Reviews

RoboCop

4

Remake proves its mettle…

With the amount of movie remakes that Hollywood greenlights nowadays, it seems even the half-decent ones are being drowned out by a never-ending torrent of misguided misfires. For every The Departed, there’s an Oldboy, a Wicker Man or a Total Recall. So it was no surprise that when a new take on RoboCop – Paul Verhoeven’s beloved 1987 sci-fi satire – was announced, fans raced onto the internet to voice their disapproval.

The griping carried on throughout the film’s delayed production. Script leaks suggested a more earnest story stuffed with socio-political allegories. Early pap shots hinted at a redesigned, unmasked robo-suit. And then there was the 12A rating which guaranteed a move away from the glorious ultra-violence of the original. All of which pointed to one thing: sacrilege!

Yep, it’s a tricky business remaking a classic. Stick too close to the source material and you render yourself redundant; veer too far away and you risk the wrath of hardcore fans. That most of the rumours are pretty much spot on means RoboCop v.2014 comes dangerously close to the latter. But while it may well irk some of the faithful, it might just win a few over, too.

Set in a not-too-distant 2028, director José Padilha’s reboot pitches a world where mega-multinational OmniCorp – fronted by ruthless CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) – has become the US military’s major contractor. Over in the Middle East, its soldier drones and heavy artillery ED-209 units are helping to ‘enforce’ the peace; back home, its advanced robotics department is helping injured soldiers to walk again. But despite their best efforts, there’s one area of business they haven’t yet cracked – securing America’s own streets.

With US citizens unwilling to accept a police force made up of faceless robots, Sellars devises an audacious solution – fuse a real cop with an artificial body. Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a principled young detective left mortally wounded after a brutal assassination attempt. He’s a prime candidate for the public to rally behind: a family man with a fierce commitment to justice.

But despite OmniCorp’s attempts to control their new ‘product’, Murphy isn’t quite ready to play the puppet – as Gary Oldman’s conflicted, Frankenstein-like creator warns: “Fear, instinct, compassion... will always interfere”.

Just like the original, the struggle between man and machine forms the backbone, though here the concept is upended. In place of Peter Weller’s detached cyborg, Kinnaman is painfully aware of what’s happened to him; in fact, it’s the dubious attempts of OmniCorp to suppress Murphy’s humanity that provides much of the story’s morally murky edge. This is also where the redesigned suit starts to make sense: Kinnaman’s frequently exposed visage requires the actor to do a lot more dramatic lifting – especially in the scenes involving Murphy’s wife (Abbie Cornish) and young son – making for a more easily relatable and sympathetic hero.

Don’t be too concerned that the titular metal man has gone all soppy on us, mind... When the visor does come down and he enters ‘Combat Mode’ (not as naff as it sounds), it’s time for business. As in Verhoeven’s film, the story really kicks into gear when Murphy ignores his programming and goes after his own killers.

And while this version does feel just a teensy bit toned down – with no melting men or machine-gun-mangled bodies in sight – Padilha at least captures the action with a frenetic, handheld ferocity reminiscent of his Elite Squad movies, as his streamlined enforcer guns his way through a series of intense set-piece shootouts.

And yet, even among all the big ideas, Padilha still finds room for a few lighter touches. not all of it works – Jay Baruchel’s smarmy marketing man grates, while some of the script’s more knowing one-liners (“if I had a pulse, it’d be racing...”) feel awkwardly out of place. More successful is Samuel L. Jackson’s network host Pat Novak – a biased supporter of mechanised crime control whose scenery-chewing, monologue-heavy propaganda interludes channel the cheeky spirit of the original.

Ultimately, Padilha’s update succeeds because it logically ports the core concept into a future that feels closer to our own. A few cutesy nods to Verhoeven’s film aside – the instantly hummable Basil Poledouris score excerpts, the thigh-ejecting gun holster – Padilha has successfully crafted a smart, thrilling sci-fi, different enough to exist on its own terms without ignoring or disrespecting its roots. Given the potential pitfalls inherent in reimagining a classic, you can’t say fairer than that.

Verdict:

Taking the original and successfully transplanting it into an ambitious new world, José Padilha’s english-language debut is an exciting, pacey and thoughtful sci-fi actioner.


Fan of the original and have a few questions for the director like... Is he sick to death of people prejudging his movie before they've even seen it? Was he worried about upsetting fans of the original? Why doesRoboCop have a human hand in the new movie? Did the studio force him to tone down the violence? Well he answers all those (and gave an exclusive commentary to the opening scenes of the original movie) below...

