Robocop (1987) Man or Machine?

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Robocop (1987) is widely considered one of the best films of that year by far, however who knows if the contemporary remake can stand up to this significant piece of 80’s culture. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven originally wanted nothing to do with Robocop as he discarded the script, calling it shallow and hollow as a premise. However, persuaded otherwise by his wife he began to realize Robocop actually has some interesting depictions and ideals within it. Why I mention that it because at an audience level Robocop could be seen as a fairly generic text, when it could be argued it has quite a lot to say about society, law, and the film culture of the 80’s.

Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is a cop, transferred to a rough district in Detroit as he begins to patrol with partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). On their first patrol they encounter a bunch of wanted criminals but have no back-up. These streets are owned by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). They trap the pair of police officers in an abandoned warehouse as they brutally slaughter Alex Murphy. The blood, and the sheer amount of violence was definitely quite unprecedented. Throughout there is frequent blood and gore throughout Robocop, because it characterizes the world they exist in as one that can only be tamed by excessive violence. It’s quite a powerful statement. In the end, is there really that much difference between Robocop and ED-209? They’re both machines just programmed to kill. Although while violent, I guess in the end the ideology is liberal in his reduction of this powerful corporate figure, and the ends do justify the means.

In ways it could be said Robocop takes a lot of inspiration from Terminator, and the Million Dollar Man from it's premise.

In ways it could be said Robocop takes a lot of inspiration from Terminator, and the Million Dollar Man from it’s premise.

Robocop’s story feels quite unique at its crux. I think it can be dissected down to a few basic elements. 1) The Revenge film. A protagonist is beaten almost to death, as the story builds up to him delivering justice, or alternatively his family has been killed and he tries to avenge them. Robocop  has elements of this cliche’d story in a fairly mild three act structure along with elements of metamorphosis. That basic premise of when a character changes for the worst and is afraid to face his friends an family as a result ala The Fly (1958) for example. What’s particularly odd is that we never see Robocop’s son or wife as a viewer I expected that to be an integral part of his revenge, realizing that he can never function as part of his family ever again.

The evil corporate executive, and the ED-209.

The evil corporate executive, and the ED-209.

Critically, when watching Robocop it can be said that the whole ‘robo’ part of it as actually highly irrelevant. It’s cool in some ways but ultimately it’s the story, the harsh gripping-plot, and truly detestable characters that drive Robocop forward. Robocop’s three laws can be seen as a basic reconfiguration of science fiction mastermind Isaac Azimov’s three laws of robotics.

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The idea of the three laws is a basic concept that robots would have a clear set of guidelines in order to prevent human casualty or endangerment. However, we must ponder how Robocop actually has the free will to actively decide to alter his logic systems in the first place? Are we just to assume it’s a hideous design fault by those trusty folks at OCP? Last thing I’d like to talk about is evil corporations. It’s a cliche scattered all over commercial cinema, but one that only really became popular to use in the last three decades or so. I find it bizarre how in western films consumerism is often the villain, yet it’s something we live by so actively in day to day life. In Robocop, the head of OCP, Richard Jones is technically more a villain than Boddicker, because he actually funds their whole operation while keeping them immune from any consequences. I’d assume it’s a part of 70’s revisionist culture alongside Watergate and Vietnam, in which society lost trust in basically anyone with any kind of executive power. That’s why Robocop is so interesting, strong liberalism themes in a police drama, corrupt consumerism and crime stopped by presumably millions of dollars of state of the art technology? Very oxymoronic.

Man? Or Machine?

Man? Or Machine?

