Monday, 31 October 2011

The Catch

by Tom Dunn

 The boy was cycling at the time. It was pure chance that he turned his head; as he came out from a canopy of knotted oak branches, the sun slammed into his eyes and he jerked, almost skidding as the front tire followed the whim of the hands on the handlebar. He turned his head away, and through his half closed eyes the naked mass, resting on the bank, joined with the floating dancing black dots and the light punching from the stream. He slowed a little, his heart skipping slightly, and looked properly. It was lying on the grass edge with the mud and a few washed up stones. He gently eased his bike down the slope, off the dirt path he had been riding on, and entered the bank. He wondered for a second if he should be thinking of it as ‘it’. He’d seen the photos and heard the news; he knew who it was, the body looking up at the sun and not blinking or turning away like he did, mouth agape so slightly, as though it didn’t quite understand why it was able to stare into the sun either. But the yellowing eyes held only a reflection of the world. For a second he imagined what he might hear if he put his ear to that mouth, but all he could think of was the soft ringing before you faint, and he realised this was stupid. It was silent and empty. Waterlogged and blue, amidst the greens and yellows and browns; the dancing colours of the riverside on a summer’s afternoon of fluttering leaves and bending branches. The boy pictured the scene on tomorrow’s front page, headline proclaiming the body found, the mystery of the disappearance one step closer to being solved, and the autopsy underway. But again he looked at the mass and could not register with it; it was not the person its features mirrored so perfectly. He wondered if he should feel something more than a detached curiosity. That was a lie; he knew this was stirring some morbid thought that he often toyed with as he went to sleep also. He supposed this was enough. Would there be a reward? An interesting prospect, though the repetition of the event in the playground for the days to come would bring its own enjoyment. At once he quickly glanced around to make sure no one else was around to claim the prize, stared at it again, now uninterested in the mass itself, and pulled out his phone, dialling the police. He wondered who would play him on Crime Watch.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Tintin and the Case of the Missing Soul

by Nick Pierce

Being a loyal Asterix fan as a child, I paid to see the latest blockbusting behemoth set loose from the stable of Spielberg (£11.50 for a 3D showing, thank you very much) with only the most superficial level of knowledge regarding Herge’s beloved comic book series. Whereas the stories of the aforementioned Gaul had an anarchic wit and edge that kept them appealing even to a modern reader, it seemed to me that the Tintin books were slightly old-fashioned and unremarkable. I mean, if one had the option between hanging out with super-powered, fun-loving resistance fighters or a pipsqueak reporter and his ratty little dog, what’s the obvious decision?

And indeed the new multi-million dollar adaptation is notable mainly for just how unremarkable it is. It drifts by for roughly two hours, providing mildly diverting entertainment, and then it finishes. Three days on from seeing it, I can say in all honesty that it hasn’t entered into my head once since I left the screening. Spielberg’s output has become notoriously scattershot in quality in recent years, and whilst this is far from the nadir of the fourth Indiana Jones atrocity, it’s somewhat depressing that the former king of Hollywood seems unable to muster anything more than the forgettable fluff of an efficient hack.

On the plus side, from a technical standpoint it’s noteworthy as a feat of processing power and design, answering at least some of the criticisms typically levelled at motion-captured animations. The characters don’t have quite the same level of fish-eyed creepiness we’re used to seeing, although at moments there’s still an odd sluggishness to their movements that detracts from the dynamism of the action sequences, as if the atmosphere of Tintin-world is composed of treacle.  And the camera certainly moves in a more liberated fashion than would be possible in reality with the constraints imposed by physics. This newfound freedom is harnessed most elaborately in the third-act car chase around a bustling desert city, which takes place entirely within one shot, the camera soaring over rooftops, careering down narrow alleys and swooping through collapsing buildings. The setpiece feels sort of like a spiritual descendant of the much-feted opening shot of Welles’ Touch of Evil, but whereas the graceful, prying camera movements of that noir classic were impressive because they were done for real, nowadays we all know that it can just be fabricated in a computer instead. As a result, the action scenes feel curiously uninvolving and devoid of suspense, the same basic flaw that I felt dogged Avatar, although this romp is certainly a less bloated and flatulent affair than that. You might be slumped back in your cinema seat with an amused smile on your face, but you certainly won’t be sat on the edge of it.

