Our RoboCop Remake: Copenhagen Review
CPHPIX, Copenhagen, April 10 2014.
More than 50 directors contribute to a 'crowdsourced' patchwork retread of Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi classic.
If the original Robocop character -- as seen in Hollywood's 1987 and 2014 productions -- was famously "half man, half machine," then the scattershot, crowdsourced Our RoboCop Remake is equal parts tribute and parody. Cobbled together for a tiny fraction of the underperforming MGM official reboot's $130M budget, its 60 scenes were assembled by separate teams of writers, directors, editors, actors and crew, with occasional personnel overlaps -- and results that are dizzyingly variable even by the notorious standards of portmanteau pictures. The latest in a ragged string of lo-fi homages to 1980s cult favorites, it's currently available for free online via Vimeo but has nevertheless been picking up international film-festival screenings and can expect exposure in midnight-movie slots.
Scattershot, sometimes slipshod and frustratingly uneven in terms of the gag hit-rate, this ostentatiously unpretentious and gleefully unauthorized enterprise unearths some previously unheralded talents. Indeed, the general level of inspiration is so lukewarm that moments of ingenuity and flair leap out all the more forcefully. Because while far too many of the directors and scriptwriters rely on broad humor and audience indulgence -- interpolating so many brief extracts from Paul Verhoeven's picture is a particularly misguided ploy -- certain segments provide glimpses of what the project could have been given a firmer controlling hand. As the opening credits put it, Our RobCop Remake was 'produced and organized by' David Seger -- of the Los Angeles-based short-film showcase Channel 101 -- who previously oversaw Our Footloose Remake (2010).
One of the sequences here (#27), a genitalia-splattering extravaganza produced by the Fatal Farm collective, has already become a minor Internet sensation, its professionalism fooling many viewers into thinking they were seeing actual outtakes from the Verhoeven original. Much credit for this belongs to experienced small-screen DoP Christian Sprenger, who captures the nocturnal scuzz of Jost Vacano's cinematography in what was surely one of the more pricey segments to assemble, with every cent up there on the screen.
Elsewhere, some striking effects are achieved from simpler means, especially when the directors eschew lazy belly-laughs and adopt edgier strategies. Notable among these is an unexpectedly poignant ballet version of one of the story's more traumatic interludes (#18) by 'Team Tiger Awesome', directed by Clint Gage, choreographed by Michael Riccio and featuring music by Barry J. Neely. This graceful passage finds its climactic counterpoint in an semi-animated, opera-inspired take on the violent finale (#57), directed by Erik Beck, for 'The Indie Machines,' with outstanding music by Mark Douglas and Doug Larsen. The latter follows the wildest and most radical section, Brad Conlin's hallucinatory slice of eye-popping experimenta which wouldn't look amiss in one of Damon Packard's demented sci-fi offerings. Of the many actors slipping into the various (and variously elaborate) RoboCop costumes, meanwhile, Korean-American Randall Park (section #52) displays such droll comic timing it's a shame his contribution is so fleeting.
Surprisingly few barbs are aimed directly at Jose Padilha's official remake, until a droll eleventh-hour appearance by a black-jumpsuited figure whose appearance is instantly mocked by the more 'orthodox' looking RoboCop surrogates: "What are you, an X-Man?!" they jeer. Of course Our Robocop Remake isn't remotely interested in adapting the original to the 21st century, instead lurching from scene to scene to scene in a slavishly exhaustive manner which results in a wearyingly excessive running-time, even if Seger and company do keep much of the best material for the last reel.
Venue: CPHPIX, Copenhagen, January 24 2014
Production company: Channel 101
Cast: Paul Isakson, Spencer Strauss, Rachel Adams, Kate Freund, Wendy McColm, Willy Roberts
Producer: David Seger
Directors of photography: Various
Production designers: Various
Costume designers: Various
Sales: Channel 101, Los Angeles
No MPAA rating, 108 minutes