Saturday, February 15, 2014

Franchises: RoboCop. RoboCop (1987)

File:Robocop film.jpgThe late 80's and early-to-mid 90's were a bizarre time when it came to kids' marketing. This was when you had certain characters that were being marketed towards kids even though they originated from films that were anything but kid-friendly. You had that Rambo animated series, Rambo: The Force of Freedom, which began airing in 1986, the year after Rambo: First Blood Part II was a monster hit, as well as a fair number of video games based on the character; Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos; all of those toys that were based on the monsters and characters of the Alien and Predator movies, a lot of which took advantage of the popularity of the Aliens vs. Predator comic books; and James Bond Jr. (which was actually about James Bond's nephew). All of this stuff came from adult-oriented, mostly R-rated, movies that a majority of the country's parents would never, ever let their kids watch and yet, because of this marketing, everybody who grew up in this time period knew about them. Even if you had never been allowed to see a Rambo movie or the myriad of action movies that Chuck Norris did for Cannon Films at that time, you knew who John Rambo was or you also knew who Chuck Norris was since his name was part of his persona. For that matter, a good number of kids probably knew who Hicks from Aliens was since he was an action figure. This is the kind of stuff you would never see nowadays, not only because heads of marketing simply wouldn't do it but also because I don't think they would ever make an R-rated movie with elements that would appeal to kids nowadays. It was, for lack of a better term, a very different time.

The character of Robocop definitely falls into this unusual category. When I was growing up, Robocop was one of those things that I recognized the minute I saw it. Even though I had never seen the movies, he was such an established part of popular culture, and was so well-known amongst kids, that I didn't need to. Actually, he's one of those things that's so recognizable that I can't even remember when I first became aware of him (the fact that the first film was released the very year I was born no doubt contributes to that as well). I do know, though, that a local diner in my town once had arcade games that were no doubt meant to be keep the kids entertained while parents either tried to eat or have conversations and for a little while, they had an arcade game based on Robocop which, again, I instantly recognized and knew what the goal of the game would be just from knowing what it was based on. It was a lot smaller than typical arcade machines and the game itself was quite difficult but I do remember playing it a few times and having fun with it. So, basically, long before I saw the movies, I knew the basics of Robocop. I knew his design, the weapons he has (I always remembered the gun he keeps in a compartment in his right leg because that was featured in the arcade game), etc. What I didn't know at the time but would eventually learn is that, given the film he originated from, I and the rest of the kids of America probably shouldn't have been so familiar with him.

It was around middle-school when I started to learn that, despite being marketed towards kids for a good majority of his time in the public consciousness, Robocop came from a film series that was not at all meant for young viewers. I read up on it and learned that the films, at least the first two, were quite controversial for how unapologetically violent they were. Around this time, AMC showed the original film for the first time on there and also had an episode of their series Backstory to go along with it and while I didn't see either of them, I did see advertisements that showed the interview clips where the cast and crew mentioned the hard time the film had with the MPAA. I also began seeing the RoboCop Trilogy DVD box-set available at places like Wal-Mart and when I would look on the back of the box, I would read descriptions of how violent and action-packed the original film was. John Stanley in his Creature Features guide book to horror and science fiction films, as well as the authors of other review books, actually felt compelled to warn anybody who hadn't seen the film yet about how violent it was (although they did generally give it glowing reviews), which surprised me. Most review books do have ratings and content descriptions for the movies they talk about but the fact that these critics felt that they needed to warn people in the actual review about the film's extreme content was what piqued my interest. Regardless, while I did see a fair amount of RoboCop 2 at several points, I actually didn't see the original film until 2007 when I bought the 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD. After watching it one night soon afterward, I thought it was a pretty damn good flick. I could see why this movie got such high marks, even from critics like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskell who typically looked down at extremely violent movies like this. Not only was I impressed with the action, which is the initial draw of the film, but I also liked the satire of 80's culture and corporate business as well as the themes of lost identity and humanity. And it was also because of this film that I grew not to care as much for the sequels, despite the enjoyable parts that I feel those movies do have. This one has a heart, spirit, and intelligence to it that clearly became quite difficult to replicate once it became a franchise.

While it had a far above-average script courtesy of writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, RoboCop could have easily become an exciting but very campy and run-of-the-mill sci-fi/action movie in the hands of most directors who probably wouldn't have taken it as seriously as they should have. But when Orion pictures got Paul Verhoeven to direct the film, they ensured that it would be unique and unforgettable in many ways, most notably in the violence. If you know anything about Verhoeven, you know that he doesn't hold back at all when it comes to violence and/or sexuality. By the time he moved to Hollywood in 1984 to pursue much bigger filmmaking opportunities, he had already made a name for himself in his home country of the Netherlands with films that were critically acclaimed, most notably the Oscar-nominated Turkish Delight and Golden Globe-nominated Soldier of Orange, but were also quite controversial due to their extreme content (his 1980 film Spetters especially got him in hot water due to its graphic sexuality, some of which is homosexual in nature). He's also got quite an interesting personality, which you would know very well if you see interviews with him where he's typically talking at a mile-a-minute in that Dutch accent of his or behind-the-scenes footage of his films where he's excitedly and loudly yelling his directions (which is actually why I like listening to him). In any case, since Orion had distributed his first English-language picture, Flesh and Blood, he was one of their choices to direct RoboCop and while he initially had no interest in doing this type of film, it was his wife who informed him that the film's script had more layers and meat to it than he originally thought. I don't know if Orion quite knew what they were getting into when they hired Verhoeven, though. RoboCop ended up being so violent in its initial cut that it took twelve passes with the MPAA before the film finally got an R-rating and even then, it was still unbelievable how extreme this film was. But, of course, the film was a big hit when it was released in the summer of 1987 so Orion had no room to complain. The success also assured Verhoeven's Hollywood career since he would go on to direct other successful films like Total Recall and Basic Instinct, both of which were also quite controversial, especially the latter. Granted, he has had some stumbling blocks in his career like the infamous Showgirls and less than critically-beloved films like Starship Troopers and Hollow Man (the latter two of which I really enjoy, personally) but still, I don't think there's any doubt that he's a director who deserves to be very respected overall for his achievements.

Some actors seemed to have been born simply to play certain roles. Christopher Reeve was born to play Superman, Sean Connery was born to be James Bond, Sylvester Stallone was born to create and play Rocky Balboa, and Peter Weller was almost certainly meant to be Robocop. There's no two ways about it. The character is interesting in that Weller is basically playing a dual role. Before he becomes the title character, Weller plays Alex Murphy, a police officer who's just been transferred to the Metro West Precinct in Old Detroit, one of the most dangerous and crime-riddled areas of the city. We don't get to spend too much time with Murphy before he's attacked and nearly killed but we do learn enough about him to the point where we like him. He comes across as very likable and professional, even a little bit joking and playful with how he interacts with his partner Anne Lewis, telling her that he always drives when he's breaking in a new partner and when she jumps in their squad car upon hearing that there's a crime going on nearby, he enthusiastically reacts, "Why don't you drive?!" and hops in with her. We also see that Murphy likes to spin his pistol around on his fingers, something that's often done by the lead character on a TV show that his son watches. Murphy at first says that he does it to just be a role model to his son but he does admit to Lewis that he actually loves doing it too. That's another thing that we first get a sense of but then gradually learn about Murphy: he's a loving husband and father. After he's been blasted to pieces and is taken to the hospital, we see images of his wife and son flashing through his mind as the life slowly and surely drains out of him, including one that has have been them waving goodbye to him as he was driving away to work that morning: i.e. the last time he saw them. And when he goes back to his old house after having become Robocop, we see more flashes of the nice life he had with them before all of this happened. We may not be given an extensive backstory on Murphy or anything during the first quarter of the film but we learn enough about him to where we genuinely like him and these other flashes of the life he had with his family help us to really sympathize with him and feel the tragedy of the character when they come back to haunt him after he becomes Robocop.

Murphy becomes a more complex character after he's transformed into Robocop. When he first becomes aware after being resurrected as the cyborg, he simply follows the directives that are programmed into him: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law, which he does so well that it's predicted that he will solve Old Detroit's out of control crime problem very soon. The only hint of his once having been Murphy is his habit of twirling his gun before placing it back inside his built-in holster. However, it's not too long before Murphy's memories begin creeping back into his subconscious, most notably the images of his killers firing on him. After having a nightmare about them, Robocop heads out to go on duty, undoubtedly believing these images are his sensors informing him that there's a crime in progress nearby. However, he becomes visibly rattled when he's confronted by Anne Lewis and she calls him as Murphy. It's obvious that hearing the name triggers something within his mind but he's not exactly sure what. He gets another jolt when he encounters one of his killers while he's trying to rob a gas station, hearing him say, "You're dead! We killed you!" and also recognizing his face from the nightmare he had. When he goes into the police archives and looks up the guy's profile, he finds that one of his associates is Clarence Boddicker, whom he recognizes as the man who was the most prominent in his nightmare, and remembering how Lewis referred to him as Murphy, discovers that Boddicker's rap sheet includes a charge for the murder of Alex Murphy and Robocop actually sees a picture of himself on the computer. He goes to Murphy's old residence and as he walks through the house, it triggers more concrete memories from his past life, confusing and emotionally torturing him even further, culminating in him smashing a monitor that's playing an advertisement for the now "up for sale" house. Consumed with a desire for revenge due to the torture he's caused him, Robocop tracks Boddicker down and almost does him in but the criminal himself reminds him that he's a cop and he remembers his directive of upholding the law. Despite how much he wants to kill Boddicker, Murphy's sense of devotion to his duty has come back into Robocop's mind and he decides to simply arrest him instead of exacting his revenge.