Of course, it might have been easier to overlook this if the story had been more exciting and the characters more engaging. Considering the pedigree of talent involved in the script (Moffat, Wright and Cornish) it’s surprising just how by-the-numbers it is, a bog-standard hunt for pirate treasure that fizzles out about twenty minutes before the movie decides to end, with a climactic reveal that will leave you wondering what all the fuss was about. Believe me, the prized artifact is a very long way from the Nazi-melting Ark in Raiders on the scale of awesomery.

The prevailing blandness of the principal players, enlivened only by Andy Serkis’ spirited and film-salvaging rendition of Captain Haddock, unfortunately finds its worst manifestation in Tintin himself. I can’t comment on whether or not it’s a quality of the comics, but here he’s about as one-dimensional as protagonists come, alternating between breathless know-it-all and whiny know-it-all. The way he keeps feeling the need to refer to himself as a journalist, when he doesn’t set pen to paper once throughout the movie’s entire duration, also gives rise to presumably unintentional comedy.

Perhaps I’ve been a little harsh on Tintin in this review. After all, there are genuinely enjoyable moments of spectacle on offer here, but one can’t help but expect more from the powerhouse production duo of the Berg and Peter Jackson, since we know they’re capable of attaining dizzying heights in mainstream entertainment. It’s tempting to conclude that if the computers had been abandoned for once and more effort put into fashioning a decent narrative, Tintin could have been a return to form, rather than a glossy digital echo of past glories. The other problem with building a film around its technology is that said technology has a habit of becoming outdated - increasingly quickly, it has to be said - effectively rendering the film without merit or interest. If you want an example, watch the Dire Straits' music video for Money for Nothing: once a demonstration of cutting-edge computer effects, it's now laughably crude and clumsy. I wouldn't be surprised if a similar fate awaits this version of Tintin: a huge heap of studio money for what is at heart a whole mess of nothing.      

Wild Abandon Review

by Tom Dunn

It’s perhaps not surprising that Joe Dunthorne’s summer release, Wild Abandon, has attracted the steady attention placed upon it over the past few months. Following hot on the heels of Richard Ayoade’s accomplished adaptation of Dunthorne’s own debut, Submarine (for my review of that film, go here. Yes I'm shilling myself out), his latest novel offers the same awkward humour of puberty that coupled that last offering, but does so as part of a wider jab at modern family values, distorted through the lens of “communal living.”

Wild Abandon takes place in the fictional community of Blaen-Y-Lynn, headed by Don, Freya, and their children Kate and Albert, the former of whom, at seventeen, is aching to break free of the confines of the farm and experience society at large, whilst the latter, quickly approaching twelve, feels that between his sister’s rebellious tendencies, his father’s delusions of grandeur and the growing strains this puts upon his mother’s wellbeing, the end-times prophesied by one of the farm’s more colourful characters are getting ever nearer.

Rather than focusing on a single figure, as in Submarine, Dunthorne now relies upon an energetic shift between multiple perspectives, jumping between both the core family members and their friends and lovers with ease, thus giving the novel a rather episodic feel that at its best emphasises the lack of understanding breaking down this family, and in turn their community, and at its worst reveals itself as a trick for cheap laughs. Thankfully, the latter is rare, as for much of the time this novel is genuinely funny, revelling as it does in providing an ironic take on teen rebellion – Kate’s distrust of her parents’ lefty ways occasionally emerges as a conservatism she would be ashamed to admit to, whilst histrionics find themselves erupting from a sixty year old pot junkie. The limits of this style of narration are tested however in the surprisingly sombre climax, lacking a sufficient emotional build up for all but the most empathic of readers (i.e. not me, but possibly Jesus Christ or Ghandi).

