DIRECTED BY Paul Verhoeven (1987) Jose Padilha (2014)
(1987) Peter Weller - Officer Alex Murphy/ RoboCop
Nancy Allen - Officer Anne Lewis
Ronny Cox - Richard "Dick" Jones
Kurtwood Smith - Clarence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer - Robert "Bob" Morton
Dan O'Herilhy - The Old Man (OCP Chairman)
Paul McCrane - Emil Antonowsky
Ray Wise - Leon Nash
Jesse D. Goins - Joe Cox
(2014) Joel Kinnaman - Alex Murphy
Gary Oldman - Dr. Dennett Norton
Michael Keaton - Raymond Sellars
Samuel L. Jackson - Patrick Novak
Abbie Cornish - Clara Murphy
Jackie Earle Haley - Rick Mattox
Michael K. Williams - Jack Lewis
Jennifer Ehle - Liz Kline
Jay Baruchel - Tom Pope
Aimee Garcia - Jae Kim
Patrick Garrow - Antoine Vallon
Genre - Action/Science Fiction/Drama/Crime
Running Time - 103 Minutes (1987)/ 118 Minutes (2014)
As a child of both the 1980s and the 1990s, I'm pretty satisfied to have grown up during a time when action films kicked a lot of ass. Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated people, Chuck Norris kill mofos for 'MURICA, and Sylvester Stallone shot thousands of bad guys as Rambo. Then towards the end of the 1980s, we had Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal carrying on the torch. So many action flicks, so little time. But the ones you still watch from that cinema period tend to stick in your mind forever.
One of those action films is 1987's ROBOCOP, an action film that used sci-fi aspects to tell a futuristic story about a man put in a machine to fight crime, not knowing those who created him were pretty much bastards to begin with. ROBOCOP struck a chord in people, probably due to the concept and the character's awesome visual, becoming a massive success [which included two sequels, a cartoon, a television show, and countless other media stuff]. It wasn't surprising that ROBOCOP received the remake treatment 27 years later. Most of us rolled our eyes at the idea, especially when given a PG-13 rating compared to the original's hard R rating. But even when I'm not fond of a certain film being rebooted for whatever reason, I still like to see the newer model with an open mind.
And I did just that a few days ago as ROBOCOP (2014) was released to the public. And after almost two hours, I do have many thoughts on the remake. Is it as good as the original? Does it have any right to exist? Should there be a sequel [the box office numbers have done better than I thought, honestly]? You may be surprised.
PLOT While both versions of ROBOCOP have different storytelling aesthetics, they pretty much share a similar plot. Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller in the original, Joel Kinnaman in the remake) works in a futuristic version of Detroit, Michigan. Murphy takes his job seriously and wants to stop crime in order to uphold the law. When he gets too close to the truth about the city's biggest crime lords, they quiet Murphy by killing [or badly injuring in the remake] him.
A business called OmniCorp wants to test the study of putting a man into a machine, in order to make him Detroit's first super cop. Dubbed RoboCop, Murphy is programmed into a machine that keeps him reanimated as he's given the crime data system to take down those who are on the wrong side of the law. Unfortunately, OCP failed to realize that Murphy's consciousness is still inside their machine, recalling certain events of his previous life and remembering the enemies who tried to take him out for good. Now with his humanity winning out, RoboCop must get revenge on his foes, not realizing that OCP want to take RoboCop out for being considered a "failed experiment".
REVIEW (1987) ROBOCOP is probably one of the best action films ever made on so many levels, especially during the 1980s. It's a movie that's really tough to review without feeling a bit of nostalgia, since I grew up on this film. It still amazes me how damn great it is after all these years. Sure, some things are a bit dated. But the violence, the social commentary, and just the story about a man struggling to become an object against his will still resonates today as much as it probably did back in 1987. ROBOCOP is a kickass film in every way.
The social commentary stuff, in particular, probably means as much today as it did back then. The commercials that play in between the news broadcasts are just as witty, controversial, and as important in 2014. Sex sells? I'd buy THAT for a dollar! Miley Cyrus knows this extremely well, considering her current success. Think Battleship is a tired old game? Try Nukem, a strategy game using nuclear missiles to destroy your enemy's territory! I'm sure Kim Jong-un still thinks about dusting this game off now and then. Hell, even the sensationalistic media [knowing Leeza Gibbons in this film still cracks me up] still exists more than ever. TMZ? Inside Edition? The local news in general? Why inform the public on important issues, when you discuss Justin Beiber's latest bratty behavior? Fuck news! We need them ratings, yo! Seriously, has the social climate [besides the internet making things more accessible easier and faster] really changed in 26 years? ROBOCOP tells me "nope".
We also get a bit of commentary on big business and politics within the system. Commercialism had bred competition. You want to be noticed? You have to be the best in your field. Second place is for losers. The story of Dick and Bob within OmniCorp says it all - Dick was the Vice President after creating the ED-209, which failed during its test run. Bob creates RoboCop, which excels the ED-209 in every way, giving Bob more recognition, hence power, within the company until he takes Dick's place. Dick isn't happy about this, which reveals the type of people he's been working with. Both Bob and Dick are villains to the story. But while Bob is a bad guy in terms of the corporate world, Dick is a bigger creep since he wants Detroit to be as crime filled as it is to support his ED-209 machines. The moral is that power corrupts. We see it in our political and corporate stratosphere since the release of ROBOCOP. Extortion, closing bridges for only certain personnel to pass through, making the rich richer by making the poor poorer - again, things haven't really changed. In the wrong hands, capitalism can go bad. Sure, Verhoeven displays this in an over-the-top fashion, but the themes presented aren't too far-fetched if you really think about it.
