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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Robocop: Prime Directives (2001) miniseries review


Overall verdict: 5/10

The Good: R-rated violence, social satire, well developed plot of a machine regaining his humanity

The Bad: dated special effects, overall cheap feel, badly portrayed Robocop, scifi cliches, illogical plot twists, unremarkable directing, overusage of skip frame slo-mo, bad fight scenes.

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

******************************Review*****************************


Three movies, a live action TV series and two cartoons later, ROBOCOP returns with a made-for-TV miniseries “ROBOCOP: PRIME DIRECTIVES”. This miniseries consisted of four movies which attempted to bring back the gritty and darker tone of the first movie, as well as some social satire.  For all intents and purposes, what we have is an ambitious project limited by lack of budget and inexperience of the creative team.
Our story begins 10 years after the first movie (ignoring the continuity of the other movies and TV series). Robocop is obsolete and weary of his years trying to bring peace to the crime ridden Delta City. 
The megacorporation OCP, who runs the city, is experiencing inner turmoil among the management. Due to new policies preventing use of lethal force by the police, a crime wave is sweeping the city. From Kamikaze gangs to a psycho in Halloween armour armed with machine guns and rockets, this town is going to hell. Fortunately, they have a new kick ass police commander JohnCable; a dual pistol wielding ol fashioned cowboy cop. 
 
Oh, and Robocop, the supposedly invincible enforcer of law who spends the entire miniseries getting owned.
Every character goes on about how awesome Robocop is, every criminal mentions his name in fear, you never see that. What you get is Robocop being
blasted,
  
knocked down,
 smashed,
 electrocuted 
 and pretty much getting his big metal butt handed to him in every combat scene

. He only manages to take down people who refuse to take cover in a firefight. This brings me the portrayal of Robocop himself played by Page Fletcher. Fletcher is a fine actor, able to convey heavy emotions with his voice and mannerism. He is not, however, I anyway suited to the role. For starters, he is  short. As in really short.
And the bulky oversized armour only makes him look shorter. Everyone including the old female scientist is taller than him.


And although he can act, he can’t seem to portray body language. His Robocop is a stumbling dwarf, always marching with his fists balled up.
  
On the flip side, with his helmet off, Robocop looks like an old man and even acts like one. Nothing is done to make him machine-like. He very visibly pants when tired, swallows hard when scared, he even sweats.

 

So a crappy Robocop headlines 4 made-for-TV movie length episodes of the miniseries. On the bright side, what the 4 episodes do is attempt to remake and redo some very classic elements from Robocop media history. Dark Justice, the first episode, deals with Robocop’s unseen history with his friend John Cable, an internal upheaval in OCP’s management and “Bone Machine”. Meltdown sees a much better take on a “Robocop 2” concept than the actual Robocop 2 movie; another dead cop gets turned into an unstoppable cyborg, and his first mission is to take down the original Robocop.
 Resurrection deals with OCP’s new CEO Damien Lowe and his intention to automate the whole city with a artificial intelligence named “S.A.I.N.T”, a callback to the pilot episode of the Robocop TV series where something similar happens. While this is happening, a cabal of high tech cyber terrorists are introduced and a rogue scientist named Kaydick who plans to use S.A.I.N.T for his own ends. Then, the final episode Crash and Burn sees the restoration of Robocop’s human identity as Alex Murphy. 

Throughout this story is the tale of James Murphy, son of Alex Murphy, who is now a young executive caught up in the turmoil in OCP. James must come to terms with the discovery of his father’s identity as Robocop as father slowly reunites with son.



The overall story is good for its drama. The actors are spot on in their portrayals and it is generally well written with many of the themes inherent in the original films. Of particular note is the hammy Kaydick and the absolutely obnoxious Damien. A huge plus is the miniseries return to R-Rated violence rather than the kid friendly style of fighting in the TV series and Robocop 3.

Sadly the execution is less than sub-par. Director Julian Grant brings a lazy hand to the directing and seems to have this obsession with skip-frame slo mo (the kind of jerky slo mo you get when shooting something at half the usual Frames Per Second). The overall low budget look to the production is heightened by dated special effects, unremarkable camerawork and crappy costumes. The New cyber terrorist villains have the fashion sense of the Matrix characters, all tight, black and trench coats. They have cartoony electrical powers and can move at super speed with a basic blur effect.
 The low budget is most obvious in the Robopcop suits. During action scenes, they come apart at the seams letting you clearly see the black leotard underneath.   




With this, Prime Directives sounded the death knell of the classic Robocop franchise. Perhaps in this new century of movies with fast kicking kung fu combat, high tech special effects and tighter narratives, the concept of classic Robocop as a walking tank is in itself obsolete. With this sad closure to a once remarkably original franchise, perhaps the new reboot in 2014 would be a much welcome revival of the concept.


*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: B-
Story:  B
Acting: B
Characters: B
Music: D+
Replay value: C+
"Brains": C-

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