The Second Annual Serene Wombles

Two years! Woo-woo! Thanks for keeping with me. It’s been another hell of a year, and although Life Events have meant that I wasn’t able to review quite as much as I would have liked, you’ve stuck with me, and that’s awesome. In fact, with 28,000 hits this year, three times as many people have shown at least a vague interest in this little blog as last year. So: thanks! 😀

Those of you who were here last October 3rd will remember that to mark the aniversary of this esteemed blog I decided to hand out some meaningless awards: The Serene Wombles!

What exactly are the Serene Wombles? Well, to quote myself last year:

Eligibility for a Serene Womble i[s] conferred by being the subject of a review [on In Search of the Happiness Max] in the past year. There may have been better or more worthy things that came out this year, but if I didn’t find them relevant to my interests, or if I simply didn’t have the time to review them, they won’t be eligible for a Serene Womble. I make no pretense that these awards are significant or important in any way, but I enjoy having the opportunity to praise and draw attention to things I have loved.

The Serene Wombles are divided into two categories, those that apply to recent releases, and special Time Travelling Wombles for the most awesome things in my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts. The division between the former and the latter may at times seem arbitrary – why should a film that came out in 2009 count as a recent release, whilst a TV Show that ended in 2009 requires a time machine? It’ll always be a judgement call, and the judgement will [usually] have been made on a case-by-case basis at the time of reviewing. Sometimes I use a time machine for my reviews because I want to review something that came out in 1939, sometimes because I want to review something more recent that’s out of print, or because it’s a TV show that’s been cancelled… At the end of the day, these are not the Oscars, they’re the highlights from a blog, and are therefore subject to my whim.

Exciting stuff, eh? Let’s get started!

The Serene Womble for Best Film: Dredd 3D
Dredd 3D posterEligible Films: Dredd 3D, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games

The competition was basically between Dredd 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Hunger Games. If this category were about which film I’m most likely to rewatch… well, I’d probably rewatch all of those three, but I’d want to watch The Amazing Spider-Man first and most often. But this isn’t just about which film I found most fun. Each of these was well put together and entertaining, and The Amazing Spider-Man was also visually stunning and thematically well-conceived, but Dredd 3D was just in a league of its own – beautiful and thoughtful in equal amounts. It really felt like Dredd 3D was taking sci-fi back – giving us a real vision of the future, beautiful and provocative as well as dark. Breathtaking, is the word.

I doubt this film will sweep the Real and Proper awards in the way it deserves, but here in Womblevonia I’m doing my bit to recognise originality, inspiration, and artistic genius where I see it. Congratulations, Dredd 3D! Well deserved.

The Serene Womble for Best TV Show Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones Season 2 Promo 'The Clash of Kings has begun'Elligible TV shows: Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Misfits, The Fades, The Hollow Crown: Part I, Richard II

Tough crowd. I mean, we have The Fades, one of the most strikingly original and well-executed British fantasy TV shows in a good many years – a real tragedy that it was not renewed for a second series. Then there’s The Hollow Crown‘s adaptation of Richard II, which contains some of the very best Shakespeare I have ever seen performed, and for one of my least favourite plays, at that, including a truly spectacular performance from Ben Whishaw, as Richard II, and a simply wonderful portrayal of John of Gaunt by Patrick Stewart. And although Doctor Who has been highly questionable over the last year, I can’t deny that ‘A Town Called Mercy’ was excellent. Yet Game of Thrones is still hands down the winner, for me. It feels unfair to some of the competition to give it the Serene Womble for Best TV Show two years in a row, but given that it was even better this year than last year, I don’t feel that I can really deny it. Performances by Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, and Maisie Williams were stand outs, but everybody was bringing their A-game. The special effects were incredible – I now believe that dragons exist and that they are both very cute and very dangerous. Pretty much every element of music, direction, and writing was outstanding, and it stands out in my memory as the best thing I have seen all year.

As they say on these here Internets: All of The Awards.