At its core, this is a fairly typical story of a family unit’s tragicomic breakdown given a fresh lick of paint through what is ultimately a novel gimmick – throughout its 240 page run, Dunthorne fails to truly elevate his presentation of the community beyond its admittedly amusing differences with suburban life, a comparison that threatens to offer a damning critique of both sides of the coin before retreating somewhat in the face of just how reassuringly mundane suburban life – captured in the harmlessness of Kate’s boyfriend and his parents - supposedly is. Nevertheless, the novel’s core question – how can man try to bludgeon society to his liking when he can’t even control his own family – is an amusing one, and finds union with last year’s highlight in comedy literature, Ian McEwan’s Solar. It is perhaps more than telling that today’s social climate is producing stories revelling in the inability of ambition to marry itself with nobility or sheer mental clarity. Funny, occasionally incisive, and at times surprising touching, Wild Abandon won’t blow your socks off, but for a good British comedy, you could do a lot worse.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Feisty Metals/Metallic Feistiness

by George Bate

The media I read would have me believe there does not exist a Canadian woman out there who doesn't at least look this gorgeous.

Feist has a new album out you say? I better write a review then.

Score? Three shiny stars from Elmo. That's THREE, not FOUR. Silly Feist.

Leslie Feist cuts an intriguing figure whichever way you look at her; having first found her way into the cultural consciousness as a sidekick to bizarre shock-rapper Peaches, her music has now become the soundtrack to countless dinner parties and earned her a place on Sesame Street, yet she still retains her street cred with hip indie kids. Her last album, 2007’s The Reminder landed her in a position similar to early-2000s Moby, in demand with dozens of advertising executives keen to maintain a sense of their artistic cool. It was the dilemma caused by this explosion of popularity that led to her self-imposed 18 month exile from the music world. She claims to have simply found herself bored with the idea of playing music, and spent some time working on other projects, including (of course) some acting.

Those ad executives will be relieved then at the release of her new album, Metals, and her return to the fore. The album was announced in typically arty fashion when Feist announced a “colour by numbers” competition to design the cover artwork early this year. Produced with the help of the same collaborators as The Reminder, Metals finds Feist not making any giant leaps with regard to her sound. So far so good; if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Those execs will be pleased.

Colour by numbers: not just for kids

Unfortunately, for those of us not interested in flogging our wares, the spark that permeated her last two records does not seem to be quite as bright here. Oh yes, the sound is very much the same, but the songwriting somehow feels a little less inspired. Take “Bittersweet Melodies” for example, it falls very close both thematically and musically to Feist’s previous work, but it somehow feels more basic, with little depth in comparison. More child-like, perhaps.

Ten points to Griffyndoor if you know who Feist's mates are

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad album as such. It’s just that it doesn’t quite have that y-factor (I’m using this substitute as I despair at what a certain show has done to our culture) that pushed her past two previous efforts from good towards great. The Reminder’s pop pomp was what made it spectacular. With “Let it Die” it was it’s oddly soothing darkness. But despite it’s difficult birth, Metals sits somewhere between the two, and this is its main problem. The record works best where it strives to be one or the other, and not both. This is evidenced by lead single “How Come You Never Go There”, which goes musically for the tap-along efforts of her last record, and is permeated by an excellent rustic country-like  guitar solo and powerful but subtle brass accompaniment. On the opposite side is “Anti-Pioneer”. It may be sad, but it’s a dress that fits. When Feist goes for something other than these two extremes the tracks feel bland and seem to segue into each other, passing the listener by.

