Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Too Tame to Justify the Name

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Too Tame to Justify the Name

Article excerpt

In 1987 I was a pimply teen slinging/sweeping popcorn in a movie theater when the boss asked me to help set up a stand-up promo for an upcoming film in the lobby. As we fit together the various cardboard pieces, the name and chrome-domed image of "Robocop" came into focus.

We couldn't stop laughing. It looked like the goofiest, dumbest thing we'd ever seen. The display continued to provoke titters and jokes the next few weeks. We'd walk past it in a herky-jerky manner, dubbing ourselves "Robo-usher." Then we saw the movie.

The laughing stopped, and although we'd continue to imitate Robocop, it was now performed with reverence instead of mockery.

Director Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop" instantly became an iconic film for a number of reasons. There was the kitschy premise of a man- turned-cyborg, plus of course some very hard-edged violence - initially earning an X rating from the MPAA - that ping-ponged between cartoonish and nauseating. There was the incredibly cynical, sardonic view of a near-future Detroit ruled by Machiavellian corporations and dimwitted media info-tainment. But at the center was the surprisingly soulful journey of the main character, an everyman cop who gains superhero-esque powers but has to give up a huge chunk of his humanity in the process. We cheered Robocop, and we pitied him.

The new remake is thoroughly unnecessary, but that doesn't mean the effort can't yield a good movie, as we saw with the recent reboot of the Spider-man franchise. Director Jose Padilha, a veteran from Brazil, and rookie screenwriter Joshua Zetumer come up with a promising premise, in which Robocop isn't a cutting-edge breakthrough, but simply a backward-engineered commodity designed to make robot law enforcement palatable to a malleable American public.

In the rest of the world, robots manufactured by Omnicorp run a martial state where even Iran is kept in line by scary machines, including the gargantuan ED-209s from the last film, as well as man- sized EM-208s. But politicians in the U.S. have barred them from policing domestically, resulting in $600 billion annually in lost revenues for CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton). …

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