Buy the RoboCop special using MyFavouriteMagazines or iTunes.

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • ash333

      Feb 5th 2014, 11:21

      Jesus! 4 stars.. I'm going to have to watch this now. Wouldn't agree that.. "Given the potential pitfalls inherent in reimagining a classic, you can’t say fairer than that" really deserves 4 stars but hey ho

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    • Ali1748

      Feb 5th 2014, 18:35

      Empire gave it 2 stars lol.

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    • CaptainCrazy

      Feb 5th 2014, 18:42

      I don't want to question the integrity of our beloved TF reviewers but most publications and websites gave this Robocop less than stellar reviews. Glad to see TF turn its nose up at popular consensus.

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    • trist808

      Feb 5th 2014, 22:06

      ***cough cough..pay-off..cough cough*** :)

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    • CaptainCrazy

      Feb 5th 2014, 22:12

      How dare you Trist! SFX also gave it some major stars. It's not like they belong to the same...oh, wait...

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    • GarthMarenghi

      Feb 5th 2014, 22:39

      I've had a quick look around to see whether this is an isolated view. The Hollywood Reporter seemed to think it's okay and nothing more, with a 'much better cast' than the original, which immediately made me dubious of the value of their opinion. Peter Weller was superb in the original, as were all the supporting actors - Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer and Kurtwood Smith. I think what they mean by 'better', is 'more famous'. They also said the original 'always seemed like a stupid movie made by clever people' which suggests the reviewer doesn't really care for genre fiction; the film has always been regarded as a science-fiction masterpiece. I guess attitudes change with time. But whenever reviews are embargoed until practically the day of release it always makes me suspicious, and as Richard Jordan has only 8 reviews for Total Film on the site, I would guess the magazine didn't really give it to one of their A-listers either. I suspect this will lose a star by the time of the DVD release...

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    • Rankles

      Feb 5th 2014, 23:53

      I get the feeling this won't go down as one of Total Film's proudest moments....

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    • Hadouken76

      Feb 5th 2014, 23:58

      Okay. this is more dramatic? Come on! Wellers' version of RC was more heartbreaking. Robocop was unaware at first , an obiedient tool of law enforcement, then slowly, as the drip-drip memories fed in, it dawned on the returning Murphy, the things he had lost, ie Family, love, a future. That scene in the empty house was the turning point, where he stopped being a product, and was fully conscious of everything that had taken place, the robot became the avenging angel. That uplifting moment of clarity. Honestly, the eighties may be the decade that taste forgot, but it put out some cracking movies, movies for grown ups. If you wanted to see gratuitious S and V, then the 18-certificate was there. Kids want to see it? Tough. Wait til VHS and sneak a peek when parents where out, that made it all the more taboo. Now the studios have lost their cajones, making adult franchaises into kids films, kids who are too young to have seen the original. Toned down means easy to follow without upsettting people (look what has happened to the Die Hard series). I'll probably NetFlix this then delete after.

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    • batt101

      Feb 6th 2014, 2:09

      Hey here is an idea, why don't you just go see the film and make your own mind up!!

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    • BobTheSkull

      Feb 6th 2014, 9:44

      Love the way people tell a reviewer they are wrong when they themselves have not seen the movie yet. Sheesh. Did anyone bother to watch the video underneath the review. It's actually really interesting. The bit about keeping the hand (the weirdest part of the design for me) was actually well thought out - even if it still seems a tad impractical - and kinda makes sense now. I'll wathc it with an open mind. Actually think it looks quite good. Think people need to remember this isn't technically a remake - it's a reboot: same idea, handled differently.

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    • TheShamrock

      Feb 6th 2014, 10:42

      I think you need to go in with no expectations. The original was awesome - and this movie isn't going to take that away, it will still be awesome even if this isn't. It was the same with Total Recall, loved the original so had no expectations for the reboot, but was pleasantly surprised - a 3 star film, Colin Farrell aside!

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    • demmike

      Feb 6th 2014, 11:22

      Can you fly Bobby?

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    • deanjcrawford

      Feb 6th 2014, 12:52

      Totally agree with this review. Most other's that i read paint it in a bad light in comparison to the original. While you have to make some kind of comparison, ultimately the film should be judged on it's own merits and i think it succeeds. Would have been a 3.5 for me.

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    • Mattsimus

      Feb 6th 2014, 14:12

      Can't wait to see this movie, thought it looked a strong remake from the trailer plus the directors work has been nearly all high quality, as for Empires review who cares? Last I checked they gave superman returns a 5* rating sooooo errrrr you could then argue TF gave transformers 2 a 4* but they did get it right with dark knight trilogy / LOTR and marvel stuff etc so I'd rather support TF than pretensious Empire!