Murphy's mind, as well as his soul, comes back into Robocop as much as it can when, after nearly being destroyed in a big shootout, the cyborg repairs himself and takes his helmet off, revealing Murphy's face atop the mechanical head. Upon learning that his wife and son have moved away, Robocop admits, "I can feel them, but I can't remember them." That's what I meant when I said that Murphy comes back into Robocop as much as he possibly can. He has the slightest twinge of his past life as well as images from it but there's no real substance to it all. They're just flashes and feelings that come and go in his mind that he doesn't fully understand. Peter Weller manages to make the transition from Robocop back to a facsimile of Alex Murphy not only with the dialogue that he's given but with his actual voice. He starts off Robocop with a very deep, robotic voice, complete with an electronic grizzle behind it. However, if you listen carefully, you may notice that the electronic sound gradually goes away until the film's final act when it's much softer and sounds like the natural voice he had as Murphy, albeit still with a detectable machine quality and tone to it. It subtly gets across the idea that, even though he's still a cyborg and will remain so, Murphy the man is still present within him. The fact that we can now see his face again after looking at a featureless helmet and a lower jaw for a good half of the film also helps get this across. I like that it was a very gradual progression in that we started out with Murphy, went to Robocop for most of the film, saw a little bit of his eye after his helmet's visor was damaged during his battle with ED-209, and then went back to the face of Murphy for the rest of the film. Finally, and most importantly, he's accepted the fact that, even though he may not be able to remember everything fully, he was and, to an extent, still is Murphy, going so far as to identify himself as such when asked his name by the Old Man of OCP.

Even though he came from a movie that was not at all kid-friendly, I actually understand the reason why they thought it would be an effective idea to try to market Robocop himself to kids: he looks really cool. The design of the suit by Rob Bottin is just classic, very reminiscent of what you'd see in a comic book. As many have said, you can see the inspirations that the designers took from the character of Judge Dredd, with the visor-fitted helmet, the big shoulders, the large gun, and so on, as well as just in regards to the basic concept of a larger than life figure whose mission is to uphold the law. Putting even that aside, it's purely and simply a very awe-inspiring creation, leaving little wonder as to why it's become so iconic. While I personally prefer the blue color to the armor that would be added in RoboCop 2, which was actually an aborted idea for this film due to the blue causing a lot of glare on the camera, the silver-gray here still looks really nice. As you might expect, he's incredibly strong, able to break through walls and bend gun barrels with ease and his armor can take a lot of punishment. He also has some real cool features built into him like his lethally accurate targeting system, ability to record and playback, a spike that comes out of the back of his hand which he uses to interface with computers (as he demonstrates at the end of the film, it can also be used as a makeshift weapon), and, my favorite, the gun holster that's built into his right leg. I don't know why but I've always loved the images of that thing opening up, him either taking his gun out or putting it in, and the holster closing back up, making those mechanical whirring sounds as it does so. I guess the reason why is because, again, it just makes me think of pulpy science fiction stories and comic books, which I can't help but smile at. And, of course, you have Robocop's bad-ass gun, which is a modified Beretta 93R. It not only looks imposing, with its very large barrel (which is purposely meant to invoke images of a coffin) and butt, but it actually shoots a bunch of shots at one time for maximum damage and has a very loud, jarring sound to it. Combine that with his state of the art targeting system and you've an opponent that no criminal in his right mind would want to tangle with.

The effects work involving Robocop himself that never fails to make my jaw drop is the actual face of Alex Murphy on top of the robot head, which you see in all of its glory throughout the last quarter of the film. That is stunning and the reason for it is because it's obviously Peter Weller and not an animatronic. The entire thing looks positively real, like they actually skinned off Weller's face and placed it on top of a mechanical body. Since Weller wore a bald cap, they built the back of Robocop's head on top of the cap and left Weller's face completely exposed but with minute, flesh-colored appliances attached to the edge of his face that overlap the mechanical part of the cap, as if his face had been stapled or sewn onto it and the end result makes it look like there's a seam between the face and the mechanics, which would be there if this were real. The neck is clearly rubber instead of metal when Weller speaks but that's the only flaw here; otherwise, it's uncanny and it's a good thing that it looked as well as it did because this issue was a major bone of contention between Paul Verhoeven and Rob Bottin. Bottin, as he often does, wanted the face to be in the shadows so as not to expose the makeup effects but Verhoeven overruled him, telling director of photography Jost Vocano to light the face as brightly as he could. Verhoeven told Bottin that Vocano could light in it a way that wouldn't reveal the effect but Bottin was not at all happy about this (it was one of many clashes he had with Verhoeven) and vowed never to work with the director again. But, when they saw the finished film, they were so amazed by how good the effect looked that they were able to bury the hatchet and Bottin, as we know, worked with Verhoeven again on his very next film, Total Recall, which netted him an Oscar.

One aspect of Weller's performance as Robocop that I've always really enjoyed is the physicality that he puts into the role. First off, I've always liked the way he walks and moves in the suit. Although that thing was quite heavy and cumbersome, Weller, working with a movement and mime teacher from Juilliard, came up with a way to overcome such physical limitations and created a way of movement that's very smooth and elegant, almost balletic in some instances. He may not be able to run fast but the way he's able to turn his head, aim with his arms, and pivot his body in such fast and graceful ways more than makes up for it. You also got to love the way he walks in a very confident, striding motion with his arms swinging back and forth. Another thing I like is the way Weller is able to move his head in such a way that it does feel like a machine that's scanning the area around it, keeping his neck rather stiff as he moves it and having a slight jerk whenever it comes to a dead and sudden stop as he focuses on something. Those movements, combined with the mechanical sound effects, would make you swear that what you're seeing is a real cyborg. Finally, what can't be underestimated at all is Weller's ability to convey emotion when all you can see is his lower jaw, which is the case for the majority of the film. He keeps it stiff and static when he's playing Robocop in the most basic of ways but when the memories of Alex Murphy start to flood back into his brain, you can clearly see the feelings of anguish, confusion, and pain he's experiencing long before he takes his helmet off at the beginning of the movie's final act. That is not at all easy to do and Weller pulls it off so well that it's a wonder why he's not a much bigger and more respected actor than he is.

If there's one person who knows that Murphy still dwells within Robocop, it's Anne Lewis, the hardened cop who's partnered up with Murphy on that disastrous first assignment. Paul Verhoeven has a knack for casting against type, taking actors with an established film persona and then turning those expectations on their head. That's certainly true in the casting of Nancy Allen as Lewis. Allen was mainly known for playing bitchy and unlikable roles, most notably in Carrie, but here, she's the polar opposite of those roles. The minute you meet her, you know that she can take care of herself with the way she single-handedly beats this rebelling criminal into submission. And she doesn't just punch him, she knocks his lights out! As a result of her toughness, she's far from a damsel in distress, unlike a lot of the female characters in these types of films. She's more than able to take care of herself and deal with violent criminals on her own. True, she makes mistakes, like when she allows Cox to knock her out but, I didn't say she was perfect. I just said that she was strong and courageous. The other stuff that she does in the movie, especially near the end when she and Robocop are battling Boddicker's, more than makes up for her mistakes. If you're able to blow someone up after you've been shot several times, then you're a bad-ass in my opinion. That last part with her, where she goes, "Murphy, I'm a mess!" is the only time in the movie where you hear any sort of distress or whining from her but by that point, with every member of Boddicker's gang dead and the absolute hell that she's been through, I think she's allowed to drop her toughness for a little bit. One thing I find so ironic is how Susan Faludi, a staunch feminist author, described RoboCop as being one of many action movies where, "women are reduced to mute and incidental characters or banished altogether." That statement fuels my belief that a lot of these people who complain about movies often don't actually watch the movies they're complaining about. If Ms. Faludi had actually watched RoboCop and paid attention to the character of Anne Lewis, she probably wouldn't have written something that makes her look so dumb... either that or she actually did see the movie but wanted to rip on it anyway, which is another possibility.

