Revisited: RoboCop

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the near future, Detroit, Michigan, is a dystopia and on the verge of total collapse and anarchy due to financial ruin and a high crime rate, higher than any large American city. To avoid mass collapse, the city mayor has signed a deal with the mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP), allowing them to run and control the underfunded police force in exchange for giving OCP the freedom to demolish the poor run-down sections of Detroit and construct a high-end utopia called “Delta City,” to be managed by OCP as an independent city-state free of the United States. However, OCP must clean the city of crime in order for the plan to be put in effect.

This move angers the police officers as they are now forced to obey OCP instead of the city, and they threaten to strike, but OCP evaluates other options for law enforcement. OCP senior president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) offers the prototype ED-209 enforcement droid, but when it accidentally kills a board member during a demonstration, the OCP chairman, nicknamed “The Old Man” (Dan O’Herlihy), decides to go with the experimental cyborg design titled “RoboCop” as suggested by the younger Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer). His decision disgusts Jones, who objects to the idea of a human having robotic parts.

Because a recently-deceased officer is needed for the RoboCop prototype, OCP reassigns police officers to more crime-ridden districts, expecting officers to be killed in the line of duty. One such officer is Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller), who is teamed with Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), a rookie police officer. On their first patrol, they chase down a gang led by the ruthless criminal Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), tailing them to an abandoned steel mill. When Murphy and Lewis are separated, Boddicker’s gang corner him, then gun him down with shotguns.

Murphy is pronounced dead and is chosen by Morton for the RoboCop program. As RoboCop, he is given three primary directives: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law, as well as a fourth classified directive that Morton doesn’t know of. He single-handedly and efficiently cleans Detroit of crime, and Morton is given praise for his success. This draws Jones’ anger with Morton’s plan working perfectly while Jones’s ED-209 is ridiculed. Lewis eventually discovers that RoboCop is really Murphy. Murphy experiences past events from his life and, at one point, returns to his former home, finding out that his wife and son have long since moved away, thinking that Murphy has died.

Later on, as Morton shares cocaine with two prostitutes, Boddicker arrives, forces the prostitutes to leave, then shoots Morton’s legs, crippling him. He then shows him the message from Jones, explaining that he hired the killer to execute him for going over his head and not going through the proper channels of OCP. Boddicker then places a grenade on the table and abandons the crippled executive, leaving him to die after Jones tells him he is ‘cashing him out’.

Murphy tracks down Boddicker to a cocaine factory and threatens to kill him, but Boddicker admits his affiliation with Jones, and is able to verbally trigger RoboCop’s law-abiding directive. Murphy finds he cannot kill Boddicker and arrests him instead. He approaches Jones at OCP headquarters and attempts to make an arrest, but Jones reveals he planted the hidden fourth directive that prevents Murphy from taking any action against an OCP executive. Jones explains his larger goal of taking over OCP, and confesses to Morton’s murder. Although he orders his personal ED-209 to kill Murphy, Lewis is able to help Murphy escape and takes him to the same steel mill at which he was murdered to repair himself and recover. There, Lewis learns that much of his personality still exists intact.

Meanwhile, the police force, under further duress by OCP and fearing their replacement by the RoboCop program, finally goes on strike and crime runs rampant. Boddicker regroups his gang to take out Murphy using anti-tank rifles and a tracking device provided by Jones. They converge on the steel mill, but Murphy and Lewis are able to fend off the attack and kill the gang, although Lewis is wounded. Murphy assures her that medical help is on the way, and heads back to OCP, easily destroying the ED-209 guarding Jones using one of the anti-tank rifles.

He arrives at the board room where Jones is offering his ED-209 to replace the Detroit Police Department, which is still out on strike. Murphy replays Jones’s confession, which reveals his duplicity to the board, and explains that he is unable to act against an OCP officer. Jones threatens to kill The Old Man unless he’s given a helicopter. The Old Man immediately fires Jones, which gives RoboCop clearance to kill him by shooting him out the window. The Old Man thanks RoboCop and asks for his name, to which RoboCop replies, “Murphy.”

REVIEW:

The city of Detroit has fallen on some hard times of late, but if there is one thing they haven’t lost it is that they are the city in which RoboCop was based. Ironically, this film was set in the future and now “old Detroit” resembles actual Detroit. As a staple of 80s R-rated action, this is surely worth a viewing, right? Especially since I’m not in the most pleasant of moods right now since the President has taken over the airwaves and I’m missing Agent Carter and I already missed The Flash thanks to traffic. Let’s hope this cheers me up.

What is this about?