The rest of the characters aren't really all that deep, but at least you understand who they kind of are through their actions. Alex Murphy is just a stand up guy put in a world where none of that really exists anymore. He learned how to twirl his gun to impress his son. He loved his wife. He treats his partner, who is a female, with respect, never looking down on her due to her gender. And he gets murdered while on duty trying to protect the city he loves. The guy is pretty much a hero before the transformation into RoboCop. Ann Lewis doesn't know Murphy all that long before he's killed. But she respects him enough to sort of be his guide into being more human again. The villains, especially Clarence Boddecker, are just the scum of the earth. They kill without a care. They sell drugs that is destroying Detroit. And they're being funded by corporate jackasses. They're total creeps that you can't help but want to see get their just due via RoboCop. The heroes are strong. The villains are strong. The conflict works here between the characters.
ROBOCOP is mainly remembered due to its violence. Even watching it now, the film is more gritty and gorier than most horror films these days. Murphy's death scene, in particular, is just vicious. His hand gets shot to pieces. They shoot his torso a bunch of times. And then a shot to the head. It's just a messed up moment that later justifies RoboCop's revenge on Clarence and his gang. I also enjoy the scene where a mugger is shot in the groin through his victim's skirt [who he uses as a shield against RoboCop]. Then the final acts of violence - where toxic waste gets one of the goons, explosions take place, and RoboCop and an ED-209 beat the crap out of each other - are just overkill, yet so fun to watch. In a way, it seems to be a commentary on how violence [either through wars, and/or in the media] was seen during that decade, while the sexuality was kept to a minimum in a surprisingly conservative fashion.
The special effects probably seem dated to many. But I love the stop-motion effects with the ED-209 [done by Phil Tippett], as I'm a sucker for those kind of effects. The RoboCop/Murphy reveal, once he takes off the visor, is also very cool. Legendary Rob Bottin did a wonderful job with RoboCop's look, with and without the visor. And the gore effects by Bottin are top notch stuff. Sure, the newer ROBOCOP looks a bit prettier due to CGI. But the practical effects are still something I prefer unless you have no choice but to use computer generated effects. And ROBOCOP still has pretty cool effects all these years later.
Paul Verhoeven, in his first American film as a director, breathes a lot of life visually in ROBOCOP. In my opinion, it may be Verhoeven's best work, as he makes both the action and the sci-fi aspects visually interesting and memorable. There's a ton of style in ROBOCOP. The film quality is a bit gritty, with some nice handheld shots and cool angles that set it apart from other action films at the time. The violence is never shied away from, with Verhoeven showing us the brutality and menace that has taken over this futuristic version of Detroit [which in a lot of ways is a character in its own right]. The news segments look like they were shot at an actual television screen, in a nice touch, with great social satire posing as advertisements in between. Robocop's first person view is done really well, making us feel we're actually in the suit whenever he scans people to see if they're a threat or not. Verhoeven infuses the film with a ton of energy, exploitation, and viciousness you can't keep your eyes off of. ROBOCOP, visually, was ahead of its time in a lot of ways - thanks to a visionary director who would do memorable things right after this.
The acting is pretty great here. Peter Weller is just iconic as RoboCop. Although I prefer his acting before he dons the armor, he still makes the cyborg character work with his dry, serious delivery. Funny that Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally considered for the role, but was considered too bulky for the costume. Nancy Allen is sympathetic as Murphy's partner, Lewis. She and Weller have nice, comfortable chemistry with each other that makes it totally believable they would be working together. Again, Allen was not the first choice, as Remington Steele's Stephanie Zimbalist was originally cast. But due to scheduling conflicts with the show, she lost the role. Ironically enough, Pierce Bronson would lose his first chance to play James Bond in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS due to the show as well.
Ronny Cox is fantastic as the malevolent Dick Jones. Cox is totally convincing as a businessman who would murder his competition, just to keep his job. Kurtwood Smith, best known as Red Foreman on That 70's Show, is the highlight as Clarence. A great character actor, Smith is just merciless as the crime boss. Miguel Ferrer is always great when it comes to playing slimy characters, so the role of Bob was made for him. Also great to see Ray Wise as one of Clarence's lackeys. Interestingly enough, Wise and Ferrer would reunite for Twin Peaks years later. Just a cool cast all around.
Plus, I can't leave without mentioning the iconic ROBOCOP score, especially the film's theme. Just a classic piece of music that I was very happy to hear in the remake. It can't be ROBOCOP without that title theme.
The reboot of ROBOCOP is a different film entirely. Yes, the sci-fi and the action aspects still remain, although they're now hindered by a strange PG-13 rating. This version of ROBOCOP is more focused on the philosophical aspects of a man being turned into a crimefighting cyborg against his will, struggling to retain as much humanity as he can. While this may turn fans of the original series, I actually commend the screenwriters for taking a different approach. While it's not perfect or anywhere as great as the original film, I'm just happy I didn't watch the same film twice.
The 2014 remake is more of a character-based film than the 1987 original. Unlike the original film, we get to know more about Murphy's family life and why they're the reason he struggles to overcome the programming OCP gives him. While I wish there were more scenes with Murphy living a life as a loving husband and father, we do get a sense that Murphy was happy in his personal life. We watch his wife grieve when Murphy is hit by a car bomb, which pretty much cripples him for life, making a deal with OmniCorp to do the RoboCop deal to bring her husband back. We watch as Murphy awakes after the experiment, dreaming of dancing with his wife [in a nice moment during Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon"] before realizing what he has now become. He struggles with his second life, not helped by his family, who are also struggling with the change. It's only when the scientists at OmniCorp decide to give Murphy the entire criminal database that we really watch the struggle begin. When he learns of his murder, he overrides the system. So the scientists, who feel guilty about this, decide to turn Murphy more into a machine, costing him his humanity. But his family continues to fight for him, which begins the struggle anew. It's a different take on the story, and one I appreciated. The idea of humanity vs. technology has never been more relevant today. With the advent of social networking, and new technology that allows us to make our lives much simpler and more efficient, we have sacrificed a lot of ourselves for personal gratification. ROBOCOP seems to be telling us that no matter how advanced the world gets technologically, the human spirit and soul will always win at the end of the day. The power of hope and will is greater than any computer program.
