So yesterday, after a busy day of working the burger room I went to see Robocop and can I say that it is again a case where I disagree with a majority of criticisms about the film. The one film I have watched this year that the critics hated and that I also found disappointing was R.I.P.D. Anyway, I thought I'd write a quick review/look at what I believe sci-fi is meant to be about.
I believe sci-fi as a genre exists to explore reality alongside deep philosophical ideas. I do not believe sci-fi is meant to tell us the answers to these ideas, much as I believe that science itself is not meant to 'tell us' answers but provide facts and evidence that we can derive answers from. Sci-fi therefore to me is all about questions and theories more than anything else.
So now, maybe it's because I never saw the original film and dislike the style of Paul Verhoeven's direction (the man also created Starship Troopers for crying out loud!) but I didn't see the finished film as the pointless remake that others have said it is. Where apparently the original is a clever spoof of science fiction in general, full of weirdness and Christian metaphor, this new film is more serious sci-fi with a clear comparison between many modern ideas.
In the film itself you have the United States controlling 'peacefully' other areas of the world such as Tehran, through the use of robots. These robots are basically drones - hence providing a clever point to question drone warfare as it stands - and are introduced to the viewers through the 'Novak Element' a television program headed by Samuel L. Jackson's character Pat Novak. This program brings up ideas such as censorship, media bias and many other things that people don't really think about and perhaps when they see them in a film they don't want to think about them.
The second idea in there and question is about humanity. By turning Michael Keaton's character into a machine-man (aka cyborg) the whole issue about whether he is human or a robotic property is raised. In many ways this questions a whole lot of ethical quandaries raised in relation to euthanasia, abortion, genetic manipulation and technical integration with human bodies. The whole idea of the film is one about capitalism and American Imperialism - something debated by many nations outside of America (does America have the right to interfere in so many countries, do corporations have the right to just buy whatever they want?) and yet inside these questions exist further questions.
Like another sci-fi movie I-robot I quite enjoyed this film with its many different ideas. Rather than being 'pointless' I saw it as performing what sci-fi is meant to do. Many people have tried to tell me that the best sci-fi is all about being an allegory. I disagree. I think that weak sci-fi tries to be nothing but an allegory, but that strong sci-fi goes above and beyond being mere allegory. When I say allegory I mean the idea of a hidden message existing inside the sci-fi story. I believe that strong sci-fi does not need to provide the viewer or reader with a hidden pointed message - which RoboCop, for the most part, does not - but instead provides questions about reality.