As I was getting to, because she got to know Murphy more than anybody else before she was gunned down, Lewis is the first to recognize him as Robocop. As tough as Lewis comes across when we first meet her, you can tell that she does have a soft side through her interactions with Murphy, particularly during the scene where they've stopped for coffee while out on patrol and she notices him twirling his pistol. Murphy has gotten through her tough exterior so much that, even though she's undoubtedly been with a lot of cops who have been blown away, she's devastated when she finds Murphy's maimed and brain-dead body. She, like her fellow officers, are intrigued when she first sees Robocop and when she sees him twirl that gun, she immediately realizes who he is. You can tell that Lewis is quite shocked when she talks to Robocop for the first time and it becomes clear that he doesn't remember her at all, even though she knows that he's Murphy. But even so, when Robocop is being gunned down by the police after Dick Jones tells them that he's gone nuts and is on a rampage, Lewis disobeys her orders and helps him to escape, knowing full well that this is all a mistake. She takes Robocop to a steel mill (ironically, the same one where Boddicker and his gang shot him up) where he can recover and repair himself and she also brings him his weapon from the police station as well as a drill that he uses to remove his helmet. This may seem like something trivial to mention but it's actually quite important because Lewis provides Robocop with the first step in regaining his identity, i.e. being able to see his face again. She also helps him along by always referring to him as Murphy, never as Robocop, and attempting to comfort him when he laments about he can feel his wife and son, "but I can't remember them." And of course, she aids him in the final battle with Boddicker's gang. She helps him get his targeting system back on track after it was damaged in the previous shootout; when the gang arrives, Lewis refuses to leave Robocop, even when he suggests that she should, telling him that they're a team; and, as I said, she kills one of the gang members when Robocop is temporarily incapacitated. After all of this, there's no way that you can't like Lewis. She's not only tough and courageous but also as loyal as a person can be and since she still sees Murphy as her partner despite his new mechanical appearance, she absolutely refuses to leave him behind.

None of the other members of the police department are that memorable, save for the major exception of Warren Reed (Robert DoQui), the tough but fair desk sergeant of the precinct. Like Lewis, you know how tough he is when you first meet him as he dealing with a guy who's been brought in for attempted murder and his sleazy lawyer, who's actually trying to get Reed to strike a deal. Reed, however, is having none of it and proceeds to grab the lawyer and tell him, "Your client's a scumbag, you're a scumbag, and scumbags see the judge on Monday morning! Now, get out of my office and take laughing boy with you!" before quite literally throwing both of them out. He also makes it clear that he's not at all happy with the constant talk about strike that's going around the precinct, knowing that without a police force, Old Detroit would have no chance whatsoever. He tells the officers, "I don't want to hear any more talk about strike. We're not plumbers. We're police officers. And police officers don't strike." And later on in the movie when the issue of strike comes up again, Reed grabs Kaplan, the officer who's been the biggest proponent for it, and yells, "You listen to me, you asshole! You're talking about shutting down a major metropolitan police force! Without cops, this city would tear itself apart!" But, as much as he hates the idea of a strike, he can't blame his fellow officers for hating OCP and what it's doing to the police force, especially when Bob Morton just waltzes in, places Robocop in the back of the department, and shows no respect for him whatsoever, especially when Lewis ends up causing problems for Morton by asking Robocop his name. He tells Reed right then, "...try and keep one thing in mind. This project doesn't concern cops. It's classified. It's OCP. Got it?" You can see the hatred Reed has for both Morton and the company when he looks at him before answering, "Yeah, I got it." All in all, Reed may not have much of a role in the film's story but even so, he's very memorable due to DoQui's performance and is another character whom you grow to really like.

The people at OCP (Omni Consumer Products), the company in the film that not only creates Robocop but also basically owns Detroit, are quite an interesting bunch, with few, if any, members who have morals. Surprisingly, the Old Man (Dan O'Herlihy), the unnamed CEO whom you'd expect to be the film's big bad, actually comes across as quite benevolent (in this first film, anyway). True, when ED-209 horribly malfunctions during a board demonstration and shoots one poor guy to pieces, the only thing the Old Man can see it as is yet another failure from the expensive machine, telling Dick Jones, "I'm very disappointed." So, he doesn't have much regard for human life in that instance but when you consider that his ultimate plan is to wipe out crime in Old Detroit and put a safer, more peaceful city in its place, a plan that he's been developing for over a decade, you have to think that there's a good heart in there somewhere. Again, even though he cared more about the money being wasted on ED-209 rather than the fact that it just killed someone right in his board room, he's quick to jump onto Bob Morton's Robocop plan, which will ensure that construction on Delta City can begin as soon as possible. And the look of absolute shock and horror on his and everyone else's face when they learn that Dick Jones had Morton killed out of revenge for upstaging him with Robocop shows that he has enough morals to not even consider doing that. In conclusion, the Old Man may not be the most sensitive or tactful person when it comes to certain things but he's certainly not evil either (at least, that's how I see him), a fact that makes me hate the extreme case of flanderization he went through in the sequel, which we'll get into during that film's review.

Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), the president of OCP, on the other hand, is someone whose bad side you definitely don't want to find yourself on, as Bob Morton learns the hard way. He's the very definition of a corrupt businessman. He's more than willing to supply the Old Man with a malfunctioning mechanical monster like ED-209 that could easily kill innocent people, reassuring him that it's dangerousness is only a glitch in the process. He may be visibly embarrassed that the thing keeps screwing up but, due to the enormous profit he could get from it, especially from military interest, he doesn't really care. As he tells Morton, "I had a guaranteed military sale with ED-209. Renovation program. Spare parts for 25 years. Who cares if it worked or not?!" In fact, this scene in particular gives you a front row seat to the facets of Jones' personality. The first, as I've said, is this determination to push his creation, regardless of whether it works properly or not. The second is that, as much as he kisses up to the Old Man, he has no respect for him. He not only tells Morton that when he was a young executive, he would insult the Old Man behind his back, but also informs him that he's looking forward to taking his job over when he eventually does pass away, which he will since he's number two at the company, letting Morton know in no uncertain terms that there'll be no hope for him once that happens. And finally, that leads us to the third and most obvious aspect of Jones: he does not take well to being upstaged by or having some young upstart like Morton go over his head. Morton has no idea how serious Jones is when he tells him that he just, "fucked with the wrong guy." Everybody else around him knows, though, with how they constantly warn Morton not mess with Jones and how they all panic and quickly leave the men's room once they realize that Morton just unknowingly insulted Jones when he was a few feet away from him. The other executives are scared to death of Jones, with one accidentally peeing on himself as he tries to get out of the men's room before Jones lays into Morton, and they have good reason to be. Jones eventually hires Clarence Boddicker to kill Morton and later when Robocop attempts to take him in, attempts to have him killed and when that doesn't work, reports to the police force that he's gone berserk in an attempt to have them gun him down. Finally, when Robocop reveals Jones for the murderous sociopath that he is to the board of OCP, Jones gets desperate enough to take the Old Man hostage to keep everyone else at bay, demanding a helicopter for his escape. Fortunately, the Old Man fires Jones, terminating Robocop's fourth directive that keeps him from acting against anyone who works for OCP (which Jones himself had implanted into Robocop, knowing that a situation like this might come up) and allowing him to kill Jones.

Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), the young executive who comes up with the idea for Robocop, may not be so amoral that he would kill anyone, directly anyway, to get ahead, but he's hardly a model person in and of himself. Even though his creation turns out to be the best answer to Old Detroit's extreme crime problem, the only he created Robocop in the first place is because it would ensure him a spot higher up in the company, which it does. He only cares about himself and is willing to do anything that he can to increase his stature, constantly sucking up to the Old Man and jumping at the opportunity to bring the Robocop program to his attention when ED-209 malfunctions. And, like I said, while he doesn't kill anybody directly, he does tell the Old Man that they've had the best candidates for the program sent into the most hazardous sections of Old Detroit (which is why Murphy was transferred from his original precinct), confident that they'll have the first prototype ready within 90 days. His attitude about the whole thing is fully displayed when, after being asked when the project will get started, he responds, "As soon as some poor schmuck volunteers." He also has no respect for anyone, least of all Sergeant Reed, whom he treats like garbage, telling him that the Robocop project has nothing to do with the police force and that he and everyone else should stay out of it. He knows Reed can't do anything about that attitude since OCP owns the force and you get the feeling that he's rubbing his nose in it. Once Robocop becomes a hit with the city, Morton is as happy as a clam with the fame and attention it brings him, allowing him to get promoted to vice president and spend a night snorting cocaine with a couple of sexy models. However, Morton's arrogance about Dick Jones is what leads to his downfall. He doesn't take his colleagues' warnings about Jones seriously, saying that his reputation is nothing, and while he does seem a little bit intimidated when Jones confronts him in the restroom, he immediately blows it off as being nothing but hot air, telling Jones, "You're out of your fucking mind!" Once Clarence Boddicker shows up at his house, shoots him in the leg, and leaves a grenade behind while playing a message from Jones, Morton knows he's screwed up big time and desperately tries to get out of it by promising Boddicker more money than what Jones is paying him. It doesn't work and Morton is unable to save himself, eventually getting blown to bits by the grenade, along with his entire house. He attained the wealth and position he wanted but, in the end, his greed did him in, with both him and his wealth literally going up in smoke.