Summary: Robocop is an important piece of culture, a venture between science fiction and the cop drama, showing that generic hybridity can enhance a film, not just weaken it. It has strong themes of ideology, but not in basic form, it’s very thought provoking and open to interpretation. It’s action sequences are unique, and the snappy one-liners are quite amusing. I don’t feel the sequel is a good idea, and i’m not entirely sure how the concept can be built upon as it was highly successful in the first place. Also I don’t really think the mix of brutality, and odd and strange ideas will work outside the context of the very transitional 80’s. We’ll have to wait until 2014 for that I suppose. Thanks for tuning in, and please Like/Comment/Follow, and Follow me on twitter @Sams_Reel_Views. Cheers.

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Star Trek – Into Darkness (2013)

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Hello there, another big contemporary release as we look at Star Trek – Into Darkness (Why is it called this?), Directed by J.J Abrams. For those unaware, it’s the second in the series, following the events of the first film Star Trek (2009). I initially liked the first installment, but it wasn’t until seeing this one yesterday, that I sat down and couldn’t really remember it at all. That’s probably not a good sign. However, I was mainly hyped for this because of Benedict Cumberbatch and seeing him play a villain, although I was unaware he turned out to be ‘THE’ villain.

Spock among the flames.

Spock among the flames.

Before you read anyfurther SPOILERS, Etc: The narrative begins with Dr.McCoy (Karl Urban) and Admiral James T.Kirk (Chris Pine) on an alien planet being casually hunted by the savage locals. They escape in a knick of time, and detonate some kind of solidifying bomb invented to prevent a volcanic explosion on the humble planet. Spock (Zachary Quinto) almost dies, but they save him from the magma. Later on, Kirk and Spock are demoted for revealing themselves to the alien locals in order to save them. We cut to a poor girl who is dying, and a federation worker who is her father, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) appears and says he can save her if the man does him a favour. The worker obliges, and drops a ring into a glass of water in Federation HQ which causes a massive explosion as John Harrison roots around in the archive files. During council, John Harrison attacks the federation headquarters, and Admiral Christopher Pike dies (Bruce Greenwood) along with several others.

The corrupt Admiral Marcus.

The corrupt Admiral Marcus.

This is the narrative trigger in Star Trek – Into Darkness, as Kirk, and commanding admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) decide they must do something about this, as Weller gives kirk 72 ‘Special’ photon missiles to threaten the fleeing John Harrison with. They go to Kronos, the Klingon homeworld, where after a small skirmish Harrison surrenders. He reveals him self as Khan! (KAAAAAAHN!) Deception happens, Khan betrays the starfleet twice, Admiral Marcus is also evil, as Kirk must find a way to save his crew whilst Spock seeks revenge for Kirk’s seemingly abrupt death at the hands of Khan, as he finally confronts his emotions and truly accepts Kirk as his friend.

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So, for a typical blockbuster sequel, there’s a lot going on in Star Trek. It actually has a narrative with twists, turns, plot development. It quite surprised me. Well first of all, the aesthetics, the sound, anything audio-visual in Star Trek is fantastic to a tee, it really captures and enhances the mood of Star Trek: Into Darkness perfectly. Use of environments were interesting, we definitely saw more environments than we did in Star Trek (2009), and the primitive Jungle/Volcano world at the beginning was fantastic to see, and beautifully designed. However, I think the main departure from these two films, in comparison to the old ones are the willingness to actually explore other worlds (Which is kind of the point). Both films have basically climaxed with a ship invasion, with some mild gunplay, with Kirk and pals inevitably capturing the enemy ship or so, and then they’ll be a space-chase. We saw a glimpse of the Klingon menace but they weren’t to stick around, clearly saving it for the third sequel.

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Benedict Cumberbatch was unsurprisingly, the best thing about the film. He’s a fantastic character actor, as he really sold the show as Khan, especially with a decent script to recapture the old Khan, with the mirroring between him and Kirk as ironically similar characters just trying to save their crews. This is doubly so with secondary antagonist Peter Weller building Khan up as this evil archetype, even though ultimately Khan had done nothing wrong, and he had awoken the sleeping giant himself. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) was pretty phoned in, and wasn’t developed in anyway, minor characters Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) certainly made the ensemble feel valid, as if it wasn’t mostly Chris Pine busting his ass off doing the world’s best Shatner impression. The film has some minor plot twists, most of them predictable. As for Sci-fi elements, the gun-play and mid-traffic fight scenes were a delightful spectacle to watch, however the old OH NO WE’VE BEEN HIT ONCE AND NOW THE SHIP IS DYING cliche’ was a bit below what I expected.