The Serene Womble for Best Web Series The Guild
The Guild PromoEligible Web Series: The Guild, Dragon Age: Redmption

Well, maybe not all of the awards. This is a new category introduced to include the burgeoning genre of web series. I was tempted to roll it into the TV shows Womble, but, upon reflection, I must concede that web series are their own medium. They are usually shorter and are often much lower budget. It’s neither fair nor practical to try and compare them to much longer, much higher budget shows. Moreover, they are developing their own tropes and styles and on the whole exhibit a different character to their televisual brethrin.

That said, there wasn’t a lot of competition in this category. Both these shows are Felicia Day creations, and whilst I did watch other web series over the course of the year, I can’t deny that Felicia is the mistress of this genre – she has not only talent but the extra experience of being one of the founders of this artform. It means that she’s been at it for longer, but also that she’s better known. Nevertheless, it is notable that The Guild greatly outstripped Dragon Age: Redemption. I suspect this is in part due to the fact that Felicia will have had much less control in the latter, but I also didn’t find her own performance as convincing. In all honesty, The Guild is just in a league of its own. It has the geek-following to bring in stars for the extensive cameos that were a feature of this series, and it’s starting to get the money that allows it to do more things. It’s also excellently and knowingly written for the audience that powers the Internet: geeks. Not to mention the spot on performances of the other cast members: Vincent Caso, Jeff Lewis, Amy Okuda, Sandeep Parikh, and Robin Thorsen.

It’s a deserved win, but with more and more people finding it natural to watch their visual content online, more TV stars using short videos as a way to get a bit more exposure and make a bit more cash on the side (see, for example, David Mitchell’s Soapbox), there’s a blooming new arm of the media that I’m thinking I need to investigate further in the coming year. I’m interested to see how things develop.

The Serene Womble for Best Actor Ben Whishaw
Ben Whishaw as Richard IIElligible Actors: This category is open to any actor in any recent production that I’ve reviewed in the past year – film, TV, radio, podcast, whatever. I do not discriminate by gender. It’s a fight to the melodramatic death and the best actor wins, regardless of what’s between their legs or how they identify.

This was a tough one. I feel bad for stinting Peter Dinklage for the second year running after praising him so highly, but it was a strong field, and he did contribute to the overall Game of Thrones win – keep it up, Peter, there’s always next year. Lena Headey was also giving all the players a run for their money with her outstanding performance as Ma-Ma in Dredd 3D – a real performance of a lifetime. But I can’t deny the just deserts for Ben. He took a role I’d never especially liked or understood and made me see it from a completely different angle – an angle that was utterly compelling and heart-breaking. In all honesty I was far less impressed with Parts II and III of The Hollow Crown (and I somehow missed Part IV), and I’ll not deny that Tom Hiddleston did a good job, but Richard II blew me away, and Ben Whishaw was the lycnhpin of that production. Incandescent. Any actor that can ellucidate not just the character they are portraying but the themes of the play and have that render their performance more compelling rather than less, and to such a level… sheer genius.

Thank you, Ben, for showing me Richard II the way you see him. Have a Womble.

The Serene Womble for Best Novel Rome Burning, by Sophia McDougall
Rome Burning cover art Eligible Novels: A Dance With Dragons, Kraken Romanitas, and Rome Burning

This one was probably the hardest. Kraken is the most imaginative novel I’ve reviewed this year, and it was certainly a gripping as well as intelligent read. However, it did have some minor gender issues, the attempt at rendering London accents was unconvincing, and although I found the exploration of personal identity fun, it was inconsistent.

Rome Burning‘s alternate history setting was imaginative in a different way. For exploration of gender, race, and cultural issues it was outstanding. The characters were interesting and varied. The pace was fast and gripping. The politics, nuanced and intriguing. And, overall, the harder-to-define ‘squee’ quotiant was just higher than for anything (new) I’ve read in a long time.

Romanitas, the first book in the trilogy of which Rome Burning is the second, was also good, gripping, and squee-worthy, but the writing was not quite as strong and the world-building was more developed in the second volume.

