I saw RoboCop tonight.
If you’re younger than me, you can’t imagine the thrill the original Star Trek gave science fiction fans and budding futurists. The thing was nothing short of a revelation about a future of light and beauty, technological brilliance and human adventure. And Captain Kirk was this intrepid figure of never-give-up determination and courage, a studly MAN to match alien beings and technologies, the depths of space, and the challenges of the unknown.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced, we were all certain nothing could live up to Kirk’s perfection. But here came Picard. Wonderful, steely, quiet, determined, deep, courageous, never-give-up Picard. The truth was, Picard was Kirk’s equal. In lots of ways he was better than Kirk; William Shatner’s Kirk became a figure of fun, today’s joke of overacting and comical cadence of speech. (For those of us who loved the original Star Trek, the magic will probably always be there, but we can appreciate the comedy too.)
Here’s the thing about RoboCop the original. It was both dramatic and comedic. It was bombastic and ridiculous. It took place in a world of dark comedy, a world where a least-common-denominator Everyman could be a television icon — “I’d buy that for a dollar!” — a world that resonates all too scarily with those of us trapped in RoboCop’s near-prophetic vision of the future, with Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, FOX News and Sarah Palin.
Here’s the thing about RoboCop the reboot. It’s dramatic. Period. The future is just as dark, but it’s the darkness of PR shills and corporate CEOs who are both likeable and casual-sociopath-slimy. The action is just as good, the special effects are equivalent, and the acting by Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton is spot-on.
The story isn’t perfect, but neither was the original RoboCop. And this fresh one has the positive attribute of not being mugged by a series of lesser sequels. Overall, I’d say this new RoboCop is Picard to the old RoboCop’s Kirk. It works, and I liked it.
This one was fun but forgettable — evil demons bent on calling demonic hordes from Hell to take over the world, opposed by Frankenstein’s monster and angelic gargoyles. I did like Aaron Eckhart in the role, having enjoyed him as Harvey Dent in the Batman reboot, and noticing him as far back as Erin Brockovich in 2000. And I sort of liked the detail of demons “descending” when killed, while the gargoyles “ascended,” both accompanied by active swirls of light. It was a feast of special effects. The disgusting Franken-Rat was a nice touch. But overall … meh.
The Rest of 2014
I’m looking forward to a really good season of SF movies. Here are some of the dozens that caught my eye:
Mr. Peabody and Sherman, March 7
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, April 4
Transcendence, April 18
The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Enemies Unite, May 2
X-Men: Days of Future Past, May 23
How to Train Your Dragon 2, June 13
Guardians of the Galaxy, Aug. 1
Lucy, Aug. 8
The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Dec. 17
I’m especially eager for Mr. Peabody, Spider-Man 2, the new X-Men movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and The Hobbit.
God Goes Silver Screen
Oddly enough, this is a banner year for religious-themed movies too. No idea why; I guess the idea just hit a number of filmmakers at the same time.
I expect godders will eat them up, but I’ll give all of them a big miss. Most of them look like stories you can take or leave, but Heaven Is For Real, coming on Easter and BASED ON THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY (!!), looks like an especially vile sample of manipulative swill.
I MIGHT see Noah on video, to enjoy the animals, and Russell Crowe’s and Emma Watson’s acting. I’m predicting some idiotic protest based on the fact that no dinosaurs will appear (or at least I’m assuming they won’t), said idiotic protest enjoying widespread media coverage and incensed-atheist-blogger gaspage.
Jesus and God are once again Hollywood commodities, which I expect will cheapen whatever mystique the figures once held, but conversely allow them to appeal even more to dumbed-down audiences.