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Verdict = Solid 7.8/10. A solid second installment into the Star Trek trilogy, paying homage to old plots and characters, while embedding twists that keep it fresh and mildly interesting. The action, aesthetics, and audio qualities were all superb and couldn’t have been better. The script was fine, but definitely burrowed a lot from old cliches. In many ways I would have liked to have seem more of the Star Trek universe, and different civilizations, as a lot of it became stuck on the ship once again, which I do admit is part of Star Trek but to what degree? The performances were fine, with Benedict really stealing the show as you’d expect. It’s certainly not a must see film, but it’s a very solid installment that’s at least as good as the first reboot, or in my opinion a fair amount better.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Reblogged, because it ate my post seemingly. Right, Take 2; 

Film Through Time.

So, before I dive right in, just going to say I will be analyzing everything about the film, thus the plot-points some consider twists too, so if you don’t want to know, find a more generalized review, or just wait til you’ve seen it. With that noted, Iron Man 3 as you all know is an American Action/Science-fiction Superhero hybrid from Marvel Studios directed by Shane Black (surprisingly not Jon Favreau). Starring Robert Downey Jr, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, Gwenyth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Ben Kingsley. So my expectations; I had only heard good things, and was told it broke the mold from the trilogy, and from Marvel Films, that’s probably a true statement the script is definitely not what I expected, however I’m probably in the minority that the things I didn’t expect didn’t exactly make it good, or fresh, just kind of wronged as to what I did expect.

Right, so…

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

There's a particular reason I chose this poster, as opposed to the others.

There’s a particular reason I chose this poster, as opposed to the others.

So, before I dive right in, just going to say I will be analyzing everything about the film, thus the plot-points some consider twists too, so if you don’t want to know, find a more generalized review, or just wait til you’ve seen it. With that noted, Iron Man 3 as you all know is an American Action/Science-fiction Superhero hybrid from Marvel Studios directed by Shane Black (surprisingly not Jon Favreau). Starring Robert Downey Jr, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, Gwenyth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Ben Kingsley. So my expectations; I had only heard good things, and was told it broke the mold from the trilogy, and from Marvel Films, that’s probably a true statement the script is definitely not what I expected, however I’m probably in the minority that the things I didn’t expect didn’t exactly make it good, or fresh, just kind of wronged as to what I did expect.

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Don Cheadle’s character revamp, as ‘The Iron Patriot’

Right, so the narrative starts with a narration from Tony Stark, and a flashback to ‘how the story began’ with a press conference in Sweden, in 1999. It introduce Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) as a biological scientist who invents something called ‘Extremis’ which at the time she believes can be used to regenerate cell tissue, repair false limbs, and such, however there’s a glitch in which things explode as we see with her experimental plant. During the conference Aldridge Cillian (Guy Pearce) approaches Tony Stark, and asks him to work for A.I.M (Advanced Idea Mechanics), as Tony snubbs the meeting and doesn’t show up.Cillian goes to Stark Industries to talk to Pepper, as he now attempts to sell Extremis to her, in a ploy for funding as she refuses. Meanwhile, a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is launching many attacks, one of which is on Stark headquarters, in which it is sieged by missiles, Pepper is captured by men affected by Extremis (they have enhanced strength, speed, the ability to burn, and a tendency to spontaneously combust), as Stark’s armor malfunctions and flies him to Tennessee on auto-pilot due to Jarvis’s confusion of a conversation they had earlier.

Tony Stark and Iron Man MK 42.