A Dance with Dragons is what it is: a novel to which I have mysteriously devoted a surprisingly large chunk of my life in reviewing; part of a long series that has given me both great joy and great frustration. Perhaps it is unfair to put it up for assessment when the review is as yet incomplete, but I’ll give you a sneak preview and say that, for all its good points, A Dance with Dragons was not really competition for any of the above.

The Serene Womble for Best Comic Romatically Apocalyptic
A wallpaper made by Alexius from one panel of Romantically Apocalyptic

Eligible Comics: Real Life Fiction and Romantically Apocalyptic

Another new category, and only two in it, but I couldn’t leave them by the wayside. Both of these are excellent, and I thoroughly recommend them to all of you. Both are surreal, hilariously funny, and gender balanced. Romantically Apocalyptic has an edge for me by being, well, apocalyptic; but then again, Real Life Fiction has Manicorn. The real clincher is the artwork, which, as you can see, is stunning. I have never seen anything like it in a web comic. Or any comic. Or ever. And the creator, Vitaly S Alexius, hands this stuff out for free. There are no two ways about it: this comic wins.

The Time Traveling Wombles

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Film The Glass Slipper
The Glass Slipper promo imageEligible Films: Robocop, Soldier’s Girl, The Glass Slipper

That’s right, I’m giving the award to a film it’s virtually impossible to buy anymore. It’s not available on Amazon (there’s a Korean film called Glass Slipper, but it’s a different movie), it’s never been made into a DVD, the only videos I can find are US vids on eBay, the cheapest was going for about £16 (inc. P&P) at time of posting. I don’t know if it’d even play on a non-US machine. My copy was taped off the telly in the 1980s. But if you can get it, I urge you to make the effort. And this is really what reviewing via time machine is all about: drawing attention to classics and forgotten works of art. How can we get great films like this pressed for DVD if nobody speaks up to say that they are wanted?

The Glass Slipper is beautiful, sweet, and knowing. To me, it is the definitive cinderella story, and that’s not just the nostalgia talking. I feared it would be when I went to rewatch for this review, but it’s not. This was a feminist take on Cinderella in 1955, long before anyone even dreamt of Ever After. And it doesn’t sacrifice the romance for its message; it is a heart-breaking, life-affirming, challenging, witty, and beautiful work of art.

This is not to discredit its competition, however; both of the other films were clear contenders, although each is very different to the others, and it was hard to make the comparison. Robocop is a cleverly written and directed critique of capitalism. Its ultra-violence and gritty realism stand at stark odds to The Glass Slipper’s colourful fairytale punctuated with surrealist dance-interludes. Soldier’s Girl is a moving and powerful adaptation of the true story of a soldier who was beaten to death for loving a transgender woman. It perhaps didn’t have the artistry of the other two movies, but I don’t know that you want a lot of whistles and bells for such a movie – its task is to tell someone else’s tale and command the viewer to witness a crime and recognise an injustice. It would be wrong for a director to grandstand and steal the show. So, what do you do, when confronted with three such different films, ones that resist judgement on equal grounds?

I think you have to go with your gut. The Glass Slipper is the one that had the deepest personal influence on me, playing a pivotal role in shaping my psyche and helping me figure out what sort of a woman I wanted to grow up to be. Children’s or ‘family’ movies are often over-looked as less serious art objects than ‘adult’ films*, but they help to form the worldview a child is exposed to when they are trying to figure out what this existence, this life, is all about. Films like The Glass Slipper, which show a child a multiplicity of roles for women, are incredibly important, especially when they do so in the context of a story that is usually cast to define women as romantic creatures whose ‘happily ever after’ lies in marriage, and not in independant thought. Doing that whilst keeping the romantic centre of Cinderella’s tale intact is a masterful stroke. It deserves this award.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Actor Lee Pace

Eligible actors: anyone who has acted in a film I had to time travel to watch.