Like the Old Man, another member of OCP who goes through severe flanderization throughout the franchise (actually more so than the Old Man since he appears in all three films) is Johnson (Felton Perry), who is part of Bob Morton's team and works with him on the Robocop project. In this first film, he doesn't have a lot of screentime but when he's present, he does come across as decent enough, save for the part where they're putting Robocop together and Johnson says of Murphy, "He signed a release when he joined the force. He's legally dead. We can do pretty much what we want to him." Aside from that moment of coldness, Johnson seems like a fairly good guy, being the main person who tries to warn Morton to be careful when it comes to Dick Jones and unlike Morton, actually seems a bit bad about Kinney, the poor guy whom ED-209 turned into a bloody mess in the boardroom, whereas Morton just says, "That's life in the big city." The bit at the end of the movie when Robocop kills Dick Jones after revealing that he had Morton murdered and took the Old Man hostage is one last sign of the kind of person Johnson is, giving Robocop a thumbs up for his good work. So, judging from this film, one would think that Johnson is one of the most decent members of OCP, which makes how he becomes in the sequels all the more shocking, as we'll see.

Dick Jones is but one of two major villains in the film, with the other being Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), the ruthless crime boss who's responsible for much of the crimes and deaths that take place in Old Detroit, including the murder of Alex Murphy. Boddicker is as cold-blooded, nasty, and evil as you can get. As the film begins, you learn that he and his gang are responsible for the deaths of over 31 police officers, not to mention that when Robocop searches his file later on, you see that his rap sheet includes many other crimes besides murder, including rape. During the first time you actually see him, which is when he and his gang are being pursued by Murphy and Lewis after having robbed a pharmaceutical company, you see that his own gang members don't mean much and can become expendable to him at the drop of a hat. He's not at all happy when he learns that during the robbery, Bobby (Freddie Hice), burnt the money, rendering it useless and proceeds to angrily berate and smack him for it and when Bobby gets injured during the ensuing chase, Boddicker decides that he's no longer of any use and has him thrown out the back of the van, onto the cops' windshield. Boddicker shows his sadistic side when his gang captures Murphy by first mocking him, then whacking him with his rifle, and finally, after informing him that he hates cops, running his rifle barrel over his body while making the sound of a tracking device until finally shooting Murphy right in the hand, blowing it completely off. As Murphy writhes in pain, Boddicker makes the sick joke, "Well, give the man a hand!" to his boys before letting them shoot Murphy to death. After Murphy has been shot dozens of times and is just barely clinging to life, Boddicker himself delivers the killing shot with a pistol blast to the head. The fact that he does it so casually is what's chilling. Killing people, especially cops, means absolutely nothing to him, and he gets some sadistic pleasure out of it as well, which is shown even more blatantly when he coldly kills Bob Morton. Instead of just shooting Morton once in the head and ending it right then and there, Boddicker draws it out by first crippling him by shooting him in the legs, playing a video message from Dick Jones to let Morton know that this is his doing, and finally, pulling a pin out of a grenade (looping his tongue around the ring before yanking it off with his teeth in an act that could be seen as slightly perverted on his part) and leaving it there on the table, no doubt knowing that Morton will try to get rid of it but will be too injured to do so, drawing out his psychological torture just a little bit further.

While meeting with a rival gang boss, Sal (Lee Debroux), at his cocaine factory, Boddicker makes it clear to him that he's not intimidated by his threats to put him out of business since his major connections downtown (OCP) make a lot of the other major criminals nervous. In fact, not only does Boddicker laugh off Sal's threats, he gives him some threats off his own, telling him, "I got the connections. I got the sales organization. I got the muscle to shove enough of this factory so far up your stupid wop ass that you'll shit snow for a year." Of course, Sal orders one of his men to kill Boddicker for that remark but Boddicker has already prepared for that, with his men drawing their own guns on Sal and his gang. That's enough to make Sal back off. However, Boddicker's tough, cold exterior begins to crack when Robocop bursts in and, after making short work of the gang members, throws the crime lord around, cutting his face by tossing him through glass. He almost kills Boddicker until he not only admits to Robocop that he works for Dick Jones but also reminds him that he's a cop, prompting his third directive of upholding the law to stop him from killing out of revenge. I like the part after that where Robocop takes Boddicker to the precinct and just as Sergeant Reed is about to book him, he spits blood on the paper, prompting Reed to protest and Boddicker to say, "Just give me my fucking phone call." After being released from jail, he's reluctant to take on Robocop again after Jones tells him to do so but when the OCP president offers him free reign to extend his criminal organization to the upcoming Delta City, Boddicker changes his mind, realizing that it's too good of a deal to pass up. Once he's outfitted with enough firepower to take Robocop down as well as a tracking device to find him, Boddicker rallies his gang to destroy him in the steel but, of course, Robocop, with the help of Lewis, manages to kill them all, with the cyborg himself finally getting revenge on Boddicker by stabbing him right in the neck with his data spike.

While none of Boddicker's gang members get as much screentime as he himself does, one thing that does become clear is that they're all just as sadistic as their boss. Probably the most memorable one is Emil (Paul McCrane), who acts as the van driver and whom we actually see committing a crime outside of the gang when he robs this gas station. This latter scene shows that, like his boss, he loves taunting and torturing people, with how he mocks the attendant for his reading while on the job and the fact that the guy is putting himself through college. Emil asks him if he'd like to find out if he's smarter than a bullet and if Robocop hadn't shown up, it's very possible that he would have killed the poor guy out of pure sadism. Emil also some other memorable moments, like when he's trying out Boddicker's newly acquired .50 caliber rifle and, after using it to blow something up, loudly exclaims, "I like it!", as well as his death scene, which is extremely gruesome with his skin melting off after he crashes into a tank of toxic waste and then accidentally being hit by Boddicker's car, his body splattering everywhere in the process. While not having as much as screentime as even Emil, Joe Cox (Jesse D. Goins) is another memorable character, mainly due to his tendency to talk in silly voices and laugh with a high-pitched, maniacal cackle. The way he taunts Murphy while they're brutalizing with his guns, asking, "Does it hurt?" in that silly voice as well as telling him, "Good night, sweet prince," after Boddicker has finished him off shows that he's just as unscrupulous and sadistic as the rest of the gang. However, his death is the least dramatic since he's the first one to get it during the final confrontation by being shot by Robocop. The last two gang members, Leon Nash (Ray Wise) and Steve Minh (Calvin Jung), are the least memorable. There are only two major things I remember about Leon. One is the scene where Robocop confronts him at a nightclub and he makes the dumb mistake of kicking him, injuring his foot in the process before being dragged outside by his hair. The other is his death scene, where Lewis uses one of the .50 caliber rifles to blow him up after he dropped a bunch of steel beams on top of Robocop. I don't remember any lines from him save for when he runs into the horribly disfigured Emil during the battle and, after screaming, yells, "Don't touch me, man!" before running off. And the only things I remember about Steve Minh are, one, he's of Asian descent, and two, his line to Robocop when he bursts into Sal's cocaine factory and tells them, "Come quietly or there will be trouble," which is, "Oh, fuck you!" I don't know why I remember that line since it's nothing special but I guess it's the way Jung said it.


Before... After
RoboCop is certainly not a movie for the squeamish or the faint of heart. While I've seen scores of other movies that have far more blood and gore, it's the actual amount of sheer violence and brutality in RoboCop that makes it such a notorious film and it ranges from being darkly comedic to downright disturbing. An example of the former is when ED-209 malfunctions and shoots poor Kinney to death during the board meeting. It's extremely gruesome, with blood and guts flying everywhere, and it goes on for quite a long time, to the point where when they finally manage to pull the plug, the guy is little more than a big, red stain in the room. And yet, it's so over the top that it's kind of funny and it's punctuated by the line that's said after it's over: "Somebody wanna call a goddamn paramedic?" The guy is obviously dead and yet he's asking for a paramedic, which is what makes it humorous. Another bit of humorous violence comes at the end of the movie when Robocop finally manages to kill Dick Jones. First off, the lead into it is funny, with the Old Man firing Jones, cancelling Robocop's fourth directive, and Robocop, in a deadpan way, says, "Thank you," before shooting Jones. And like the thing with ED-209, he doesn't just shoot Jones once or twice but quite a few times before the guy falls backwards out the window. The humor here is punctuated, probably unintentionally, by the clearly stop-motion model of Jones (with very long arms, I might add) that represents him falling to his death.

Other violent scenes, however, are anything but funny, the most notable being the horrific shooting of Murphy at the hands of Clarence Boddicker's gang. It's absolutely brutal and merciless. First, Boddicker himself shoots Murphy's right hand off and then, as the cop staggers to his feet and tries to limp away, Boddicker allows his gang members to unload on Murphy like a firing squad. They empty dozens and dozens of rounds into him and all the while, Murphy is screaming in complete agony. The fact that you can see they're getting a lot of sadistic pleasure from brutalizing the guy, including that moment where Joe Cox mockingly asks, "Does it hurt? Does it hurt?", makes it all the more disturbing. And after they used up their rounds, Boddicker himself finishes Murphy off with a shot to the head, giving us a close-up of the man's lifeless face as he falls backwards onto the ground. We see Murphy's body being taken to the hospital afterward but, as the doctors try to save him by putting air-hoses in his mouth and using a defibrillator on him, we can tell it's a lost cause. He doesn't respond at all, even when they rip his body armor and shirt off to give an injection into his chest, a gruesome close-up that, along with the flashes of his wife and son as well as his killers that we see are going through his mind as his life slips away, makes it even harder to watch. It's very effective in making you feel for Murphy and, as a result, you're definitely rooting for him to take revenge on his killers after he's resurrected as Robocop. Another disturbing death is that of Bob Morton. He may have been far from a decent guy but the way Boddicker coldly shoots him in the legs with a silenced pistol, creating some very nasty wounds, and how Morton yells in pain and screams at him to stop does make you feel some sympathy for the guy. Also, I'm also a bit disturbed by how, during all of this, that video message from Dick Jones is playing on the TV and Jones is sadistically taunting Morton, telling him that he just lost the game and that, "I'm cashing you out, Bob." And as I described before, Morton desperately tries to get ahold of the grenade that Boddicker leaves behind to throw it away, which I think cranks the suspense and tense, disturbing quality of the scene up just a little bit more. Finally, I have to mention the death of Emil. Some may see that as a darkly humorous death because it's very over the top but I would put it in the disturbing section, mainly due to the agonized howling he lets out as his skin is melting from the toxic waste he crashed into. He looks like he's in a major world of hurt during this bit, which you could say is justice for the pain he caused Murphy, but still, that does make me go, "Ooh, shit!" I guess his actual death, where he gets splattered because Boddicker accidentally hits him head-on with his car, is a bit funny, again, due to the over-the-top nature of it, but that's still pretty nasty in my opinion!