The social satire is still in ROBOCOP, but in a smaller way. Patrick Novak has a Daily Show/The Corbert Show type of political commentary program where he discusses the world's views on technology. In this remake, most of the world have been using EM-208s and ED-209s to patrol streets and maintain order, limiting threats of terrorism and other dangerous crimes. All countries except for the United States, that is. Novak claims that the United States is "robophobic", feeling that the use of machines would limit the number of human casualities in the police force and the military. It's obviously a remark on war and our national security [politicians with power allegedly have no idea what the citizens want or need]. And while I'm glad there's an attempt at commentary, I wish more was done with it. With so much focus on the human aspect of the story, the idea that they turned a man into a machine as social commentary isn't as effective or as powerful as it could have been. In fact, the Pat Novak stuff is written well, but doesn't come close to what the original had expressed throughout its presentation. Still, it's better than nothing.
The characters are decently written, but that aspect could have been more explored as well. While Murphy is a bit more fleshed out this time around, I wish his wife and son were given the same treatment. Clara is just the stereotypical supportive wife who brings her husband back to reality when he needs it. She's the emotional aspect to Murphy's tale, but we don't really know much about her other than that. Same with their son. The villains, while clear, don't really feel like personal threats to Murphy in any real way. Antoine Vallon is the Clarence replacement, but extremely less memorable. He's the one who hires the hit on Murphy - via a car bomb. Hated how impersonal that was. It made the revenge aspect seem less exciting, compared to the original. Raymond Sellars is the head of OmniCorp and comes across as vindictive in terms of business and making sure things go his way in terms of money and notoriety. He's portrayed as a clearer villain than Vallon, but he doesn't really feel like a threat until the final act, when he tries to shut the RoboCop program down. Rick Mattox, OmniCorp's military tactician, is more of a threat to Murphy, since he makes it quite clear he doesn't approve of his assistance and constantly puts him down.
The only real character that has a ton of depth is Dr. Dennett Norton, the scientist who turns Murphy into RoboCop. He's completely sympathetic to the whole situation. He's against playing God, but realizes he has a job to do and does it. He tries to be a father figure to Murphy through his adaptation, but also tries to drown out Murphy's humanity in order to save his "life", as well as please OmniCorp. In the original film, OmniCorp were all made up of scumbags. So it's nice to see a fresh perspective in the remake. I really enjoyed this character and hope he returns for a sequel, if the film does enough business to make that happen.
The special effects in ROBOCOP, for modern day CGI, are very well done. RoboCop has never looked better, in a new sleeker black outfit perfect for 2014. The EM-208s and the ED-209 look great, especially during action scenes. And the unsuited Murphy after the explosion - wow, surprised that made it under a PG-13 rating. The production design, in general, are just stunning. I enjoy the practical effects from the original, but I loved how everything looked in the reboot. The visual effects were just cool and nothing really seemed too cartoon-ish to take me out of the film. The squad behind the effects did a fantastic job modernizing RoboCop's world for 2014.
The direction by Jose Padilha was also pretty good as well. While I would have loved to have seen what Darren Aronofsky would have done with the original project, Padilha managed to deliver for the most part. I liked that the film had a gritty feel to it, even under a PG-13 rating. The video game aesthetics were there, sometimes making the film feel like a first person shooter. The action scenes had a lot of energy, and are visual eye candy. For a 2 hour film, I never felt bored as the film moved quickly from scene to scene. Plus, did Padilha actually use the Basil Poledouris theme song from the original? YES! I thought Padilha did a very good job bringing the franchise back to life. The script may have been hindered a bit by the rating system and just overall screenplay issues, but I thought the visual presentation was mostly solid.
The acting was more positive than negative. Joel Kinnaman, of AMC's The Killing, was okay as Alex Murphy. He didn't exactly wow me or anything, but he wasn't terrible either. I thought he handled the struggle between humanity and technology pretty well. I'm sure he'll only get better in the sequel. Gary Oldman was the best actor, in my opinion, as Dr. Norton. He made the film for me with his fantastic and serious performance. Not surprising, since Oldman always brings the good. It's always nice to see Michael Keaton back on the big screen, as he's exceptionally subtle as the villianous Raymond Sellars. Hell, I think he can still pull off Batman. Jackie Earle Haley played a bastard really well. Abbie Cornish is beautiful, and does okay as the wife. Felt she was kind of wasted though. Samuel L. Jackson plays Pat Novak like Samuel L. Jackson. So it works. A pretty solid A-list cast makes this film watchable.
THE FINAL HOWL I think both versions of ROBOCOP are worth a look. The original is such an action/sci-fi classic that's pretty timeless. The remake, while not as good, is definitely a worthy restart to a franchise that really needed it. Both films are fun, with some very good acting, and nice visual presentation. The stronger script and social commentary definitely lies with the 1987 film. But the reboot's take on the familiar story is actually refreshing. If you go in hating the idea of a ROBOCOP reboot, don't bother watching it. It probably won't change how you feel. But if you can go in with an open mind like I did, you'll probably have fun. And when it comes to being entertained, I'd buy that for a dollar!
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Yes, it's that time of the year where you show the one you love how you feel about them through boxes of chocolate, cheap flowers, and an endless supply of lube and/or condoms. Yes, I'm sure the smell of tacky sex mixed with candy and booze was exactly what Saint Valentine had in mine for his own commercial holiday.