It may not have garnered the illustrious Time Traveling Womble for Best film, but I can’t deny the Womble to Lee Pace – head and shoulders above the rest – there really wasn’t any competition. Lee Pace plays Calpernia, the transgendered woman that Barry Winchell fell in love with, and was brutally killed for loving. The gentle, understated approach to this sensitive role is spot on. I imagine a lot of reviews of this film will have said something to the effect of what a ‘convincing woman’ Lee Pace made – I’m not even sure what that means, but it’s the sort of thing people say when they discuss a man playing a transgendered role. I’ve known a number of transgendered women – they’re as varied as any other random woman would be from another; they’re as varied as people. Which is not the same as saying that they have nothing in common or don’t have shared experiences. I don’t want to make any sweeping characterisations of what it is to be a transgendered woman and then proclaim that I think Lee Pace matched that stereotype. What I’m saying is that he portrayed a well-rounded character – a person with loves and passions and heart-ache, with interests both important and trivial; a person whose story moved me and made me think about an important issue.

The point that moved me most – that stood out – was a moment in the above scene. It spoke to me powerfully even though it was speaking about an experience I’ve never had, and am never likely to have. Because it’s a scene in one sense about a man struggling with figuring out his own sexuality in the high-pressure environment of being a soldier in the context of the US Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy – only revoked just over a month before I reviewed this film; still in force when it was made. To a large extent, that’s what the film is about. But it’s also about a woman, struggling to be acknowledged as a woman, finding it almost impossible to date, even though she is beautiful and charismatic, because straight men won’t acknowledge her as a woman. And here she has found a man, a man she is falling in love with, and she must always be asking herself: is this just an experiement, for him? Am I his way of figuring himself out? And all this time she has been loving and supportive and understanding that this is hard, for him, but here she finaly shows her pain and anxiety. Yet, it’s still within the context of that loving, caring, understanding character. Once he has affirmed his love for her she subsumes her own pain to his need for support. It is done with so much subtlety and nuance. Lee Pace isn’t the one bawling his eyes out in this scene, but the emotion is nonetheless powerful.

That’s acting. Acting and sensitivity; just exactly what the role needed.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Novel The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King
Cover art: The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the ThreeEligible Novels: The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish and The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King.

I did think about including some of the works of Anne McCaffrey in this category, as I did talk about a number of them in her memorial post, but ultimately I decided that what I was really doing was celebrating a woman’s life’s work, rather than giving a review. Besides, I might want to review some of them properly somewhere down the line.

As for the two remaining novels… well, it was an unfair match. The Drawing of the Three is basically my most favourite book. The Blazing World is an important book that more people should read. It’s historically valuable and truly remarkable for its time. But it’s also the offspring of a genre (novel writing) in its infancy – the very first science fiction novel, in 1666. Don’t believe me? Go read the post.

As for The Dark Tower – ah… I suspect I shall spend my whole life trying to tease apart why it affects me so. My post, ‘Meditations on Death‘ explores just one aspect of my its power – the seductive power of the concept of death-as-release, what makes us resist its allure, and how this is expertly explored in The Drawing of the Three.

And, last of all:

The People’s Choice Award The Guild, Season 5
The Guild cast in the costumes of their avatarsPerhaps the most arbitrary of all the awards, this is the one you voted for with your feet. The selection for this award is based solely on the review post with the single largest number of hits. And this year it was a landslide, with 8,431 hits and counting, this post has had more hits than my home page. It’s had several thousand more hits than the total for all hits of my most popular month (July). The closest runners up are The Amazing Spider-man and The Hollow Crown (both around 1,000).

And it’s not even because it’s been on the blog since October last year – the hits suddenly started raining in in July. I don’t know what it was, but it seems like all of a sudden the Internet woke up to The Guild, and all I can say is that it couldn’t be more well deserved. Congrats, Felicia and friends: they like you, they really, really like you!

And that’s it! The awards have been awarded, and it’s time to start all over again, selecting novels and films and TV shows and comics and web series, and kittens only know what else, to review in a brand new Womblevonian year.