Though the mainstream press may have already lauded its praises on Metals, I can’t help but be a little more reserved. It’s not that I don’t like the album. I do, it’s just that I know Feist can do much better. Great artists can’t always make great albums, and just because it’s kooky and Canadian, that fact doesn’t automatically make it awesome.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Never Mind The Box Sets

by George Bate

OMG. Are those brand new sleevenotes?!!!
For those of you who regular read any of the plethora of contemporary music blogs out there (or simply those of you who read the reviews section of the Sunday papers), the recent slew of deluxe reissues of historic and canonical albums cannot have escaped your attention. The latest objects of desire to be unleashed upon an assortment of salivating collectors and obsessives are the 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s Nevermind and an extensive deluxe box set reissue of the entirety of the Pink Floyd discography. With similar sets available in the coming months covering material from U2 and The Smiths amongst others, this trend shows no signs of abating. But do these super-lush, super-detailed reissues improve the listener’s enjoyment of such albums, or are they merely expensive curiosities or status symbols for the “true fan”? Good for one listen perhaps, but ultimately consigned to collect dust, forgotten on some shelf or in some cupboard?

I must confess myself to owning a couple of these behemoth editions (the tenth anniversary set of Manic Street Preacher’s The Holy Bible and Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain LA’s Desert Origins Edition spring most quickly to mind), and the desire for some of the latest deluxe reissues has not bypassed me entirely. After all, everyone likes to own nice things. However, when I look back upon my purchases I somehow wonder what it was that led me to believe that I would find both the time and the will to watch the Manics perform their 1994 song Faster in four different settings. Whatever flawed logic it was, I suspect it was the very same which made me purchase both Later… with Jools Holland Louder and Later… with Jools Holland Even Louder on DVD. Have I ever watched them? Perhaps once, though it has to be said that despite its excellent showcasing ability, the “Later” format isn’t exactly one that draws inspired performances week in, week out.

So what is it exactly that makes us want to purchase the new 6-disc edition of Dark Side of the Moon or to own every version of Lithium or Polly ever recorded?* The motivation from the perspective of the record companies is clear; they have been losing revenue ever since the advent of the MP3 and online piracy, so making the packaging and presentation of a record itself the object of desire is an obvious way to restore sales and increase slimming profits. Some record companies have based their entire business model on it. Rhino Records, for example, has spent the best part of the last thirty years issuing excellent reprints of historic albums, often critically acclaimed cult records which were out of print and absolutely hankering for a new digital version and a few bonus tracks.

In essence, however, the record companies are now trying to reverse a downhill slide that they helped cause, primarily by introducing the cassette and the CD as standard formats. Before this, the artwork for an LP was of almost as much importance as the actual content itself. Rewind your C90s (or cue back your compact discs) to the mid 70s and there are countless stories of buyers purchasing records for the artwork alone, without ever having heard a note of the band’s music. Have you ever seen the inside of Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, for example? The dude may have been blind but he certainly had a few mates who knew a fuckton about illustration. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band had it’s own set of pop out figures. Dark Side of the Moon’s inside cover belongs in a gallery. I recently bought a copy of New Order’s Blue Monday/The Beach even though I knew the record it contained was too scratched to play. And these were all standard editions. Who has ever heard of a gatefold jewel case anyway?

It also brings into question the whole notion of the value of music; with millions and millions of songs and countless variety available at the click of a mouse for free, who, whether right or wrong, wants to actually buy music? Perhaps the trend in the release of beautiful new editions has something to do with this. Is it a manifestation of our subconscious desire to return value to music? The idealist in me wants to believe so.

Honestly though, what do I believe? Personally I think that it’s our generation’s equivalent of “the best silver”; a status symbol for those of us of a musical bent. Anyway, I’m going back to staring at my 25-disc vinyl box set of the sounds of John and Yoko’s primal scream sessions. Just kidding, this doesn’t exist. Yet.

*(Courtney Love must really be scraping the barrel by now so I’m pretty sure that the next Nirvana re-release will contain a swab of Kurt Cobain’s congealed blood).

Hurry Up, I'm Dreaming

by George Bate

So I wrote a review for the latest M83 album about 2 months ago when I first stole it. It never ended up being published, but I think it's one of my strongest reviews so I thought I'd throw it over here for starters. Enjoy.