The gruesome makeup effects are the work of the amazing Rob Bottin, who also designed the look of Robocop. By this point, Bottin had already shown off his talents with the werewolf effects and transformations in The Howling and the absolutely outstanding and disgusting creature effects for John Carpenter's The Thing, so he was definitely the right guy to help Paul Verhoeven give RoboCop an even more visceral punch (although, according to documentaries on the film, their collaboration wasn't exactly smooth), something I don't say lightly, either. This violence in this film is quite bloodier than what you typically see in action movies. When people get shot, you often see big, blood-filled squibs explode in a gruesome display, as opposed to most action movies where the shots result in small, easy to miss wounds and the character just dropping dead. And like I've said, you see people suffer in this movie, from Murphy's brutal murder to Morton getting crippled by being shot in the legs and Emil staggering around with his skin melting off from the toxic waste. Speaking of Emil, his actual death is probably the most gruesome in terms of the amount of gore when he basically explodes upon getting hit by the car. Clarence Boddicker's actual death when Robocop stabs him right in the neck with his data spike is pretty gory too. You might not see much of the actual stab but you see a big glop of blood fall onto Robocop's chest as Boddicker, with blood oozing out from under the hand he's holding his neck with, staggers backwards before finally dropping dead. Unfortunately, one bit of impressive effects work that was virtually cut from the theatrical version completely was an animatronic dummy of Murphy that was originally used when Boddicker shoots him in the head. In the theatrical version, the film cuts from a close-up of Boddicker loading his pistol to a reaction shot of Murphy and back to Boddicker as he shoots Murphy, with that last tiny bit being the only shot of the dummy in this version; the unrated version, on the other hand, starts on the animatronic Murphy's face and pans around to the left until Boddicker and his gang come into view and then, the crime lord shoots Murphy. It's such a lifelike dummy of Peter Weller that, when I first saw this footage, I thought it actually was him! When you look closely, you can tell that it's animatronic but nevertheless, that's a real testament to Rob Bottin's talent that he was able to make it look that realistic and it's a shame that theater audiences back in 1987 didn't get to see it.

While we're on the subject of the violence, this would probably be the best time to talk about the director's cut in more detail. Truth be told, though, there's only a minute's difference in-between both versions and the differences have to do with the violence. In addition to the shots of the animatronic Murphy in his death scene along with more explicit gore in that scene, like clear shots of Murphy's arm being dismembered, the director's cut also has more of ED-209's slaughtering of Kinney and a bit more violence during the final battle between Robocop and Lewis and Boddicker's gang. So, in retrospect, there's not really that much of a difference but, to Paul Verhoeven there is. Verhoeven has said that he feels that the cuts that the MPAA made to the film actually made the violence harsher rather than softer and it took away a bit of the over the top ("burlesque," as he puts it) and darkly humorous tone that he intended for the film, mainly in regards to the death of Kinney. Verhoeven has said that he feels that the longer, drawn out version of that scene made the line, "Somebody wanna call a goddamn paramedic?" more humorous. However, I don't think I agree with Verhoeven in this instance. One, again, the differences between the two versions are so minimal that it doesn't feel like it matters all that much, unless there was some other deleted material that never made it back into the director's cut because it was destroyed, which is a possibility. And two, even though it's not as drawn out as it was originally, I still got the dark humor of Kinney's death and the rest of the violence in the film, especially Murphy's death, is as effective in being either disturbing or darkly funny as it possibly could be. But, as always, this is all my opinion. Maybe some other people out there agree with Verhoeven but I, for one, think that both cuts of RoboCop are equally effective.



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Besides Rob Bottin's makeup effects, there are also some very impressive examples of visual effects work in the film. The most notable one, of course, is ED-209. Let's just get this out of the way here: ED-209 is absolutely awesome. Yes, as we see, it malfunctions horribly and it's also not the most well-designed machine, since it can't even go down a flight of stairs without tumbling and falling on its back. But regardless, it's still very cool-looking, with its large body, arms with big machine guns at the end of them, and spindly, almost chicken-like legs, and it's more than a formidable foe for Robocop. The large model of it that was used when it was stationary may not have been able to do much except stand around and look cool, as well as move its head and gun turrets a little bit but when you have someone, mostly Ronny Cox as Dick Jones, standing next to it, it accomplishes what it was meant to. The biggest effects that deal with ED-209 are the stop-motion effects created by Phil Tippett and while it's odd seeing something as old-fashioned as stop-motion present in a movie that, otherwise, is full of cutting edge effects that still look very convincing to this day, it still works for what it's meant to do and feels more charming and full of heart than CGI would have. I like how Tippett imbues ED-209 with a type of personality that, despite its menacing size and presence, feels quite child-like and silly, like when it falls down the stairs and actually throws a tantrum while it's stuck on its back or the moment right before that when it's trying to find the stairs with its foot but can't and actually seems perplexed by it. You also have to love the moment at the end when Robocop blows up the body of the ED-209 stationed outside of the OCP building and the pair of legs walks around by itself with a little device spinning around on top of it before it actually hiccups and falls over, with its left foot having one last rattle before it finally dies. The only time where I feel that the stop-motion effects of ED-209 feel out of date in a distracting way is during the battle with Robocop in Dick Jones' office. While the scene itself is very exciting, some of the blue screen work is quite obvious and it makes me cringe a little bit. Otherwise, the effects of the scene are well done, including when Robocop has to be created through stop-motion when he physically interacts with the moving ED-209. There are also some other stop-motion effects in the film, like the previously mentioned puppet of Dick Jones that you see as he plunges to his death after having been shot by Robocop. It's fake looking as all get-out but it doesn't distract me from the triumph of the moment and plus, don't you think it's interesting and strangely appropriate that ED-209's in-universe creator gets a stop-motion shot himself? And then, there's that stop-motion dinosaur that's used in the 6000 SUX commercial, which is meant to be silly-looking and works with the idea that they're trying to get across there. Although, I must say that commercial kind of threw me the first time I saw the movie because the cut to it from Lewis helping the injured Robocop is so abrupt and unexpected. And finally, the matte paintings of the buildings and the city are very effective, so much so that you probably wouldn't realize that they are effects unless you look at them closely, especially in the case of the OCP building, which is a real building that's enhanced with the use of mattes.

RoboCop is not unique in having a depiction of a future where the world has gone down the tubes. What does make it feel unique is that this future doesn't seem very far off at all. When I first saw the movie, I just assumed that it was taking place in 1987 since, aside from the technology to create both Robocop and ED-209 as well as probably the first instance of a DVD in film during Bob Morton's death scene, nothing about it felt futuristic. People still use guns instead of laser pistols and the like, they still drive cars instead of spaceships and hovercrafts, and, while the OCP office building has some fancy aspects to it, the buildings don't look futuristic at all. It's a very subdued vision of the future and as a result, is much more relatable and, most frightening of all, plausible. Let's be honest, the world depicted in RoboCop isn't much different from how things are now, is it? Corporations rule the country, crime is rampant, and there are a lot of violent conflicts going on overseas. It's not quite as bad as depicted in the film but it feels like it's getting there. Detroit has a bad reputation for being a very crime-riddled city and while I don't want to offend anyone who lives there, from everything I've heard, the depiction of Detroit in the film is only a few notches above the way it is now... and ironically, Detroit has since filed for bankruptcy, which is mentioned in the film. In any case, Old Detroit is depicted as an absolute hellhole. Crime is everywhere, people are getting killed left and right, the police force is overwhelmed and helpless and, worst of all, OCP's less than ideal running of the police department, which has resulted in the deaths of many officers due to their being placed in the worst parts of town as well as the slashing of salaries and pension plans, eventually causes the force to go on strike, which is not at all good for a destructive city like this. The very look of Old Detroit suggests nothing but unpleasantness. While the members of OCP work in a nice, fancy, clean office building with all of the best modern conveniences, the Metro West Precinct looks very old-fashioned and a bit rundown. The city itself looks like a very rotten town, with grimy streets, less than ideal homes, and abandoned steel mills, a perfect depiction of urban decay. The weather, which is often overcast, wet (which you can tell from the amount of puddles and slick-looking roads), and no doubt very cold (it was actually 100 degrees during filming since it took place in Dallas but still) adds to the miserable feeling of the place. As for the crime-rate, the city is so violent that, even when they're on their normal patrols, police officers have to wear riot armor and helmets. You not only have the major criminal activities being committed by Clarence Boddicker and his gang but you have robberies committed by criminals who would probably blow your brains out even if you did what they said, hostage situations committed by disgruntled employees (unemployment seems to be another huge problem here), and rapes. You have to love the ironic, dark humor of there being a billboard saying, "DELTA CITY: THE FUTURE HAS A SILVER LINING," in the background of a scene of two guys trying to rape a woman. Finally, by the end of the movie, with the police force on strike and no one to put them in jail, the criminals basically take over the city and do as they please, as depicted in the scene where stores are being smashed into and Boddicker and his gang are blowing stuff up left and right before departing to hunt down and destroy Robocop. Just a horrible place to live and you pity the people who have no choice but to tough it out. And like I said, the rest of the world doesn't seem much better since you not only have nasty conflicts going on in other countries but there's also stuff like laser satellites misfiring and starting forest fires, killing two former presidents in the process!