Stay serene and max for happiness, yo.

*Not that kind, dirty minds!

Reviewing Through the Time Machine: Robocop

Robocop: posterTitle: Robocop
Cinematic release: 1987
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Robert DoQui, and Dan O’Herlihy
Written by: Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Genre: Science fiction, action, ultra-violence
Awards: Won the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing; nominated for two other Academy Awards and listed numerous times in various Best Film lists
Price: From £1.48 on Amazon at time of posting

Behind the scenes images of the new Robocop suitThe first photos of the new Robocop movie have been revealed online, and the Internet has already begun to turn its nose up at it. The robo-suit is being criticised for looking too much like Batman’s suit in the Nolan movies. I don’t know. In all honesty, the suit from the original movie does look a lot cooler, to me, but it’s an absolutely iconic image and it’s hard to step back and give a dispassionate assessment of the new suit in comparison. Does the new suit look like Batman’s? Not really. I mean, it’s black, but it does look a lot more like robotic armour, as opposed to a costume that is also designed to protect the wearer, which is what the Batsuit does.

They’ve also released an online ‘Omnicorp’ video – a faux advertisement for various robotic commercial law enforcement products, as well as a fake Omnicorp website.

It’s a fun idea, and the video is nice enough, but they’re making a few rookie mistakes. First off: if you want your video to go viral, you don’t call it ‘Viral’ – that is not how viral advertising works. I can’t see an official account that has this video up, but the two copies I found both labelled it as ‘viral’ and one was put up by ViralMan69, who ‘work[s] for multiple production company’s that promote movies and music and try and get the content to go viral’. Telling the denizens of the Internet that you want them to create hype for you usually makes them look sceptically at you in askance. It’s that stereotype of a dad trying to be down with the kids by doing something all the kids are doing and highlighting that he’s only mimicking them by calling attention to his own pretense. Not cool, daddy-o, not cool.

The second problem is that viral marketing works best when you’ve got something quirky and new that catches people’s attention from an angle that surprises them. But this isn’t quirky or new. The omnicorp advertising video is a slick and convincing duplicate of what was quirky and interesting in the original movie, which featured well-observed, dryly ironic excerpts from Omni Consumer Products advertising. It’s not that the humour isn’t still relevant. Indeed, Better Off Ted encapsulated exactly this kind of car-crash horror of soulless consumerist commodification in its genuinely viral videos of Veridian Dynamics adverts.

What’s problematic is that where Better Off Ted and the original Robocop were satirising this kind of fake, corporate chumminess, the new Robocop is unconsciously embodying that which it’s trying to send up. Fans of the old film already have their hackles up wondering why it needs to be remade in the first place, assuming that it’s a cynical attempt to cash in on sci-fi special effects remakes in a capitalist money-grabbing bid. I actually think that Robocop is a film with a lot of relevance today and a strong candidate for a knowing remake, not because the old film needs remaking, but because the themes of consumerism, creeping totalitarianism, and the privatisation of our public services have come full circle again from the 1980s. Science fiction is at its best when it grabs our attention and uses the mirror of the future to show us what’s wrong and dangerous in the present. A Robocop remake that highlighted the way the dangers of the original film are present again in our society today could be a valuable as well as entertaining movie. The trouble is, if the film looks like it’s trying to cash in on a trend it’s completely undermining itself. A cynical attempt to get on the viral bandwagon is not the way to go.

I’m on the fence. I want to be convinced by the new Robocop. I mean, it’s cyborgs, I’m going to see it anyway, but I’d like it if it were good, too.

So, anyway, with these thoughts in my head, and Robocop on Netflix, I decided to look back at the original film and see if it really was as good as I remembered.

Turns out, it was better.


Detroit is a city in trouble. Its over-stretched police force is being picked off by a criminal with a taste for killing cops, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), and beginning to mutter about strikes. Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is poised to take advantage of the situation. They’ve been developing two lines of research in robotic law enforcement, the completely mechanical ED-209, developed by Senior President, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox); and the cyborg police officer, ‘Robocop’, developed by Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer). The ED-209 malfunctions during a demonstration in the boardroom, killing a member of staff, and Bob seizes the moment to propose his project to the Chairman (Dan O’Herlihy), who is happy to give the go ahead to a more stable-sounding project.