Originally, this was going to be a post where I would be reviewing all five TWILIGHT films in order. But since I'm not feeling suicidal, I pretty much stopped mid-way through THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON [the second film]. I can tolerate the first TWILIGHT, even if it isn't meant for my demographic. But that first sequel was so atrocious, I couldn't torture myself watching more than 45 minutes of it. So for those who are expecting me to ever discuss this series in full, you'll be waiting a really long time.
So instead of talking about TWILIGHT, I want to spotlight certain horror couples that have a "Better Love Story Than TWILIGHT". Where's the love? Right here at Full Moon Reviews.
ANNIE WILKES and PAUL SHELDON
We all have our celebrity crushes. Pamela Anderson was mine for many years. A lot of women have named their vibrators Clooney or Pitt. And Nurse of the Year, Annie Wilkes, loves horror author Paul Sheldon. And his work too. But mainly just Paul.
What sweet MISERY it is to watch these two wacky lovebirds play the Mating Game. I mean, Guy gets into a car crash. Girl saves him from hypothermia. Guy wants outside help, but Girl refuses so she can keep him all to herself. Guy murders Girl's favorite character, making Girl angry. Girl breaks Guy's ankles. Guy decides to bring Girl's favorite character back. They both lie to each other while killing each other over an unpublished novel. It's true love!
Seriously, I was rooting for these two. Sure, Annie gets a bit carried away with her feelings for Paul. And Paul is a bit stubborn about his appreciation towards Annie. But with a bit of therapy and maybe a warmer climate, I'm sure these two would have made it for the long haul. Just keep that pig home, Annie. Just keep her home.
MEGAN HALSEY and DR. CARL HILL
Science is a funny thing. We can't make love potions, but we can have parts of body remain animated post-mortem. So strange.
Anyway, Megan's and Carl's story is derived by a bit of obsession on Carl's part. Not that I blame the guy. I mean, Megan is a stunning woman and I would go heads over heels if I had to share the same room with her too. Okay, maybe he went a bit overboard by murdering her father and wanting to hurt her fiancee, Dan, so he can get her alone. Some guys grab a girl's attention through poetry. Others do it through homicide. At least that's what I learned from watching the Investigation Discovery network.
And c'mon ladies, any man who is willing to go between the legs of a woman tongue first deserves to remain on any romance list! And he probably didn't even consider it could have been Megan's time of the month. Any man who is brave like that deserves to have a Valentine! The things us men have to do to get ahead in romance...
ARNOLD CUNNINGHAM and CHRISTINE
If there's ever a couple who have displayed such great devotion for the other, it would be Arnie and his 1958 Plymouth Fury, Christine. A man who takes care of his car is a man who will take care of his woman, ladies and gents. Arnie is completely in love with Christine. He restores her appearance. Christine plays him love songs from the 1950s. Christine gives Arnie a boost of confidence that turns him from a nerd to a bad ass. Christine is willing to murder anyone who is a threat to her love for Arnie. Why can't all women be like this damn car???
You see what a good polish does, ladies? Give us a good rub down, and we'll be devoted to you for the foreseeable future! And is Christine willing to take it from behind through her tail pipe? Man Arnie, you were one lucky man.
DAVE and EVELYN, and DAN and ALEX
Sometimes love can start from the wrong place. But it doesn't mean you should give up on it! So who cares if the women from PLAY MISTY FOR ME and FATAL ATTRACTION are a bit loopy and obsessive? Most of us would love at least 1/8 of that attention!
Seriously, how many radio DJs get this much attention from sexy women? If a woman wants you that bad, even knowing you have a face for radio, just let it happen! Dave, it's not Evelyn's fault that she fell for your smooth voice and rad tunes. Maybe you shouldn't have played Captain and Tennille's "Do That To Me One More Time" during the Midnight Hour each night while she masturbated to your voice! Once is never enough for a woman like Evelyn.
As for Dan, maybe he shouldn't have given Alex a penal offense every chance he had. And just because he withdrew his case at the last minute doesn't mean Alex wasn't madly in love with him. And Dan should have known better. He had a wife, a kid, a delicious looking bunny, and a mistress on the side - even though he played Liberace in a really successful HBO movie! AND HE STILL GOT LAID!! Dude, stop ignoring the broad and appreciate what you have!
Women just have a different way with showing their feelings, guys. Even if they are batshit crazy, the sex is gonna be hella good. We all want to die happy, right?
DAN CHALLIS and ELLIE GRIMBRIDGE
This love story has a special place in my heart. A man, who happens to be a terrible husband and father, gets it on with a girl probably half his age. No, it's not the Woody Allen biopic. It's HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH!
Yes, even with that annoying "Silver Shamrock" song, unlikeable characters, and Stonehenge, these two found each other - displayed by their quickies in their hotel room just hours after meeting each other. Dan doesn't need Craigslist to hook up, so why should you? And Ellie...well she needed sex to help her mourn over her father's passing. You have to fill that void in your heart somehow!
What makes this couple special is that Ellie may have not been human all along. Maybe she was an android who had specific orders to bang Dan any chance she got. If that's the case, where can I find one of these androids? Does Radio Shack sell these? Do I need snakes and bugs to come out of my head to have my wish granted? Someone annoy me with a jingle and let me know!
THE BEAR SUIT and GENTLEMAN at the Outlook Hotel
Um... moving on.
CHARLES and MARY BRADY
While all's fair in love and war, incest is a game the whole family can play. Hey, don't judge! If supermodel Stephanie Seymour can pose seductively next to her two sons, then Mary can bang her own child as well! Okay, maybe that wasn't the best example...