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    • Ali1748

      Feb 6th 2014, 15:11

      Film 2014 pooped all over the movie too.

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    • FBDBullock

      Feb 6th 2014, 15:23

      Film 2014 - hahahahaha! So you're the one that stills watches that guff. Intrigued but I still think this will be a 3-star affair. Saying that, Empire are usually 'hand in every pie' with reviews and most TF ones are spot on. As for 'a-lister' writers, anyone thought Richard Jordan might just be a newer writer? That does exist. As others have said though, you can't really attack this opinion until you see it yourselves - save some logic trolls!

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    • YTWhitemanson

      Feb 6th 2014, 16:06

      ''glorious ultra-violence of the original'' at least hide your sociopathic penchants and behave in public

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    • JazzyRockStar

      Feb 6th 2014, 17:40

      Yawn! Empire rated it 2 stars and their review is scathing. I'm a purist and staying away from this garbage. What next, Robert Pattinson as Dirty Harry?! Someone bring out the fairy dust.

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    • jws1272

      Feb 6th 2014, 22:01

      I'll wait till this hits Netflix. Doesn't look that interesting. I've also heard that the biting satire of the original is gone as well. That was one of the parts that made the original so unique. Pass. Save your $ & buy the new Blu-Ray of the original instead....

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    • DravenCage

      Feb 6th 2014, 22:29

      Ali1748 - Film 1987 also really slated the original Robocop and besides, there's no way this is going to be worse that Robocop 3. Truth be told, I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing this.

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    • JustinJackFlash

      Feb 7th 2014, 0:59

      Total Film.. I couldn't help noticing you recently gave Insidious 2 and the Robocop remake both 4 star ratings. I'll cut to the chase- I think we can help each other out. I'm currently making a film myself with a few buddies and I was wondering how much you charge for a good review?

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    • Mattsimus

      Feb 7th 2014, 4:29

      Hahahahaha Film 2014 lol yeah cos they are interested in anything outside their own but holes, plus I only used to love that program when it was hosted by Barry Norman lol loved the way he always used to slate Arnie and pronounce it svartsenegger...... Now he was a top doosh bag (who prob now reviews for empire)... ZZZzzzzzz

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    • Mattsimus

      Feb 7th 2014, 4:34

      Oh btw of course this is gonna be better than 3 to be fair everyone slated 2 and I loved it, Kane was an awesome robot and was terrifying, especially in that scene in the warehouse..... IN THE DARK with those funky lights on the front torso.... Apart from ed 209 that thing s**t me up! I'm looking forward to this remake prob gonna be the best remake since either, let me in or PJ's King Kong!... But I beg you not to quote me on that : P

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    • FBKTudor

      Feb 7th 2014, 13:02

      The Film 2014 critics are pretty useless. They seem to pop on the internet comment boards and sway with popular opinion, rather than form their own arguments. They're afraid to offer an honest opinion if it goes against the grain, so you already know how they're going to review a film. The recent hobbit for example, just had the regurgitating fan-hate, such as Tauriel and Legolas shouldn't be in the film as not in the book (despite the studio clearly stating early on that The Hobbit was a prequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings films more than an adaptation of the book), as well as the length of the films for a 300 page book (again, the films aren't meant as a straight adap, and yet these people set themselves up as experts without knowing that heavily publicised fact). Many Oscar Winning films which are adaptations rarely stay true to their source text, however if they're popularly received these idiots will go with the masses online. The show used to be so much better when it was Barry Norman, and was still fun when Jon Ross took over. These days however, the group of presenters waste too much time discussing small points rather than the film as a whole as you get with one reveiwer. Plus it's only on for 7 eps a time, missing out many films as a result. Such a waste of what was once an unmissable show.

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    • FBKTudor

      Feb 7th 2014, 13:03

      As for this film, I'll wait to judge for myself. I can seethis on my Unlimited Pass without feeling ripped off if it turns out to be naff.