Now all Bob needs is the organic part of the cybernetic organism package.

Enter Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a cop newly transferred to Detroit from a cushier posting. He’s partnered with Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), who is young, but in many ways more seasoned. Despite some good-natured tussling for dominance over who gets to drive the car, they seem to hit it off, but their partnership is short-lived, as they get called to respond to a bank robbery headed by Boddicker. Having chased the criminal gang to an abandoned mill, Lewis and Murphy get separated. Lewis is left for dead after taking a lengthy fall, but Murphy is less fortunate. Believing his back-up (Lewis) to be dead, the gang take their time torturing Murphy, shooting off one arm to a gruesome stump, before taking him out with repeated and extensive gunfire, and finally shooting him in the head. Unbeknownst to Murphy or the gang, Lewis survived the fall and witnessed the whole, shocking scene. She calls for an ambulance, and although Murphy is pronounced dead at the hospital, he’s fresh enough for use in Morton’s project.

Murphy is re-introduced to the force as Robocop, an efficient and completely obedient officer of the law with apparently no memory of his life as a human being. As Murphy had only been with his unit for a day, no one recognises him, at first, but having watched him, for a while, Lewis begins to have her suspicions. It also becomes apparent that OCP were naive in thinking that they could completely write over a man’s personality in that way – Murphy sustained an extreme trauma, and elements of the memory begin to surface, disturbing the perfect veneer of Robocop.

Meanwhile, Morton has made a dangerous enemy in challenging Dick Jones – just how dangerous becomes increasingly apparent as the film goes on.

Can Lewis help Murphy remember who he was? Who will win in the struggle for power between Morton and Jones? Will Boddicker be brought to justice? You may be able to guess the answer to these questions, but the dramatic unfurling of the apparently inevitable is often surprising, as well as clever, shocking, and well-observed.


Made at the height of the consumerist, capitalist 1980s, Robocop is as witty and smart as it is violent. And it really is violent. Much more violent than I remember, although a friend tells me it was heavily edited for television airing in the UK, so that may be why. But even without the contrast with my memory, this film made me realise just how sanitised today’s movie violence has become. Dredd 3D is a notable exception. Nowadays, one rarely sees a bullet wound that is more than a tiny red spot. By contrast, the scene where the ED-209 opens fire on the hapless board member at OCP, early on in the film, makes a clear statement about where this movie is going in terms of graphic violence, and it only gets more graphic and more violent from this point in. It was quite a shocking moment to the eyes of a viewer in 2012.

And that’s a good thing.

Violence for the sake of violence is as boring and unwise as any poorly thought through plot element. Violence purely for shock value is just as dull. Violence intended to shock you and wake you up to something can be pointful, useful, relevant, powerful, and poignant. By explosively tearing apart an innocent man in the sterile, soulless perfection of a 1980s corporate behemoth’s boardroom, the ED-209 is metaphorically tearing apart our preconceptions of the clean and sanitsed nature of such businesses. The extreme violence used (and the almost prissy way the other people in the room respond to it) viscerally underscores the contrast between appearance and reality. This film doesn’t just say ‘There’s something very wrong here’, it punches you in the gut and forces your face into the blood until you can no longer deny that there is a shitpile of mess under the smooth, corporate veneer.

The almost omnipresent dirtiness of the scenes outside of OCP underscores this contrast, especially in the film’s other two main locations: the police station and the abandonned mill. The tensions in the police station are evident from its first scene, and one feels palpably both the justified anger and fear amongst the besieged cops, and the dangers of this force actually going on strike. They deserve better: the city would descend into anarchy without them. The city would descend into anarchy without them: how can they even consider striking? It’s a tension that speaks powerfully to our present times, as the TUC discusses a general strike for the first time since 1926. Robert DoQui as Sargeant Warren Reed marks an interesting figure as he strives to hold the police department together under these irreconcilable forces.