Seriously though, these shape-shifting SLEEPWALKERS are a strange duo. They need to feed off people to remain young. They can turn into cats - insert perverted joke here. And they enjoy pleasing each other sexually, to the point that Mary is jealous whenever Charles finds interest in another woman. Either she wants to keep it in the family, or Charles is an expert in licking her "stamp collection". I'm sending them a copy of Oedipus Rex, hoping it'll salvage their relationship.
STIRBA and her TWO FRIENDS
Werewolves are a funny bunch. They can only transform under a full moon each month. They can get killed by silver. They hate vampires. And they sure love furry threesomes where they slobber and growl at each other. In other words, werewolves have a HOWLING good time in life.
Stirba, who enjoys flashing her beautiful breasts like 20 times in this sequel, also doesn't mind getting a furball during sexual intercourse. I respect and admire this woman. Then again, I'm blinded about her banging her whether she's a werewolf or not. What does that say about me?
I'm a freak? No, that's HOWLING VI. I'm discussing HOWLING II. Pay attention.
Seriously, it's good to be a werewolf every once in a while.
STU and BILLY
These two guys sure get off on penetrating each other. Sure, they use knives, but c'mon! We all know what this stuff is really telling us...
Although they get off on torturing their friends to show their love for horror films they grew up with, they seem more into stabbing each other and causing each other pain. And as they say, love and pain go hand and hand. It's just too bad Sydney and Gail Weathers had to play all Michelle Bachmann on these two and destroy their love forever.
I'm still hoping these two made it to a pro-gay-marriage state and ended up happily after ever. Just cool it with the knives, guys...
Happy Valentine's Day, guys! Here's a heart from me to you...
When it comes to modern Hollywood, the superhero genre is the hottest
genre in film right now. Although the superhero film got started with
DC Comics' world's finest, Superman and Batman, Marvel took it to a
whole new level with Fox's smash hit X-Men in 2000 and Sony's even
bigger hit Spider-Man in 2002. From that point on, Marvel started
pumping out as many superhero films as they could get out on the big
screen. The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, The Fantastic Four,
and The Punisher all got films to average success. Marvel decided to
form its own studio in the late 2000s and strove to craft a cinematic
universe beginning with their first test known as Iron Man. In 2008,
Iron Man made big bank and started making Marvel a household name that
went beyond the hardcore comic book readers. They rebooted the Hulk the
same year, gave Iron Man a sequel in 2010, gave Thor and Captain America
movies in summer 2011, and gave us one of the ultimate superhero films
in 2012 with The Avengers, which teamed up the previous characters for a
box office Hulk kinda smash!
While Marvel has continued to prosper, someone like myself
who while I enjoy both companies has to wonder, when is Warner Bros. and
DC Entertainment going to give us a cinematic universe? It seems that
the only characters that truly make a cash cow pour milk are Batman and
Superman. And why not? They are the Granddaddy and the Daddy of the
superhero medium. Sure, Superman has had more misses than Batman at the
box office, but the two are still known world wide. When even the
homeless dude walking down the street knows who Batman and Superman are
then those characters are everywhere. But for some reason, WB/DC has
had such a difficult time putting a super friends team together on the
big screen. In 2007, a Justice League film almost happened but got
dumped before shooting could begin. Then, another JLA movie was in
talks, but then got debunked. Then, WB/DC tried to begin a DC universe
beginning with the intergalactic super cop Green Lantern, but that
failed due to an uneven screenplay and lame villains. So, WB/DC decided
to begin with last summer's successful yet divisive Superman reboot, Man
of Steel, as a launching point for a broader DC cinematic universe.
But, where Marvel is and has been kicking ass at the
cinema, DC is shining with their animated movies. Since 2007's
Superman/Doomsday, Warner Bros. Animation has been giving us three
direct to video DC Universe animated movies a year. Early last year,
long time animation producer for DC, Bruce Timm, left after producing
the two part animated feature for the classic Batman: The Dark Knight
Returns and gave the reins to his friend James Tucker to produce further
DC animated superhero movies. James Tucker decided to do things
differently in the years to come. Instead of just doing stand alone
animated films for Batman, Superman, and Justice League like WB
Animation had done since 2007 with the few exceptions of two animated
Green Lantern films and a Wonder Woman animated movie, James Tucker
decided to make two of the animated films exist in a larger universe
together and only do one stand off film a year. It seems that WB/DC
Entertainment wants to not only start up a live action DC cinematic
universe with Batman vs Superman in summer 2016, but now they want to
craft a DC animated movie universe as well. It seems they are also
creating a television universe with Arrow and an upcoming Flash spinoff
series. So where Marvel has it hot in mainly just the movies and comics
right now, WB/DC will have it hot in cinematic movies, animated movies,
video games, and television if all goes good! Holy mediums Batman!
Anyhow, WB/DC decided to begin their DC animated movie
universe with Justice League: War, which was the Justice League reboot
in 2011's The New 52 and told the origin of the Justice League while
Superman villain Darkseid is invading the Earth with his demon army.
This is honestly a great way to begin a shared universe in animation and
then spin out solo films and then doing another JL film afterwards.
Looks like Batman will be next with Son of Batman being the next DC film
and then we will be getting a stand alone Batman movie that will
revolve around the Arkham video games and graphic novels. So, here's the
start of the DC Animated Movie Universe!
Something strange is happening across the globe. Shadowy
figures are abducting people off the streets. The world is in fear of
various super powered beings and vigilantes running around. In Gotham,
the mysterious Batman is taking down the criminal underworld. In Central
City, a red blur is running at the speed of lightning. In Coast City, a
green glowing space cop keeps the galaxy safe. The Amazonian warrior
known as Wonder Woman has made her way to the United States. A young boy
named Billy Batson harvests a magical secret. And Metropolis has an
alien flying around and shooting red beams from his eyes. Soon it is
revealed that those abductions were done by parademons from the planet
Apocolips led by Lord Darkseid, who wants to destroy Earth and rule it.