M83 have never ceased to be ambitious; their synths set to “epic”, their guitars to “soaring”, and their spiel? Well, either grandiose or pretentious, depending on your perspective, after all, M83 claim that every record they produce is created as the soundtrack to some imaginary movie. It will come as no surprise then, for those familiar with the work of Anthony Gonzales and his cohorts, that their latest album comes in the form of a two-disc song cycle about the nature of dreams and contains a song, narrated by a child, about a hallucinogenic experience bought about by the poking of a frog. Strewth, this album is beginning to sound more like a creation of some 70s prog behemoth rather than a group most recently known for appealing electropop and songs about teenage love.

M83, however are a band that have always inhabited the difficult middle ground between arty credentials and sheer listenability, and nowhere is this more evident than on lead single Midnight City, which will have been bouncing around the blogosphere with buoyant delight for several months by the time you read this. The track begins with a bizarre squeaky melody, which could have been created on one of those little yazoo things you get in cheap Christmas crackers, but doesn’t feel out of place in a song obviously designed to pull at the heartstrings. Did I mention the saxophone solo?

M83 pull off similarly bizarre tricks multiple times on this album; Year One, One UFO starts off sounding like Country Girl by Primal Scream but finishes, like many other tracks here, in a blaze of euphoric synthesisers. Elsewhere, obvious highlights include the optimistic Steve McQueen and the introductory track, which is lent a powerful ethereal vocal by doom-pop monger Zola Jesus.

There are a few missteps here; several ambient interludes add little in terms of the “tune” factor but serve as useful down time amongst the loftier kitchen-sink type tracks, and a few of the spoken word vocals may draw a cringe or two amongst the more mature members of M83’s audience. Nevertheless, M83 have pulled off the double album trick both endearingly and with aplomb. Few recent doubles have managed to sound so cohesive and yet so interesting (Kate Bush’s Aerial comes most strongly to mind), and there are at least five or six tracks with single potential that will have the money men rubbing their grubby hands together. Some would have suggested that M83 had overreached themselves in the creation of such a record, but the band really have managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with an album that manages to be simultaneously joyous, epic and tuneful.

Score?: 4.5/5

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Little Devil - We Need To Talk About Kevin Review