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    • SiMan

      Feb 7th 2014, 16:38

      2

      Just been to see it and although it is by no means a travesty, it's just 'meh'. Not deserving of a four star review for me. Although I'd never want to query the journalistic integrity of this fine site, I do have to raise the point that there have been several films over the past few months that have been given a higher than average rating (compared to other review sites) following a 'bit' from the film-makers on this site (like the above Q&A). Back onto Robocop - I've noticed another trend that's started to creep into movies recently. Directors seem to be dragging scenes on way too long now. This films opens with a scene with Sam Jackson, which would have worked fine as a quick two minute intro to this world, but it went on way too long. I thought Nolan did similar things in TDKR and I've seen it more often over this past year. Another thing is that there seems to be more focus on the support characters rather than the actual development of the main one. Again, this is something that seems to have become more prominent recently (The Hobbit 1&2 I'm looking at you!) but in this film it takes something away from the main story. I didn't really get a sense of who Murphy was like you do with Weller's version. An OK film, but a poor version of an iconic 80's character.

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    • frankiesmales

      Feb 7th 2014, 17:53

      for some how you will not see peter weller attending this to say he did not see robocop 3 was totally unforgiven it was a pure testing ground for lawa and order actors like robert john burke cc h pounder and jill hennessy and a slight rip off thunderball and from Russia with love that featured sean connery with a jetpack but having robotic ninjas was a turn off the acting was woodern no real effort in script ideas and how dare they kill off anne lewis in the first five mins they almost made it child friendly and might as well rated it a pg due to it being that worse but I do not think that die hard Robocop fans will see this because of the bad memories of Robocop 3 but I give this one a look see. Frankie smales smalestv uk

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    • CossieNuttas

      Feb 8th 2014, 1:35

      saw this today and i wouldn't buy this for a dollar

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    • Hadouken76

      Feb 8th 2014, 16:24

      To be fair on TF, reviews are personal views and not necessarily a payola conspiracy. I wouldn't take Film 2014 too seriously, for a start, its hosted by Claudia Winkleman, not a real journalist. Winkleman is some unfunny columnist who wears a fuk-ton of mascara. Hardly a cutting edge critic.

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    • robertlucas

      Feb 8th 2014, 19:41

      4

      The original will always be a classic, but this remake is actually quite good. It's refreshing to see a remake which goes its own way, yet does retain some spirit of the source material. I like what they did with this new Robo character.

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    • matthewbrady

      Feb 9th 2014, 15:42

      3

      This movie is not as bad as people say. this movie has good CGI and the suit didn't really bug me that much like other people.

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    • Ali1748

      Feb 9th 2014, 16:36

      Winkleman's just the host it's Danny Leigh who reviews the movies each week.

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    • hookise

      Feb 10th 2014, 0:45

      4

      I was going to write a review for this film but after reading this there's no point. You've summed it up perfectly. Yes, the film lacked a little in jeopardy and the lack of blood made it feel less visceral, but I think Paul Verhoeven would be proud of this remake. The way the themes are dealt with and the little touches, like how he was clearly made in China or the little homage to Starship Troopers when he jumped on ED209's head were just brilliant. A very clever film and an object lesson in how to do a remake. Everything that Verhoeven explored is there with a little bit more humanity. Loved it. Great review.

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    • SilverSurfer45

      Feb 11th 2014, 13:13

      The review itself doesn't really seem like a 4 star review, feels like one of those where they'll reduce it to 3 for the DVD review, also maybe something to do with TF having 2 Robocop covers?

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    • flikQ

      Feb 13th 2014, 12:36

      2

      Well, having first hand experience of how Future Publishing works, this is a review to justify a significant amount of 'paid for' advertising by whoever is responsible for the PR of the film/studio in the UK. Proven by the need for the cover shot, a pull out magazine with the history of Robocop and the various repetitive features throughout the website. Having just witnessed this film myself, being a 12A didn't bode well for how the film would compare to the original, had it been a different IP and the original didn't exist it would have been an enjoyable movie, much the same as Total Rekall was. Unfortunately I cannot unwatch the originals so these seldom compare and have the same effect on me. 2 stars.

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    • monkeybeef

      Feb 15th 2014, 20:23

      2

      Not the worst film I've ever seen, just very very average. It lacked any real drama, tension, quotable dialogue, villains, or stand out action scenes. By the time the movie got going it was almost over- giving me the sense that if it makes a decent amount of money there will be an inevitable sequel, and part 1 will just be an origin story. 4 stars? No chance. If I can remember anything about this film tomorrow I'll be amazed!

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    • apo1978

      Feb 18th 2014, 13:33

      2

      Agree with monkeybeef. Not a bad film, just so dull.