Darkseid's alien invasion causes these heroes to form a team in order to
stop the invasion and send Darkseid and his parademons back to the
Justice League: War is definitely in my top favorite DC
animated movies category. The Batman animated features will always be my
personal favorites, but I love all of the Justice League films. War,
The Flashpoint Paradox, and Doom are definitely the Justice League films
I love the most. The New Frontier (1950s set Justice League origin
movie) and Crisis On Two Earths are both good too. Now, I know anyone
could say that the Justice League is just a ripoff of The Avengers. But,
in truth, the JLA has been around long before Avengers was even
imagined. Well, comic book wise anyway. I think it's great that both DC
and Marvel have their team of heroes and villains. DC has Justice
League, Justice Society (the old timey JL), Birds of Prey (the super
heroine trio), Suicide Squad, League of Assasins, Legion of Doom, and
then the Dark Universe. Marvel has Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four,
X-Force, Defenders, and Sinister Six.
This movie is able to do a lot in 80 minutes. Introduce the
heroes and villain. We get a great origin for Cyborg/Victor Stone. His
characterization was great. Love the interactions between Batman and
Green Lantern. Wonder Woman is a badass. Shazam/Billy Batson was cool
and his interactions with Cyborg worked. I do kinda wish that Flash had a
bigger story in this. Darkseid looked and sounded menacing. I thought
that the parademons looked much better here than in Superman The
Animated Series. I do take some issue with Superman's suit, but it's a
small nitpick. It seems the DC animated universe films will begin to
take a que from Marvel by having a little tease during the end credits
for things to come. And the tease during the credits made me super happy
and I hope they give that character an animated movie, which I hear is
possibly in the cards. Heath Corson did good with the script. It was
fun, humorous, action packed, dark at times, and very exciting.
Everything a superhero movie and a Justice League movie should be. I
really hope the eventual live action Justice League movie is as great as
or better than this film.
Jay Oliva who has directed several past DC animated movies
which include Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The
Flashpoint Paradox, and a segment of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights as
well as being the storyboard artist for Man of Steel did a great job
directing this movie. It seems Oliva is WB Animation/DC Entertainment's
go to guy when it comes to directing these movies now. He's great and
has an epic style. Look forward to seeing which DC animated film he will
The voice cast is great as usual. Andrea Romano always finds the
perfect actors to voice these characters. Jason O'Mara was great as
Batman! Justin Kirk was humorous as Green Lantern/Hal Jordan. Shemar
Moore, who played in the very short lived Birds of Prey TV series, was
great in his first voice acting role as Cyborg/Victor Stone. Michelle
Monaghan was good as Wonder Woman. Sean Astin and Zach Callison were
great as Shazam/Billy Batson. Alan Tudyk was decent as Superman.
Christopher Gorham was good in his smaller role as Flash/Barry Allen.
And Steve Blum was menacing as Darkseid.
Overall, Justice League: War was a great first chapter
in the DC animated movie universe. I was a huge fan of the animated
television universe that ran from 1992-2006 so it is nice to know that
we will get another animated DC universe, but in films every year. It's a
great time to be a superhero fanatic I tell you. Go rent or buy Justice
League: War. It's a fun and exciting experience. Until the follow up
with Son of Batman, Wonder Twin powers activate!
When I think about writing these Original vs. Remake posts for Full Moon Reviews, I find it more fun when the two versions have a difference in quality. Many believe that remakes have no place since they aren't superior to the original. And for the most part, I agree with that - although there are some remakes that are just as good, if not better, than the original version. But sometimes, there are remakes that are so bad, you wonder why they bothered to begin with. And that's the case with THE WICKER MAN.
The 1973 version is more often praised for what it is, although it does have its critics [I used to be one of those until my recent re-watch] due to its subject matter and its presentation. As for the 2006 version, most people hate it. But due to unintentional comedy, it's a film that gets a lot of replay due to Nicolas Cage becoming a one-man screaming ham of an actor who made a ridiculous story into something somewhat entertaining. It's obvious which one I, and probably many others, prefer in terms of quality. But why? Does the original deserve its praise? Is the remake as bad as many say? And how did those damn bees become so popular?
PLOT Both films are fairly the same in terms of plot, although each have slight changes. Officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward)/Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) receive an odd letter that concerns the disappearance of a little girl named Rowan (Geraldine Cowper/Erola Shaye Gair). All hints of Rowan's location seem to be on a privately owned island called Summerisle.
When Howie/Edward get to Summerisle, the shady locals deny knowing who Rowan is. But as Howie/Edward investigates, he starts to realize that the locals may be hiding something. He slowly learns that the community is into pagan rituals of some sort, using sacrifices in order to please the Sun and Fertility Gods to raise crops and raise the percentage of having children. Howie/Edward realizes that Rowan is the perfect sacrifice, since the sacrifice must be virginal, using her to appease the gods for last year's failure.
REVIEW (1973) Robin Hardy's THE WICKER MAN is one of those 1970s movies that has a major cult following that seems to grow every year. It was a decent success during its release [although Americans didn't get the film until 1978], but THE WICKER MAN wasn't a horror film that many thought about until the internet boom and the release of the 2006 remake. There's probably a few reasons for this. It's not a particularly exciting film. It's more based on story and mystery, rather than visual gore and frights. It also deals with a topic many people have trouble talking about due to unwanted debates: religion and individual beliefs. But there's also a reason why a remake was even thought of to begin with - 1973's THE WICKER MAN is a damn good film that will bewilder you for all the right reasons.
