robocop – “state of the art, bang bang!”

RoboCop was released on July, 7, 1987, directed by Paul Verhoeven, written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, and Ronny Cox. With special effects from Rob Bottin and Phil Tippett with a score from Basil Poledouris.
Robocop is scifi action film that takes place in Detroit, Michigan, it’s dark and bleak, where themes of corruption, greed, privatization, capitalism, dystopianism and identity run throughout. Family fun for all!

Go take a media break and check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film, give them 3 minutes and they’ll give you the wor– their review of Robocop.

Back already, well, this masterpiece of cinema opens on a media break (newscast), where we’re sometime in the near future, Detroit is on the verge of a financial collapse and crime is running rampant. Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is now running the underfunded police department. The cops don’t like this and threaten to strike, which causes OCP to seek out other options for law enforcement, OCP senior president Dick Jones offers up the Enforcement Droid 209 series, ED-209, as the solution, but it kills a board member during a demonstration. Bob Morton see this as his opportunity so he approaches the OCP Chairman, nicknamed The Old Man, with his solution of a cyborg and he bites, this makes Jones super angry.

Alex J. Murphy has just  been reassigned to a new partner, Anne Lewis, she’s a female cop who can keep up with any of the guy cops. It’s Murphy’s first day at the new job and he’s gunned down in the line of duty by Clarence Boddicker and his gang, so Murphy is selected for the RoboCop project, since OCP owns the cops, they also own the corpses of cops. He’s reprogrammed and given three primary directives; 1. serve the public trust, 2. protect the innocent, 3. uphold the law. There’s also a 4th directive, but that comes in to play later. RoboCop is then set loose on Detroit and cleans up the streets, Morton’s given praise for the job, infuriating Jones further. Boddicker is then sent to assassinate Morton under orders from Jones.

Lewis figures out that Murphy is underneath RoboCop, this triggers his memories to come back, he returns to his old home to find out that his wife and son have moved away, in the belief that he did die on duty. Murphy goes to the police databanks and starts tracking down the gang members that killed him. They happen to all be at a cocaine factory, he takes out all the workers there in a superhero style, finally getting his hands on Boddicker and he confessing he works for Jones, he can’t kill him because of his programming, so he arrests him instead.

With the evidence against Jones, Murphy goes to arrest him, but then directive 4 turns on, preventing him from taking any action against an OCP executive, while Jones gloats over Murphy agony he reveals his plans. ED-209 is brought in to kill Murphy, along with the SWAT Team and other cops. Lewis helps Murphy escape the barrage of bullets he’s received and appropriately takes him to a steel mill, the same one where he was gunned down. Here Murphy takes off his helmet revealing that he’s also still himself, he then needs some time to reflect and repair himself.

The police force finally goes on strike, crime runs even more rampant. Boddicker literally gets the gang back together, this time they’re out to kill Murphy, and they’re armed with anti-tank rifles and a tracking device. But Murph and Lewis are able to take them out one by one, in the process Lewis gets wounded, Murph kills Boddicker and goes back to OCP tower. There he destroys an ED-209 guard and reveals to the OCP board Jones’ motives. The Old Man fires Jones on the spot, overriding directive 4 and Murph shoots him out the window. The Old Man thanks him and asks him his name, he replies… “Murphy.”

The good; I’m not sure where to start, well, let’s go with the amount of violence.

This is Verhoeven’s first American film, he didn’t come to America to be a sci-fi director, but this film’s strengths are in the layers and his observations (or prophetic visions) as an outsider on American culture.

On one layer you have a straight forward action movie. A Cop gets killed and pretty much avenges his own death.

Then you have a satire. It pokes fun at capitalism, consumerism (6000 SUX) and the privatization of things. Even the news programs and commercials are sensational. The way this film opens is with a slice of life in to this world and not some action scene, I don’t know if that’s been done before…

Then there’s the social commentary aspect, touching upon themes of; greed, gentrification, corruption, and authoritarianism.