The irony is that Robocop is actually very good at his job – he seems to be exactly what the city needs, and, after all, he’s what we, the viewers, also want. What we paid to see. We are complicit in the dark desire to put other human beings into servitude – abuse their bodies and ignore their personal needs in service of the collective wants and demands of the whole. Western cinema is often accused of over-praising individuality and ignoring the honour to be found in placing the needs of the many above the needs of the few, or the one. But Robocop approaches the subject with nuance. We are presented not with an answer, but with the tension. Duty has a valued place in this world. Cops sign up to serve the people, and they shouldn’t abandon their posts. Headlong persuit of money and individual pleasures is dangerous and selfish. And yet society can also demand too much of the individual. If we ask sacrifice of our police, we can’t expect to keep on asking it endlessly without offering recognition and reward of that sacrifice. More palpably, what happens to Murphy seems wrong at a more visceral level. Yes, the alternative for him was death, but what sort of a life has he been left with? Shouldn’t consent have been asked of his family? Shouldn’t they at least have been told? One of the first things we learn about Murphy is that he has a son – a son that he is clearly devoted to – and that relationship is ripped from him. This highlights not only the emotional tragedy of Murphy’s condition, but the competing demands of duty. People are not one-dimensional existents. Cops can be fathers and husbands as well as keepers of the peace.

Has the film dated? A little. In some ways its embedding in 80s culture adds to the political critique, but despite good presentations of race like that of Sargeant Reed, at least one other black character occupies a painful stereotype as a humourous and incompetent henchman. By contrast, Lewis is a fantastic and refreshing female character. She is never sexualised, wearing the same uniform and bulky armour as any other police officer. She is allowed to fight side-by-side with Robocop as an equal (or as equal as any human being can be) and saves his life on multiple occasions. She is allowed to be as tough as nails without being forced into a caricature of a ‘butch’ woman. She may have a practical short haircut, but it’s fluffy with 80s style and she clearly knows her way around a make-up bag. She’s neither feminine nor unfeminine – she’s a character. Moreover, whilst she and Murphy clearly share a bond (I mean, seeing something like that happen to your partner has got to do something to you), there is no suggestion that this is a romantic relationship. Murphy was happily married; Robocop has other things on his mind – and so does Lewis.

People often look at me weirdly when I talk about the skill involved in making a good action movie, but there’s no doubt in my mind when I say this: Robocop is art. Art and knowing political satire. Films like this are important – they become iconic not because they are ‘fun’, but because they are both fun and powerful.

Robocop is even better than I remembered. Does it need to be remade? My jury’s still out. I think it has the potential to do something important for the current generation, and I don’t want to dismiss it just because I think there’s already a good movie called Robocop. I think we’ve all grown-up with movies and tacitly assumed that we know everything that they can and will do for us, but film is still a comparatively young medium. It’s evolving all the time, and not just in terms of technology. For a while it seemed like film formed a way of fixing stories in time. It created an illusion that if something had been done well and could still be experienced in its original form, then that’s how we should experience it. But no one ever batted an eyelid at reimagining Shakespeare plays with every production. Indeed, we tend to think a production unimaginative if we see it performed in exactly the same way by different troupes of actors. Stories emerged in an oral culture where they could mutate in every telling. We talk about remaking films as though it’s a new and somewhat lazy fad, but retelling stories is an old tradition in good standing as a way of using old tales to make new points, or to make the same points afresh for a new generation.

My main concern about the new Robocop is that at the moment it seems to be doing very much the same thing as the old Robocop. Chances are I will still enjoy a production like that, and I do think it may still be valuable for the new generation who, whatever we may wish, are unlikely to rewatch the old film of their own accord. But I would like to see it do something new and innovative. I love me some cyborgs, but it would be something of a sad inversion of the original spirit if this does prove to be another cynical attempt to cash in.