THE WICKER MAN was written by a playwright named Anthony Shaffer, who would have cinema success in 1972 with both SLEUTH and FRENZY. It's quite a simple script on the surface. An officer receives a letter about a missing girl. The same officer goes to a mysterious island to investigate. As he searches and learns more about the inhabitants of this island, he realizes there's more to the story than what he's being told, leading to a twist ending that kind of punches you in the gut. It's pretty much your standard mystery-thriller premise, but Shaffer infuses it with a lot more depth than that.
THE WICKER MAN is probably known for its ideas of different beliefs and how it plays out within the narrative. Sergeant Howie is a Christian, who considers himself a family man who goes to church each Sunday to worship God. The people on Summerisle have different beliefs, almost similar to past Celtic beliefs, in which they believe in free love, nature healing illnesses instead of chemicals, and even human sacrifices for the greater good. THE WICKER MAN is really a story on cultures clashing - one that many would consider civilized versus one many would consider barbaric and not realistic. Yet, the film never once hits you on the head that one way is better than the other. Yes, both sides try to get their points across about their personal beliefs and why they're against each other's. But there's no cliche that Christianity is better, which would make Howie the hero since believing in God makes you "good". This was a rare deal in the 1970s, during a time where pop culture made it clear that religion will save your soul against demons, witchcraft, and Satan himself. The story itself never makes claim as who the good guys are compared to who we're supposed to despise. Are the people of Summerisle different from most people? Absolutely. Are some of their beliefs and methods far-fetched and dangerous? Probably. But who are we to say that they're wrong? I guess that's something for the viewer to decide on their own.
In a lot of ways, Howie is written in a way that's sort of hard to sympathize with him entirely. He's presented as the protagonist, but the way he conducts himself makes him very flawed. He's not the most interesting guy to follow. And usually when he speaks to the people of Summerisle, he talks down to them and calls them "heathens". Jerk. Sure, these citizens are definitely shady and not heroic at all. But Lord Summerisle comes across as more civilized and open-minded than Howie, making him more likeable. And he's the villain! But that's okay, because it allows the story to play out in a grey color instead of plain black and white. This aspect creates an interesting melodrama in which a man, who is stuck to his beliefs uncompromisingly, is driven mad by a culture he fails to understand.
Another reason why THE WICKER MAN stands out is due to its musical interludes. I guess one would consider the film part horror-musical, as the people of Summerisle seem to burst into folk music with lyrics that usually involve sex. And the songs aren't there just to lighten up the mood and weird viewers out. They move the narrative along by providing us information that becomes important by the film's end. And while the songs may sound a bit upbeat, the lyrics are pretty edgy and bleak. I think the most memorable music number involves a nude Britt Ekland [and her body double due to her being pregnant while filming] dancing in her room, grinding against a wall that seems to mesmerize Howie on the other side of the wall. These interludes could have been really cheesy, but end up giving the film a creepy atmosphere.
The direction by Robin Hardy is quite good. There's a ton of style going on here visually, especially during the musical interludes [the Britt Ekland scene being the highlight as it's truly mesmerizing for Howie and her the audience all at once]. THE WICKER MAN is a colorful film, showcasing the Scottish landscape and taking advantage of the scenery. How can you not find the beauty in the ceremony that takes place during the film's final act, involving the carnival dragon, the parade, and then the Wicker Man ceremony itself? The editing and pacing is also top notch, as every scene seems to build towards the twist ending. Whether you watch the theatrical version, or the Director's Cut like I did, Hardy does an impeccable job with presenting such an odd, yet interesting tale.
The acting in THE WICKER MAN is probably its best asset. Edward Woodward, who would become a bigger star in the 1980s by starring in The Equalizer, is great in the role of Howie. In a role originally presented to Peter Cushing, Woodward really plays a dour character well, not shying away from displaying the character's flaws through his stubbornness and ignorance. Woodward also presents Howie as a thinking and active character, making us believe he's not leaving until he figures out the mystery of Rowan and Summerisle. We both identify ourselves with him, because he's figuring things out while we do. But we also have trouble sympathizing with him because he's too stubborn in his ways. And Christopher Lee - who claims that THE WICKER MAN is his best film - is just fantastic as Lord Summerisle. He's so classy and civilized, yet there's something really slimy and shady about the man. Lee plays really captivating villains you can easily love, and this role is no exception. Britt Ekland is very sexy in her role, which is pretty much all it really calls for. And the other actors are great as well. Just a great cast.
As for the remake, I only have three words for it:
No, not WHAT THE FUCK!?
NOT THE BEES!!! But I'll get to that in a moment..
The 2006 version of THE WICKER MAN is probably one of the biggest blunders on the remake train. Take everything that made the original so damn good and just crap all over it. A simple story that becomes more complicated than it needs to be, acting so bad it borders on hilarious [one of the few highlights from this remake], and direction so lacking that you wonder why they even bothered. THE WICKER MAN (2006) has a terrible reputation, and it's well deserved.
Let's get the positives out of the way, since there are only a few of them. I appreciated the change where it concerns Summerisle. Instead of going the Pagan route, the remake focuses more on the Battle of the Sexes. Women are in power, while men are just there to be slaves and help populate the community. While the script could have done more with the concept, at least it tries to differentiate itself from the original in a more relevant way. It's just too bad the females in Summerisle are presented as stupid and weak during the final act, when Edward is punching and superkicking them across the screen. But at least it's something.
Speaking of Edward punching and kicking women, the entire final act is just pure hilarity. An hour before this, THE WICKER MAN just drags and almost puts you to sleep. But once Edward starts stealing bicycles, punching women, kicking them into walls, yelling about his legs being broken, and just going off on people in such an over-the-top manner, you can't help but laugh at how ridiculous the climax and conclusion of the film are. It's as if both the director and screenwriter just said "fuck it" and just go screwball towards the film's end. It's just too bad they didn't do this for the first hour of the film, Then the film's reputation would have been more positive due to unintentional comedy. I mean seriously - Edward beating up women in silly ways, a ton of overacting, and Edward running around in a bear suit? How can you NOT laugh at this?