by Nick Pierce

From the extraordinary overhead shots of the Valencian La Tomatina festival that open the film, showing Eva Khatchadourian played by Tilda Swinton writhing amongst hordes of euphoric revellers drenched in blood-red tomato pulp like some great Renaissance painting of a Dantean hell come to life, it is apparent that We Need To Talk About Kevin is at heart a horror movie, albeit of an unusual variety, finding the sinister in what at first appearances seems anything but. Like The Shining, that other great horror film about the family, Kevin offers the disturbing possibility that this most universal of human social units need not necessarily deliver the fulfilment and security that we expect of it.
  The story recounts in elliptical, time-jumping fashion the nightmarish trials of Eva’s experiences of motherhood, as she struggles to overcome her aversion to her son and her creeping suspicion that he is motivated by evil impulses, and her crushed, isolated existence in the wake of the realisation of her worst fears. As it does so the film presents an image of family life that is far from cosy. In one great scene, Eva’s private room devoted to her passion for travelling, a relic of her pre-domestic life that she yearns for, is cruelly vandalised by her infant son. When her husband Franklin, played by the ever-reliable John C Reilly, returns home, he fails to appreciate how upset Eva is by this, complacently remarking, as he will do again later on, that boys will be boys. In this skewed microcosm of domestic interaction, the film hints in gothic manner at how the family dynamic can oppress the personality of the individual in its tyranny of values i.e. that the needs of the child nullify the desires and dreams of the parent.  
  Lynne Ramsay, director and screenwriter of this remarkable film, may be a woman, but she can congratulate herself on making a film with bigger balls than any other title released so far in 2011. The greatness and daring of We Need To Talk About Kevin inheres precisely in this provocative exploration of the nature of parenting and of evil. As Steven Pinker writes in his recent publication, The Blank Slate, in contemporary society it is conventionally held that every individual is shaped by his environment and that the relationship of the mother and father with their child is one of central importance in the development of the latter. This belief has given rise to endless TV shows and manuals on proper parenting, and the familiar reaction of blaming criminal behaviour on unhappy childhoods. Pinker posits that the idea of the child as a ‘blank slate’ may well be scientifically insupportable, and that there are perhaps aspects of an individual’s personality that inhere in their genetic makeup which are beyond alteration or correction by any parent, no matter how authoritative and committed. It’s a disturbing notion, cutting straight to the heart of one of our most comforting sets of ideas: that anyone can be reformed and that a human being is capable of infinite change for the better.
  Kevin powerfully reflects this perennial contention over the causes and the constraints of human nature. Many reviews of the film have asserted that its deeply haunting effect owes to its invoking of another taboo – that of a mother who hates her child. But whilst this is undeniably part of its thematic richness, it is similarly noteworthy for refusing to satisfy any easy liberal cliché about the root of evil. Kevin’s crimes are not explained away as the result of a botched upbringing; his father loves him unquestioningly and attentively, and his mother is seen (for the most part) trying patiently to overcome her son’s seemingly inexplicable, almost demonic antagonism. Instead, they seem to emanate from some element of Kevin’s psyche outside of the control of his family or even himself: ‘I used to think I knew’ he mumbles when his crumpled mother begs him to tell her why he did it, ‘but now I’m not so sure.’ Whether the viewer chooses to interpret this unexplained motive as genetic or otherwise it is undoubtedly more complex, troubling and potentially unknowable than the straightforward environmental factors that would be proposed by the ‘blank slate’ argument. Indeed, the film even suggests the danger of such a system of thought in its portrayal of the persecution the mother faces at the hands of the families of Kevin’s victims, who apparently blame her for her son’s actions. In these scenes the movie intimates that such irrational judgments are the logical eventuality of elevating the role of parenting to such paramount significance in the progression of each individual from child to adult. In other words, if the child has turned out evil, it must be the mother who made him so.
  Ultimately, the outlandish extremity of Kevin’s acts and the psychological duel between mother and son depicted as having begun at the very moment of the latter’s birth imbue the film with an almost mythic dimension. By stripping down the narrative to the core relationship of these two characters Ramsay brings them close to something like archetypes: the Tormented Mother and the Malevolent Son. For some tastes, this might seem to go too far and sacrifice any political or social commentary in favour of the baroque. But this would be to miss the point. It is surely by showing extremes that art like We Need To Talk About Kevin can prompt questions about the unexamined aspects of that which we only prefer to think we already understand. And because it prompts these questions, it is a picture that will stay with you for a long time after you’ve left the cinema.

Sleazy Money

by Tom Dunn

What does the phrase “80s American cinema” bring to mind? For most people, it’s no doubt the two Coreys, a New Wave soundtrack and a well etched template for teen carpe diem. Often considered a kneejerk reaction to the violence of “New Hollywood,” this 35mm bubblegum – whilst often great – also aided a less artistically admirable quality of the decade; a reliance upon formula, upon branding. It’s there above in the “Two Coreys,” it’s there in that (wonderful as it is) John Hughes feel, and, most obviously, it’s there in drawn out franchises like Friday the 13th and Police Academy. Like any form of media, cinema always reflects its contemporary social climate, and so on the one hand all of this can be seen as part of the 80s revival of capitalism and laissez-faire economics in the West, spearheaded by the yuppie. It’s a well known image, as excessive and OTT as its seeming subject; the young professional, eager for the next big thing in both money and thrills, snorting cocaine and leading us all to a debauched ruin. The death of “New Hollywood” may coincide with the boom in popcorn cinema, but its legacy lived on in the genre cinema of the time, answering as it did to this new social conundrum in the form of the yuppie and corporatism. Of all places, it was the Sci-Fi and Body-Horror cinema of the period that explored this issue most pervasively, the excesses to which genre was pushed in the likes of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) and David Cronenberg’s earlier Videodrome (1983) paralleling the overblown lifestyles of the corporate cats they simultaneously attacked. Ironically enough, even James Cameron’s aborted Spider-Man production was to get in on the action, finding the antithesis to wholesome Peter Parker in a mutant media mogul version of classic villain Electro. Think Rupert Murdoch with Richard Branson’s flashy smile and a penchant for frying...well, everyone.