Tony Stark and Iron Man MK 42.

Thus, Stark must repair his armor, hunt down mandarin, etc, while Rhodey (Don Cheadle) as Iron Patriot (Formly War Machine) is sent by the U.S military to hunt down The Mandarin. It turns out The Mandarin is just an actor, and a figure head and the real villain is Cillian, spurned by Stark, determined to kill him and all those near to him. They fight, Stark summons lots of Robots (Ala Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2), and he wins with some assistance from the now Super-powered Pepper as he agrees to never be Iron Man again. (Which is shortlived as a line of text tells us). So before I continue, here’s a gallery of excerpts I took from Invincible Iron Man V4 1-6 which is the original story arc the film is loosely based on in case you were interested.

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Right, so Iron Man did somethings incredibly well, and some badly in my opinion. Let’s as customary start with the good. Everyone in the film gave a great performance, from the title character himself as we expect, especially showing more signs of weakness with his whole anxiety issue. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley were good too. The film is visually stunning, with it being at least as visually interesting as the other two in the franchise, possibly more so. However, the use of explosions was possibly a bit too much, it felt like a Michael Bay film, so many explosions. Other than that, the script was interesting, and fairly unique, with a lot of humor, writing in the child character for Stark’s childish, immature character to blend with was also an incredible touch. The Iron Patriot rebranding of War Machine, and in general Don Cheadle’s portrayal of the character was also pretty good, contrasting with the terrorism and middle-eastern motif that the Mandarin gave across. 

The ten rings of Mandarin, the source of his power in Iron Man comics. Also worth noting, Kingsley's character also wore these in his pirate transmissions.

The ten rings of Mandarin, the source of his power in Iron Man comics. Also worth noting, Kingsley’s character also wore these in his pirate transmissions.

Right, now we’ll get to the crux of Iron Man 3, and why I didn’t love it (Quite honestly, I preferred Iron Man 2). The Mandarin is built up as this fearful presence, and Kingsley was fantastic in his broadcasts, in his messages threatening to presence and it really felt above any Marvel villain we had seen, realistic, brutal, removed from the cheesy cliches’ and motives. However, as soon as Stark confronts The Mandarin we discover he’s actually an actor from Croydon named Trevor, who is just paid to be The Mandarin on camera. A lot of the opinions I’ve heard and read of, basically praise the twist saying it was amusing, and interesting and Kingsley played both sides of the character well. He did, but what I don’t like is the massive waste of potential by doing this. I don’t know about the majority of audiences, but I wanted to see Kingsley as the Mandarin, a brutal political figured powered by the 10 mystical rings, this big ideological clash of mysticism, versus science. But instead Guy Pearce turns out to be the title villain. All we’ve really ever seen is Stark fight other guys like him, other scientists, other iron-men, Jeff Bridges, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Guy Pearce they’re basically all the same villain, with the same motivation of hating, or besting Stark so they just stuck to the formula, and given the marketing campaign which clearly showed off Kingsley as the Mandarin I’ve got to say I feel they jumped the shark on this one. Especially with Pearce claiming that he’s the Mandarin? which really doesn’t make sense given the lore, meaning, and rite of that.

Pepper Pots (Gwenyth Paltrow, Left) Aldrich Cillian (Guy Pearce, Right)

Pepper Pots (Gwenyth Paltrow, Left) Aldrich Cillian (Guy Pearce, Right)

The visual spectacle, performances, and humor were certainly in abundance in Iron Man 3, and the ‘House Party’ initiative at the end certainly was a joy to see. However Guy Pearce as the real baddy, as the ‘real Mandarin’ didn’t work in my opinion. Regardless you should all go see it, and it’s probably the best film in the series, even though I feel inclined to say I preferred number 2. Follow me on Twitter @Sams_Reel_Views, and Follow/Like/Comment if you like what you’ve read. Until next time! Adios!

– Sam.