Then you have this cartoon violence. The original cut was rated X, they had to cut out the violence to receive an R rating. The violence in this movie is purposefully over the top, highlighting the low value of human life. When Murphy’s mortally wounded in the line of duty they take his body and start working on it like he’s just another machine. This leads me right in to the special effects.

This film was produced before the digital age, so all the effects were practical. Rob Bottin and Phil Tippett’s efforts on this film are amazing. There’s dummies, squibs, stop motion, matte painting, squibs, oh and did I mention squibs? You simply have to watch RoboCop and witness the craftsmanship in special effects that’s lost in today’s cinema. When the helmet is finally removed Weller’s face looks like it was taken from his corpse and stretched over the cyborg skull, simply stunning. Below are scenes from the movie, ironically… most of them are violent in nature;

The 3 directives are very much like Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Makes you wonder how OCP managed to put such morals in to their product, or… I have to applaud the scientists who clearly read up on their scifi literature.

RoboCop’s “Robo-vision.” I realize this film was made in the 80s, but I just love how his operating system is MSDOS.

The montage of Robo cleaning up the streets, I wanted more of that as a kid, it was one of my favorite parts.

Is that a prototype smart phone with Googlemaps?

The score by Basil Poledouris is amazing, he used synthesized and orchestral music which mirrors the man versus machine theme of the film. He even uses and anvil, can you hear it? It’s like they’re building Robocop right then and there. I just love the film’s theme, it’s grand and somber at the same time.

 

The cop cars, there’s something to be said about the simplicity and non-special-ness of them, I mean they don’t even have hub caps, and that speaks to the state of things.

There’s the no look shot, luv it!

The bad; how was this made in to a cartoon and then marketed to kids? But I ate it up, I had those cap firing toys.

Here’s one logic thing… RoboCop is a new product, and they just let it loose on the public without extensive testing?! Ok I’ll go with it.

There are so many DVDs released of this first movie that there isn’t a definitive edition. There are versions out there that are better than the Criterion Edition.

I actually like the sequel… but the other stuff after that, especially that third movie… sheesh.

Overall, I love this movie, and I could go on and on about it, but I have to stop somewhere.
It came out in 1987 and Murphy has always been a part of me, crazy right? I saw this movie when I was 7 years old. What was I doing watching an R-rated film? Well, it was 1987 and I was in the first grade, the movie had come out in theatres and my uncle was still in the Navy, he had gotten a very good bootleg betamax copy and I watched that video tape over and over again. So, I don’t know why 7 year old me was allowed to watch this movie, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I would pair a viewing of RoboCop with IBC Rootbeer.

The Independent Breweries Company (IBC) was founded in St. Louise, Missouri in 1919. The Griesedieck Family found Root Beer as a legal market during the Prohibition era. The company has been bought and sold since its inception, most recently (2008) is spun off in to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
Bottled IBC Root Beer will keep you refreshed during the whole movie. With every turn in OCP policy, IBC will be there with you.

They never touched upon the whole romantic relationship, purposely putting Lewis as an equal and not this sexualized cop.

Open a bottle and raise a toast to one of my favorite movies… ever! Because at the core of this film, it’s about humanity overcoming restrictions, not just the physical with the cybernetic attachments and programming, but overcoming corporate greed and corruption. Murphy is literally put through the ringer and he emerges triumphant at the end. It’s a resurrection story, a dead civil servant comes back to life and then he walks on water at the end, becoming as Verhoeven put it, “the American Jesus,” a Christ-figure walking over water with a gun, brilliant. If you’ve seen RoboCop before, watch it again and notice the small things, like how Murphy’s voice isn’t modulated once his helmet comes off, or how he sees his reflection through a warped piece of metal. And I have to mention ED-209, I love that design! I didn’t care that it was stop motion. And… this film is more relevant now that ever, a militarized police force, that’s only science fiction fantasy…

Here are some of my RoboCop toys;

Fade out-
Eugene

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