And I gotta say - Nicolas Cage may not be my favorite actor in the world, but he definitely is the highlight of this terrible remake. I'm not really sure what happened with the guy. One year he wins a Best Actor Academy Award, and then he suddenly becomes the patron saint of so bad, they're good films. And while THE WICKER MAN isn't one of those films, at least Cage does his best to be such a massive ham onscreen to make us want to watch. The strange facial expressions, the screaming of dialogue for no reason, and just the sheer melodrama that felt like Cage had his drink spiked or something - you can't take your eyes off of this guy. And it wasn't as if his acting was terrible before the switch, as he underplayed the thing pretty darn well against a crappy script. But the final act is just a bizarre performance from him, which doesn't surprise me why THE WICKER MAN is one of his more memorable films for all the wrong reasons.
As for that "bees" scene, it amazes me that a deleted scene would be the most popular clip from this remake. That's right - the bee scene is not even in the actual movie! And I don't even think it's all that great of a moment, nor is it special. But it captured the imagination of so many people, creating memes and homages inspired by this bee scene. If Nicolas Cage isn't many money out of this internet sensation, he should be.
But other than that, THE WICKER MAN is a miserable failure. The script is just sooo bad. While I love the feminism pitch that replaced the religion themes of the original [just because the remake tried to be its own thing in that aspect], the screenplay does nothing with it really. Why were the women of Summerisle doing this to men? Why couldn't the men speak? Why are there more girls than boys on the island? And if you're going to sacrifice anyone for some God, why is it being done in a wicker MAN instead of a wicker WOMAN? Doesn't that contradict the whole deal? It just didn't make sense, since the script doesn't allow anything to develop.
It also doesn't help that none of the characters have any depth. Edward is really the only one because he has motivation, as his daughter is the one he's searching for on the island. But the women are as deep as a puddle. I could tell you their names, but I couldn't tell you what their purpose were. Some of these women seem important, but they don't have enough of a presence to really matter in the bigger picture. Maybe Willow, who is Rowan's mother and Edward's former lover, is the only one. And she just comes across as vapid and annoying, although I guess it makes sense when it comes to the film's climax. But other than that, you wouldn't really care about anyone in this remake.
Neil LaBute's direction doesn't help much either. Unlike what Hardy did in the original, LaBute doesn't think about giving the film any sort of tension or suspense. It just felt like scenes were falling into scenes, rather than the scenes building up to the next. It didn't help that the editing was a bit odd. And the use of the film's score was a bit much at times, which took away from what the scene was building to. The jump scares were pretty weak too, I gotta say. I did think the cinematography was nice, but everything else didn't click. LaBute has directed some good films, like NURSE BETTY and IN THE COMPANY OF MEN. But THE WICKER MAN is not the man's finest moment.
Besides Nicolas Cage, there's no one else really worth talking about in this remake. Ellen Burstyn is totally wasted as Sister Summerisle. The woman is a talented actress, but the script just makes her look like a fool. Kate Beahan is kind of hot as Willow, but her character was ultra annoying. Leelee Sobieski needs a new agent, as she does nothing of note here at all besides getting superkicked by Cage. Molly Parker plays two roles, although I don't know why. I will say her scene at the school was pretty decent. Diane Delano was picked to play the typical "lesbian stereotype", which is a shame since she's a better actress than that. I felt sorry for this cast.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE ROASTING MARSHMALLOWS INSIDE OF A WICKER MAN
- Howie, on a boat, needed a dingy. This would have a different connotation in the world of porn. Probably be a lot wetter too.
- Summerisle has an obsession with hares. Glenn Close would have a field day boiling on a stove here!
- The citizens of the island enjoy singing whenever they can. All this town needs is a butch gym teacher to make it a show on FOX.
- Apparently, there's a song that claims that sex and semen creates trees. You'd think the environment would be a lot better if that's the case. Many of you are shooting blanks!
- Lucy enjoys torturing a beetle. I think Ringo Starr deserves more respect, in my opinion.
- A woman was breast feeding while balancing an egg in her hand. America's Got Talent's next winner, ladies and gents.
- A local shop was selling human parts, including foreskin. I must have watched the Uncut Version...
- Summerisle sacrifices humans to the Sun God and the God of Crops. Justin Bieber should travel to this place... for the scenery...
- The school is supposedly up the hill and through the woods. I already know where grandmother's house is. I just want to be educated, dammit!
- There was a crow trapped inside a school desk to see how long it would survive in there. Brandon Lee suffered more than we all thought...
- Frances Conroy played Dr. Moss in the remake. How fitting, since this film is an American Horror Story in more ways than one. Send this one Six Feet Under.
- Edward is afraid of bees. Not surprising, since a majority of his films after the Oscar win were graded C or less.
- Sister Summerisle painted her face half black and half white during the sacrificial ceremony. I could make a Michael Jackson joke here, but I don't wanna be startin' somethin'.
THE FINAL HOWL Two films of the same name, but with totally opposite qualities - THE WICKER MAN is a story that has been proven to both be successful and a failure. The 1973 version is a film deserving of its cult status, with an interesting screenplay, tense direction, and fantastic acting by Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. The 2006 remake is just an abomination, not understanding why the first film worked so well. Sure, it has unintentional comedy that will entertain you during the last half hour. But the script is terrible, the direction is blah, and the acting is just poor. Save the 1973 film, but sacrifice the 2006 remake inside of a giant wicker man. It may not make your crops grow, but it sure will help you save money on therapy sessions.
Full Moon Reviews collaborator, Reverend Phantom, has unleashed his second episode of his new podcast. In this episode, he reviewsCITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, CEMETERY MAN, and Asomvel's new album. Check it out!