You can't talk about RoboCop without talking about its satirical elements, which are very rich, to say the least. Like John Carpenter's They Live the following year, the film satirizes the 80's and the Reagan era, with its pokes at big business, privatization, consumerism, and the like, however a big difference between the two is that They Live is a very angry rail against it whereas RoboCop, for the most part, uses the satire for humor as well as observation. Paul Verhoeven himself has said that, rather than trying to make political statements, he simply shows what he sees without condemning or praising it one way or the other. In any case, the whole idea of the film is that America has been taken over by big, soulless corporations who also own the local law enforcement and only allow them to stop crime as long as it benefits them; otherwise, they don't really care about who they are, what they do, or about Detroit since they're getting ready to destroy it and put Delta City in its place. When Alex Murphy is killed, he loses his identity when he's put back together as Robocop and is initially as soulless as the corporation that created him. As Bob Morton tells Anne Lewis, "He doesn't have a name. He's got a program. He's product." But, when he starts to regain his memories, he's also struggling against this corporation that insists that you be as bland and soulless as they are and so, it makes sense when he eventually goes up against Dick Jones and gets rid of one of the major heads of said corporation. It's really hopeful to know that, despite OCP's attempts to make him nothing more than their stooge, the heart and soul of Alex Murphy within Robocop will not allow itself to be corrupted and will continue to fight on the side of law and order, just as the man himself would have.

Like I said, you also have some clear jabs at big business, with the executives at OCP being all tough and acting like they're bad-asses. As Ed Neumeier described, around that time businessmen were actually reading martial arts books to try be better at their jobs and went around calling themselves "killers," so he thought it would be funny if, as in the case of Dick Jones having Bob Morton murdered, they actually were killing each other. I'm sure a lot of people back then who hated yuppies found it funny to see them murdering each other. Speaking of yuppies, that's definitely another thing that this film tackles and in a very biting way too. Bob Morton is most certainly a yuppie in that he only cares about himself, he only cares about getting ahead at OCP and he's more than willing to step on anyone he can on the way up, not realizing that the one guy he steps on is going to strike back with cataclysmic results. And once he makes it, he's more than willing to exploit his newfound wealth, having some models come over to his house so he can snort cocaine with them, even doing so off of one's boobs. If that's not a yuppie, I don't know what is! Speaking of which, I also smirk at the scene where Morton and another guy are walking down the hall and they pull out cards to open up this door, with the one guy telling Morton, "Welcome to the club..." and the room they enter is the restroom! I just shake my head at the thought that the higher-ups in the company have their own bathroom that probably looks much better than the ones the people below them have to use and they can open it up by swiping a card. It's a minor point but it just makes me smirk, the idea that these yuppies are so pretentious that they have their own restroom... or at least, I hope that's not the only restroom in the building. God, can you imagine how much that would suck if you were a lowly secretary at OCP and your only hope of relieving yourself was to hope that some hotshot exec would take pity on you (which is unlikely given how these people operate) and allow you the pleasure of going into their precious restroom?

While the film unabashedly pokes fun at such big business, it doesn't overlook the major consequence of all of this: poverty. Besides the overall rundown look of the town and the rampant crime, you often hear how things aren't going well for the citizens of Detroit in terms of the amount of unemployment and how not much is being done to fix it. There's that one unemployed guy who's interviewed and says, "It's a free society... except that there's nothing free. You're on your own. Law of the jungle." A lot of the crime that's going on is no doubt due to the lack jobs and layoffs. In fact, one of the first criminals that Robocop stops is an angry councilman who's taken the mayor and a bunch of people at city hall hostage because he recently lost his job. He not only demands his old job back but also another election and a brand new 6000 SUX that he wants the city to pay for. A lot of the stuff that he says is intentionally humorous but it nonetheless addresses a major problem that's happening in this city. Some of the filmmakers have said that the film also subtly comments on the decay of American industry that had been going on since the 1970's, with the abandoned steel mill that features in two of the film's most important scenes representing that.

The funniest satire in the film in my opinion is the one that deals with the media and consumerism. The Media Break newscasts that open the film and play throughout are hilarious in how absurd they are. You've got these male and female newscasters who are talking the most awful news stories that involve people getting killed, trouble overseas, malfunctioning satellites causing huge forest fires, and they're doing it all with the most upbeat attitudes and smiles you can imagine. It's ridiculous. I guess since it's not their problem, they're not at all personally concerned about what's going on so they can just do their job and then go about their lives without a care in the world. The one that just kills me is the opening newscast where they report on the latest cop-killings committed by Clarence Boddicker as well as the complaints the police department has with OCP. That segment ends with the news that officer Frank Frederickson, who survived a shootout with Boddicker's gang, is fighting for his life at the hospital and the male newscaster signs off by saying, "Good luck, Frank!" You have to roll your eyes and laugh at that because it's so phony and full of crap. In addition, you have that moronic TV show, which is called Not My Problem even though it's not named in the actual movie, with the guy who hangs around with these gorgeous women and is always saying, "I'll buy that for a dollar! Nah, ha, ha!" You see clips of this show throughout the film and as stupid and idiotic as it looks, everybody who sees it gets a laugh out of it. One would hope that they're laughing at how dumb it is but, unfortunately, it's more than likely that they think it's genuinely funny. You get the feeling that's the kind of stuff that OCP has on the airwaves because they hope it would make people so stupid that they wouldn't be able to rebel against them.

Isn't the future of television just grand?
The commercials in the film are pretty funny as well because they perfectly represent the dumbness and phoniness of the world that it's trying to get across. You have the commercial for the 6000 SUX, a car that looks really good and is heavily touted because, "Bigger is better," but, as someone who actually wants one says, "Gets really shitty gas mileage." It looks good but it's not the most economical type of car you'd like to have... and yet, people still want it. And the commercial ends with a line that brings it home, "An American Tradition." (Incidentally, notice the caption at the bottom of the screen that says, "An American Tradition. 8.2 MPG," as well as what the SUX sounds like when you say it rather than spelling out the acronym.) American products are all about things looking good, even if they don't work right, which is the same case that the film has for ED-209 and, remember, Dick Jones said, "Who cares if it worked or not?!" You could say that the same thing about most Hollywood movies nowadays: they look big and spectacular but there's no meat or substance. They still make money, though, so who cares, right? I also laugh at the commercial about artificial hearts at the beginning of the movie because you can smell lying, money-hungry corporation all over it, especially when it ends with the guy saying, "And remember, we care." Yeah, I bet you care, as along as your customers can afford your product anyway. Do you also see the irony in that statement when we're talking about artificial hearts? And finally, we have the commercial for Nuke 'Em, a Battleship-like board game that's actually about nuclear exchanges between countries. The commercial has the kids saying stuff like, "You cross my line of death!" and "Pakistan is threatening my border!" while the parents are saying, "You haven't dismantled your MX stockpile," and, "That's it, buster! No more military aide!" and it ends with a fake explosion, the family cheering, and the announcer saying, "Nuke 'Em. Get them before they get you. Another quality home game from Butler Brothers." Do I need to say anything else? As funny as that commercial is, it's also troubling to think that someone would actually makes tense political and military situations the subject of a board game. It not only shows how superficial this world is but also how genuinely messed up it is as well.

Besides the social satire, RoboCop contains other themes, most notably when it comes to personal identity. Not only do you have Robocop trying to regain his identity in this soulless, faceless world but you also have his actual design serving as a means to provide him with some semblance of an identity. Paul Verhoeven, Rob Bottin, and Ed Neumeier hit upon the possibility that, if you put someone's brain inside a mechanical body, even if you wiped their memories, there might still be enough of a human spark in there that the person would absolutely freak out upon seeing themselves with nothing left of the human that they once were and possibly destroy themselves. That was the reasoning they came up with for having Alex Murphy's face placed upon that of the cyborg, so he would have enough of an identity to where he wouldn't lose it and, as a result, be useful to OCP. Of course, they couldn't have anticipated that he would start to regain his memories and be able to rebel against his creators... that is, save for Dick Jones, who had Directive 4 implanted into Robocop's hardware. And the idea of Robocop going up against the people who created him harkens back to the Frankenstein monster as well as the major theme of The Terminator, about technology and artificial intelligence turning against its developers. The major difference here is that the machine/creature that's become sentient is the hero and is trying to bring its corrupt creators to justice.