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    • julianay

      Feb 21st 2014, 21:06

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    • Gojira

      Feb 25th 2014, 22:20

      Definitely not a 4 star film. Without drawing comparisons it was predictable, and b-movie esque in it's reliance on techno gimmicks to enable the plot or the action. I will not go into to detail to avoid spoilers. It had a contrived comic book feel about it, the antagonists where broadly painted and not particularly threatening, whatshisname who played Rorshach was annoying and the whole thing about man v machine was so ham fisted it really undemined any dramatic tension. I agree with other comments here that the original was more emotive, it was fresh and different but Murphy just a more agreeable hero and his self realisation through the film more compelling than that of this film. But that's the point, although in the new version there is really horrific element to Murhpy having to understand what he has become, it lacks pathos and personally asisdes from probably going completely crazy I think waking up in that body would be very different to how it is depicted, or rather it could be made much more complex, deep or darker than the safe and sentimentalist way it is done in this latest incarnation.

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      Feb 26th 2014, 4:52

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      Feb 26th 2014, 17:15

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      Feb 27th 2014, 3:56

      5

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    • loocie78

      Mar 2nd 2014, 13:41

      Cinema’ s Political and Social Conscience-propaganda or entertainment? I can’t say that i make a habit of walking out of cinema screenings. I enjoy the whole experience of being swept away in a fantasy, informed by a documentary, being made to think outside my comfortable box. But last night while watching the Robocop reboot i did exactly that with fists clenched and a tear in my eye after only 20 minutes. Why? Because of two reason, the advertising Vue cinema chose to place before the screening because of the films content inciting racial and political predjudices. In these sensitive days of tense political communication between the US and Russia over Ukrainian intervention, nuclear disarmourment talks between the UN US and Korea and chemical weapon inspections in Syria, it is entirely irresponsible of Columbia/Sony pictures to release a film that opens with a ‘mock’ drone attack on Iranian soil. For Vue cinema and EE telecommunications to produce and screen an advertisement simulating a Guantanamo bay style detention centre with inmates dancing preceding such a film is socially incompetent and insulting The opening scenes of José Padilha’s reboot show Samuel L jackson, a news reader corresponding with crew on the ground amongst a US instigated ‘Freedom for Tehran” campaign. Armed robots and drone planes sweeping the street of Tehran hunting stereotypically male suicide bombers “just wanting to make their mission visible on US TV”, while women and children run scared. Considering the now decade long negotiation campaigns western nations have been engaged with with the Iranian government over nuclear armournment and the repositioning of US warships off the coast of Iran, this seems nothing short of incitement. We are given no insight into the reason for the US invasion only that they choose to use drones so as not to risk US MIlitary life as, according to Jackson's news reading, they did when they invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam -ironically all conflicts with heavy debate about the legality of US involvement. Regarding the EE advertisement Vue chose to screen before this Middle East versus US fracas, we are shown orange jump suited inmates, crouched and shackled in a prison courtyard and a middle eastern looking man who starts to dance and sing for joy when his council visits him. The image of the inmates so accurately mirrors the images audiences have been shown of Guantanamo Bay and the ‘coincidence’ of a middle eastern man shown dancing is almost too much bone to bear, it is that close to reality. Inmates in Guantanamo Bay have been reportedly forced to wear women’s lingerie and dance under duress and apparently how this scenario relates to EE’s new 4g coverage is bewildering. When discussing Robocop and EE’s products with various peers in the hours since this viewing, they posed the question- “but surely audiences just see this as robots and guns and fun”, and i concede their is an perspective existing in this one dimensional angle. But i put this to you as discerning audience members who’s power lies with their feet and wallets in supporting what studios and cinemas give us: Why out of all the countries in the world did the script writers choose Iran to hypothetically invade? Would you perceive it as just robots and guns and fun if it was an Iranian produced movie with a hypothetical invasion on British or American soil? Why did Vue choose to screen a movie with Muslim terrorist stereotypes preceded by an advertisement with Middle eastern detainees? If we were shown holocaust inmates dancing would we find this amusing? Movie studios, actors, and cinemas have a responsibility as influencers of social content and attitudes to lead by example. In this age of media power we ask musicians, sports personalities and politicians to be aware to their actions as role models and it should not stop there.

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      5

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    • GarthMarenghi

      Apr 14th 2014, 21:15

      FBDBullock says in response to me: "As for 'a-lister' writers, anyone thought Richard Jordan might just be a newer writer? That does exist." Take ten seconds to search the site and you'll see he has reviews going back to 2009. And BobTheSkull: " Think people need to remember this isn't technically a remake - it's a reboot: same idea, handled differently." Using that logic there has never been a remake, only reboots. It has the same title and even the original screenwriters are credited with the script for this one. It's a remake. And a c**p one at that.

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