I fully expected to see credits at the end for Space Clem and Space Cletus.

It’s a minor gripe, I admit, but I just thought I’d mention it.

At one point in the film, Quill is face-to-face with Ronan The Accuser, an intergalactic terrorist and the main villain of the film. Billions of lives are at stake and Quill needs to distract Ronan while the Guardians hatch a scheme to save the day. Quill starts to dance. That’s right. Dance. Now, while that does succeed in distracting the villain, I found myself a little distracted as well. Now, logically, I understand what the character was doing. but with a scene involving the potential death of billions of innocents, I can’t help but feel that the dramatic tension is … lessened by Peter Quill’s auditioning for Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’d be like Luke Skywalker trying to distract the Emperor with a breakdancing display, so the Rebels have more time to attack the Death Star … effective, but seriously out of place.

That being said, the film moved along at a fairly decent pace – not so fast that you struggled to keep up, but not so slow that you fall asleep and the guy behind you has to kick your seat because you started snoring. The special effects, as I’ve said, were amazing, and I was impressed by a lot of the visuals just of space itself. It really was spectacular, with each part of space being unique and not just the sort of stock footage science fiction used to be guilty of using.

The characters are likeable for the most part, if not as deep and multi-faceted as I think Marvel would like us to think, and the film sets itself up nicely for a sequel that, I can’t help but think will be a lot better than this. Everything has been set up, and the characters established, so now we can move forward and get down to business.

It’d be exaggerating it to say that I was looking forward to the sequel, but I will say that the film at least left me interested in finding out what happens next.