To me personally, another theme that I think can be found in the film is the idea of fate and I think it's done in a way similar to how Tim Burton would do it in his first Batman movie a couple of years later. The relationship between Alex Murphy/Robocop and Clarence Boddicker reminds me a lot of that of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jack Napier/the Joker in that film. There, we learn in a flashback that Jack Napier, who years later would become the Joker, was the one who murdered Bruce Wayne's parents, which prompts him to become Batman. Here, we have Clarence Boddicker brutally killing Alex Murphy, who is then resurrected as Robocop, and like Batman, battles crime and corruption in the city. Both films end with a final confrontation between the hero and villain that results in the villain being killed by the hero that he helped create. The difference is that in Batman, the Dark Knight himself ended up creating his arch-nemesis since he drops Napier into the chemicals that turn him into the Joker whereas here, it's one-sided with Boddicker setting in motion Murphy's transformation into Robocop but otherwise, I find the similarities to be intriguing. Also, in Batman, every facet of both characters comes face to face with each other. We have Bruce Wayne and Jack Napier during the flashback, Batman and Jack at the Axis Chemical factory, Bruce Wayne and the Joker during the scene in Vicki Vale's apartment, and finally, the big confrontation between Batman and the Joker at the end. In RoboCop, Boddicker might not have an alternate identity but that aside, you have the confrontation between Murphy and Boddicker at the beginning of the film, the scene in the drug factory where Boddicker goes up against Robocop, and their final confrontation at the end when Murphy's personality has returned to Robocop as much as it could, including his not wearing his helmet and showing the face of Murphy. Like Batman, every possible combination is used. It's more than likely that these similarities are coincidences and who knows if this fate theme was an idea in Paul Verhoeven's head when he made the film but it's fascinating nonetheless.

One thing that Paul Verhoeven often uses in his films is Christian symbolism and as a result, he's stated that he fully intended for Robocop to be a Christ figure, an "American Jesus" as he puts it. Some may scoff at that since it sounds absurd but if you look at it carefully, there is some validity to it. The horrific murder of Murphy is definitely about as agonizing a death as a crucifixion, which is why Verhoeven made it so, and in fact, the first part of him that's damaged is his hand, much like Jesus' hand being nailed to the cross. His being brought back to life Robocop can be seen as the actual resurrection of Jesus and at the end of the film when he comes for Clarence Boddicker, he's walking in shallow water and the way it's filmed makes it look as if he's walking on top of it. So, all of that I understand and get. However, I'm not so keen on Verhoeven's feelings that Jesus would have eventually said, "Okay, now we'll use the swords," which was given a modern twist by Verhoeven with Robocop telling Boddicker, "I'm not arresting you anymore." Maybe I'm naïve or what have you but I can't see Jesus, no matter how bad things got, ultimately turning to violence. I know he was not exactly perfect, given the fit he threw in the temple at one point but still, thinking od what his ultimate message was all about, I just don't see him doing what Verhoeven feels he would have done. Again, you can call me naïve if you wish but that's something I disagree with Verhoeven about.

While there are no action setpieces in the film that are absolutely enormous, RoboCop still delivers the goods in terms of pure excitement and entertainment. The first action scene, when Murphy and Lewis chase after Boddicker's gang after they've robbed the pharmaceutical company, is fairly short but it's still exciting. After Murphy and Lewis learn that there's no backup available for them, they decide to take the van themselves, driving up alongside it and momentarily confusing the criminals when they kick open the back door and fire into thin air. After realizing that they're alongside them, Boddicker fires at them through the passenger window, with Murphy firing back with two pistols by leaning out the passenger window of the patrol car. When that doesn't work, Lewis drives back behind the van as Murphy continues firing, managing to hit Bobby in the leg. As the gang members continue their assault on the car, Boddicker decides that Bobby has outlived his usefulness and has a couple of the other criminals lift him. After asking him if he can fly, Boddicker has them throw Bobby out the back of the van and onto Lewis' windshield, crushing it in the process. This startles Lewis and causes her to spin out, giving the gang time to escape. However, Lewis quickly manages to roll Bobby off the car and she and Murphy continue the pursuit, finding the van parked outside of an abandoned steel mill. After requesting backup again and being told for the second time that there's no backup coming, Murphy and Lewis decide to try to round up the gang themselves. They split up, with Lewis coming across Joe Cox as he's taking care of some personal business. While she gets the drop on him and he turns around with his hands up, Cox asks if he can zip up his fly. Lewis very stupidly looks down (why did she look down at his open fly when she could clearly see that he was peeing?), giving Cox the opportunity to knock her off the railing and out of action. At the same time, Murphy finds Emil and an unnamed gang member as they're watching It's Not My Problem on a small TV set. When Murphy makes his presence known, the one crook goes for his gun but Murphy manages to shoot him down. Emil manages to grab his gun but with Murphy pointing his pistol squarely at him and telling him, "Dead or alive, you're coming with me," Emil decides to surrender. As Murphy prepares to cuff Emil, he calls Lewis to help him but she's just now regaining consciousness after having been knocked out. Even worse, Leon Nash and Steve Minh appear and train their rifles at Murphy, who's forced to allow Emil to disarm him. This is when Boddicker himself shows up and he and his gang proceed taunt and torture Murphy before ultimately blowing him away in a very agonizing way.

The next bit of action in the film comes when Robocop is unveiled and goes on patrol for the first time. The first crime he stops is the robbery of a convenience store. Just as the gunman is about to kill the husband and wife owners for taking too long to give him the money, Robocop comes in and orders the man to drop the gun. The guy then proceeds to fire repeatedly at Robocop, while continuously yelling, "Fuck me!", but, of course, the bullets don't do anything to the cyborg and he ends up causing more damage to the store. Robocop manages to walk through this hail of bullets and bends the barrel of the crook's gun. Realizing he's in for it, he tries to flee but Robocop quickly whacks him with his arm and sends him flying into a refrigerator, knocking him unconscious. After doing so, Robocop tells the owners, "Thank you for your cooperation. Good night," and leaves (the thing is, he didn't arrest the guy; I hope the other cops came by and took him away). After that, Robocop receives a report of another crime in progress, this one an attempted rape. Two sleazebags chase a woman and eventually catch her but just when they're about to proceed with the rape, Robocop shows up and tells them that they're under arrest. When one of the rapists threatens to kill the woman with his knife, Robocop draws his gun and, using his precise targeting skills, shoots through the woman's skirt and splayed legs, hitting the guy right in the balls. As he falls down, yelling in pain, the other would-be rapist immediately gives up when Robocop tells him, "Your move, creep." After telling the woman that he will notify a rape crisis center, Robocop heads back out and drives to city hall, where ex-councilman Ron Miller has taken the mayor and his staff hostage. Knowing that Miller has already killed one of his hostages, the police can do nothing but bide their time after setting up their perimeter. However, when Robocop arrives, he tells the hostage negotiator to keep Miller talking and distracted while he makes his way up to him. As the police let Miller spew out his demands, Robocop heads up the stairs inside the building and arrives at the second floor. He gets there just as Miller loses his patience with the police and prepares to execute the mayor in front of the window so everyone can see. Robocop smashes through the wall, pulls Miller through it, and then spins him around before punching him and sending him flying through the window to the street below.

The scene where Robocop stops Emil from robbing a gas station is a small action setpiece but is memorable for the enormous explosion that results from it. After Emil robs the station attendant and forces him to pump his motorcycle full of gas, he proceeds to taunt him when he sees that he's studying mathematics while on the job. Just as Emil is about to kill the attendant, Robocop arrives and tells him to drop his weapon. Of course, when Robocop tells him, "Dead or alive, you're coming with me," Emil realizes that he's Murphy and panics, screaming, "You're dead! We killed you!" while firing at him. When the bullets don't work and while Robocop stalls as he begins to remember where he's seen Emil's face, the crook gets on his motorcycle and throws his lit cigarette at the gas leaking out of the pump, blowing up the station. However, he doesn't get far as Robocop fires at his motorcycle, effectively shooting it out from under him. As the station smolders in the background, Robocop grabs Emil and demands to know who he is but the guy is in no condition to talk and passes out. I can't call the scene afterward where Robocop confronts Leon Nash at a nightclub and demands that he tell him where Clarence Boddicker is an action scene, although it is funny to see Leon try to kick Robocop and hurt his foot in the process as well as the crazy dancing the people are doing around them (there's a quick shot of Paul Verhoeven himself dancing like a maniac amongst the crowd). The same goes for the scene after that where Boddicker attacks Bob Morton at his house and kills him on Dick Jones' orders. That's a suspense scene and I've already talked about it so it's best that we move on.