What’s interesting about all of these films is how they link personal degeneration and amorality with a wider social apathy – even acceptance – through its intrinsic linking with television, something that Videodrome finds its whole premise built upon. Perverted businessman and head of Civic TV, Max Renn (perfectly cast as James Woods), is on the hunt for the next big thing, the future of television, and he believes he’s found it in the pirate signal “Videodrome,” a plotless snuff transmission complete with lurid colours and explicit, repetitive violence. In Max’s own words, Videodrome represents something “contemporary...edgy,” a new rung on the ladder of “sexual malaise” and “overstimulation” that his girlfriend Nicki Brand at once deplores and openly admits to being victim to. It is fitting that, as Max’s unceasing desire for more violence and sex increases, the physicality of Nicki and the allure of television coalesce and become one, a loss of self that was signposted in Nicki’s first appearance in the film through a camera monitor. As if this wasn’t enough, Max’s mission to find the source of Videodrome leads him to Professor Brain O’Blivion’s Cathode Ray Mission, a temple where the poor and homeless might enjoy the benefits of the same network TV world Max hails from. As the plot descends into a nightmarish conspiracy, we root for Max to escape the claws of Videodrome even as we revile him for bringing this upon himself; in this world, there is no moral high ground, and it is only those that might conquer and control the airwaves that might escape, and in turn, control the nation’s own bodies through television. There’s something oddly satisfying in that, in this world of corporate warfare waged by way of distorting and claiming the body’s own functions, the final showdown occurs at villain Barry Convex’s unveiling ceremony for a new line of spectacles.

Like Videodrome, Robocop relies upon the focalizing effect of television to relay cultural apathy and greed, beginning as it does with a mish-mash of insincere news anchors bearing painted-on smiles and a commercial for sports-brand pacemakers, whilst everyone’s favourite TV catch-phrase, “I’d buy that for a dollar,” is repeated throughout the film incessantly. In Robocop’s world, branding is everything, and so Old Detroit, effectively owned by the private firm Omni-Consumer Products, is on the way to be re-labelled and rebuilt as Delta City, land of the future. The reality is that, for OCP, lives are just commodities, and so a rebranding of the city just means the ultimate in consumer restructuring. Robocop himself is the end-result of a Frankenstein project led by yuppie stereotype Bob Morton. Played by Miguel Ferrer, he’s the drug-swilling young buck whose demands for more lead to his death, by the hands of another OCP big-wig who just so happens to run the criminal underworld too (economically, it makes a lot of sense, don’t you think?). Robocop’s personal quest to rediscover his human identity and take down his killers is frustrated by the mindset of the OCP-fuelled world around him – “He’s product” – and it’s own cavalier attitude toward providing goods that actually measure up to the hype built up around them; when villain Dick Jones’ rival project, ED-209 fails and kills another member of the board, the tragedy is merely a “glitch” – the branding of ED-209 at least is still alive and kicking.“Who cares if it works or not?!”
In the face of all this, and the unspoken reality that Delta City is just such another product of hype, when Robocop finally does regain his humanity at the film’s end, we can’t help but feel that the hope engendered is hollow. He’s still a component in the corporate machine of OCP-run Detroit. Like Renn, for Robocop, there is no escape from the corporate system. They’re in too deep. But at least their capitalist dystopias were spared of Dream a Little Dream 2...

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