A monolithic corporation controlling a futuristic, crime-riddled Detroit transforms a dead cop into a cybernetic law-enforcement unit called Robocop.

What did I like?

Commercials. I hate commercials. When they come on, that’s when I flip through channels. When ads pop up on YouTube, I press the skip button, or open another window and do some random surfing. However, the commercials that are interspersed throughout this film caught my attention, mainly because they are just random cutaways and the products they are advertising are just plain ridiculous, such as a Battleship-type game called “Nuke ‘Em” that the whole family can enjoy. You know, I was watching these things and started pondering whether or not this is where Cowboy Bebop got the idea for their random broadcasts.

Satire. When you look at this film, the last thing you think of is that it is a comedy, unless you count the 80s cheesiness of it, of course, but truth be told, there is so much satirical material in here that a few tweaks to the script would have totally changed its genre. For instance, the big corporation running everything was supposed to be an allegory for how “big brother” was going to look out for us in the future. Debate whether that happened or not. Some theories have compared the death and “resurrection” of Officer Murphy to Jesus. Yes, you read that right! Apparently, this was the director’s intent, going even further by having the idea of him walking through water at one point in the film symbolize Jesus’ walk on water. Of course, there are the aforementioned commercials which take consumer culture at the time and turn it on its head with how ridiculous they are. Who would have thought this little action movie would have such a message hidden underneath, right?

Hemoglobin. Ah, good ol’ 80s R-rated action flicks! There truly is nothing like them. Why? Well, just look at the death scenes! They are bloody as hell. Peter Weller’s character gets his hand shot off, then has a firing squad of shotgun shells put in him, followed by a show from a pistol, and we see all this bloody goodness. In an earlier scene, the ED-209 shoots up a guy in the office and the blood gushes like no one’s business. This is not to forget the guy at the end who crashes into a vat of toxic waste, has his skin melting and then is smashed by his bosses car. Back then this kind of stuff was allowed, and it was awesome! Today, well the fact that horror movies are rated PG-13 and don’t have killing in them most of the time, even if they are a slasher flick, should tell you something.

What didn’t I like?

Partner. The main character of this film is Peter Weller’s Robocop and he is mostly a solo act, but for some reason I wanted more from his partner. Granted, this is a woman who watched her brand new partner get brutally gunned down, and there really wasn’t much of a connection developed between them beforehand. That being said, a partner is a partner, and in the world of 80s cinema, females either have extreme compassion or develop feelings for their male counterparts, sometimes both. In Allen’s case, she does the former, but there is no reason for her to be in the film past the shooting, other than to tell Weller that his wife and kid are gone.

Wife and son. Speaking of the wife and son, we never really see them, other than in flashbacks. When Weller, as Robocop, returns to his home, they are gone, it is up for sale, and everything looks like it survived a mini house fire. What is wrong with this, you ask? Well, the duration of the film where Weller is a cyborg, he is struggling to find his humanity. What is more human that the two most important things in a man’s life? Surely, they would have helped him with that. On another point, I can’t see the wife just letting her husband’s body be donated to an experiment like this and then just packing up and leaving town, even if it is Detroit and they just moved there.

Mr. Ed. There is no bigger proponent of stop-motion animation than I, and the fact that they used this technique on a mechanical creature, the ED-209, rather than dinosaurs and mythical creatures was something that I appreciated (the dinosaur in one of the commercials is stop-motion, now that I think about it). While I appreciated it, that doesn’t mean it worked. Maybe this is just something that hasn’t stood the test of time, but there is a look to the film that is sleek and sophisticated, dare I say modern or even futuristic (for the time that this was released), and then there is ED-209, who is supposed to be even more futuristic looking, but comes off as more of a cartoon. Making matters worse is that this is supposed to be a giant killing machine that is meant to uphold the law. How can you take something like this seriously when it can’t walk down stairs without falling and then squealing like a pig? For comic relief, that was fine, but it didn’t fit in with what this thing was supposed to do.

With all the police issue going around these days, RoboCop is just what we need. I highly doubt he would have choked a guy to death for just standing there, or killed a guy who hadn’t committed a crime, or any of the other things that have been reported (and not reported) involving police and their killing the public. This is a good 80s escape film. What I mean by that is you will be transported back to the 80s when you watch this, and that isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, there is a remake that was released which I’m sure just defecated all over the legacy of this film, but you can never go wrong with the original! So, do I recommend this picture? Yes, very highly!

4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Revisited: RoboCop”

  1. […] How the accident really affected his wife and kid and all that. I don’t believe the original Robocop gave us that. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall the wife leaving after he became a cyborg. So, […]

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