This is without a doubt my favorite action scene in the whole movie, which is when Robocop raids the drug factory where Boddicker is meeting with his competitor, Sal. After smashing against the door and sending everyone in the factory into a panic, Robocop knocks the door down and enters the factory, strolling into it like the bad-ass that he is. After targeting the threats in the area, he gives them a chance to come quietly. Of course, they refuse and begin shooting at him. And this is where the scene elevates into sheer awesomeness. Every single person in this factory is firing at him and Robocop just calmly walks into the middle of the building and goes to work. There are bullets bouncing off of him left and right but it doesn't even slow him down and he begins just picking them all off. He shoots at a couple, then swings around and shoots a guy whose firing at him from a catwalk, moves his body back around to kill a guy shooting at him from another catwalk in front of him, steps forward, firing at a couple of more people in the process, and swings his arm around to fire at someone off to the right (without even looking, which I love) before looking up and taking care of another gunman. I love the next shot, which is a high-angle shot as Robocop continues marching through the factory, picking off more gunmen as he goes, and in the next montage of shots, he turns his body completely around as he kills more bad guys and then turns back around to kill the last few men in front of him, hitting one guy and causing him to turn around and accidentally gun down Sal in the process. At this point, the only ones left are Boddicker, Joe Cox, and Steve Minh, who are firing at him from a catwalk. Robocop immediately shoots Minh, causing him to swing around and hit Cox with his rifle in the process, knocking him off the scaffolding. Now completely alone, Boddicker shoots at Robocop again before attempting to flee but is so desperate to get away that he takes a bad jump and injures himself in the process, allowing Robocop to catch up to him. When Robocop picks him up and tells him he has the right to remain silent, Boddicker defiantly spits blood in his face and says, "Fuck you." But then, Robocop throws him right through a plate glass window and as he staggers to his feet afterward, he realizes, as Robocop approaches him again, that he's in serious trouble. Despite telling Robocop that he's protected, the cyborg throws him through another window after telling him he has the right to an attorney. As Robocop prepares to attack again, Boddicker begins spilling his guts and tells him that he works for Dick Jones. However, Robocop isn't concerned with that at all and throws Boddicker through yet another window after telling him that anything he says can be used against him. Robocop goes in for the kill as Boddicker again tells him about Dick Jones in another attempt to make him stop and just as Robocop is about to strangle him, Boddicker reminds him that he's a cop, prompting him to follow his third directive of upholding the law and take him to jail.

When Robocop goes to OCP to arrest Dick Jones for his involvement with Boddicker, Directive 4 activates and prevents him from doing so. As he fights against the program that's threatening to deactivate him, Jones takes advantage of his weakened state and sics ED-209 on him. This is where we see that Robocop isn't invincible. ED-209 uses its machine guns to blast him through the office door and then, as he struggles to get to his feet, the robot uses one of its arms to whack Robocop and send him flying through the air, causing him to crash through another door. As ED-209 prepares to blast him at point-blank range, Robocop quickly grabs its right arm and pushes it toward the left one, causing the machine to blow its own appendage off. As Robocop crawls away and gets to his feet, ED-209 sets its sights on him again and uses its still functioning right arm to fire a missile at Robocop, which just barely misses him and knocks him across the hall. With his sensors malfunctioning, Robocop staggers down the hall as ED-209 continues firing missiles at him, which also just barely miss him. As Jones calls the police department to tell them the lie that Robocop has gone berserk, ED-209 chases after the cyborg, firing at him with its machine gun before Robocop manages to reach the stairwell. ED-209 attempts to go down the stairs to continue the chase but its design flaws kick in as it's unable to find them with its foot. It tries to take a step and then tumbles down the stairs and falls on its back, unable to get up as Robocop escapes. But, he's not out of the woods yet as the police, believing that he's gone insane, surround him outside in the parking garage and prepare to destroy him, despite protests from Lewis and other officers. They then open fire on him, pelting him hundreds of rifle rounds as the weakened cyborg tries to defend himself. Staggering around and falling to his knees at one point from all of the gunfire, Robocop manages to stumble down the various levels of the parking garage and eventually evade the attacking officers, although probably causing more damage to himself in the process. That's when Lewis arrives in the nick of time and helps Robocop into her car and drives away before they can finish him off.

After some mayhem where Boddicker and his gang play with their new .50 caliber assault rifles by blowing up some cars and shops downtown, they head to the steel mill to hunt down and destroy Robocop. However, Robocop gets the drop on them when they enter the mill, distracting them by throwing a metal object and then getting their attention before he takes out Joe Cox with some well-placed shots. The others attempt to take him out with the assault rifles but they end up messing and as Robocop walks away, they attempt to cut him off. Boddicker gets in his car while Leon Nash goes on foot and Emil chases him in the van. This is where Emil makes the big mistake of attempting to run Robocop down and crashes into a tank of toxic waste. While this is going on, Boddicker chases after Lewis while she's in her patrol car and he accidentally smashes into Emil after he staggers in front of the car. This causes Boddicker to crash his car into a puddle of water at the bottom of an embankment. This doesn't kill Boddicker and when Lewis stops and gets out up top, he takes the opportunity to shoot her. Wounded, she falls down into the water but before Boddicker can finish her off, Robocop appears and starts toward him. Boddicker, seeing Leon make his way into some nearby crane controls, throws down his pistol and feigns surrender, which is when Robocop tells him that he's not arresting this time. Boddicker, now actually scared for his safety, still manages to lure Robocop into position and Leon drops a bunch of metal beams onto him with the controls. Thinking they've won, Leon runs outside of the booth and excitedly yells, "I got him!" However, Lewis, despite her injuries, manages to get ahold of one of the assault rifles and blows Leon up along with the control booth. Upon seeing this, Boddicker grabs a nearby spiked pole and repeatedly hits Robocop with it before stabbing it into his chest. Robocop does scream in pain as Boddicker works the tip around inside him but he makes the mistake of stopping in order to say, "Sayonara, Robocop!" This gives Robocop the opportunity to activate his data spike and jam it into Boddicker's neck, causing him to stagger backwards while holding his gushing wound before finally dropping dead.

Now, Robocop has one bit of business left: deal with Dick Jones. He drives Lewis' patrol car to OCP, which has an ED-209 stationed outside. Robocop makes short work of the machine with two shots of an assault rifle before heading upstairs. Once he plays a video recording of Jones saying that he killed Bob Morton (if you think about it, it was stupid for him to say that without taking into account that Robocop could escape), the senior president takes action and grabs the Old Man to use as a hostage. He begins to make his way out of the room, demanding a helicopter for his escape, and Robocop is unable to do anything due to his fourth directive. That's when the Old Man fires Jones, getting rid of the directive and allowing Robocop to shoot Jones and send him plummeting out the window to his death.

The late Basil Poledouris composed a really good score for the film, most notably when it comes to the actual theme for Robocop himself. The first time you hear Robocop's theme is when he heads out on patrol for the first time and it's a perfect introductory moment for it. That theme is so driving and heroic in the way it sounds that it suits the feeling of that scene, which is that hope is now on its way for Old Detroit, to a T. Another great scene where the theme is played is during the raid on the drug factory with Robocop being nothing less than a bad-ass and it makes that awesome sequence all the more glorious for the character. Poledouris also gets into the man versus machine theme that's prevalent throughout the movie and within the main character himself, with brassy, percussive music that's meant to signify the machine aspect of both Robocop and ED-209 and orchestral, string pieces used for the human-side of Robocop. The best use of the latter type of music comes when Robocop visits his old home and memories start flooding back into his brain, causing him to feel all sorts of emotions include confusion, sadness, despair, and ultimately anger. The way the music builds to a crescendo as Robocop heads out of the house and angrily destroys the monitor with the video of the salesman playing works perfectly. The same goes for the quiet, introverted music that you hear when he removes his helmet and you see the face of Alex Murphy for the first time since his death. That perfectly captures the sadness and melancholy that's going on as he sees his face and is able to sense the life that he once had but can't fully remember it. During the latter part of the end credits, you hear the distressed piece of music that you heard when Robocop was visiting his old home, which I think hints at the idea that, even though his defeated all of his enemies, his future is very uncertain. And, with any action movie, you've got to have exciting music for your action scenes and Poledouris pulls that off too, with my favorite action music being what you hear during the final battle with Boddicker's gang in the steel mill. That music helps get you excited and absolutely pumped as Robocop manages to pick his enemies off one by one until he finally succeeds in killing Boddicker. Like the movie itself, the score for RoboCop is very finely crafted and works in getting across every emotion that it sets out to.

RoboCop is truly a classic of its genre. Not only does it have great performances, stellar direction, memorable characters, impressive makeup and visual effects, and exciting action sequences but its greatest success comes in the way it effortlessly pulls off all of the different genres and ideas it's going for. It's both a great science fiction film and an awesome action flick as well as a very well written satire and commentary on the time in which it was made and an exploration of deep themes like identity, memories of past lives, and what it is to be human. It truly is a film that has something for everybody and that's what makes it not only a great movie but a perfectly crafted, important, and, sadly, still relevant work of American cinema. Needless to say, I can't recommend it enough for anyone who hasn't seen it. Whatever it is you're looking for in a good film, RoboCop has you covered.

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