RoboCop was one of the big hits of 1987, even though its title is a bit misleading (our hero is actually a cyborg, not a robot). It has much in common with the recent slew of comic super hero origin stories, but its R rating should not be taken lightly due to the shocking amount of gore. It’s elevated above similar films through its satire of American culture, which include a number of broadcast news segments.
Set in a crime-ridden future Detroit, a mega corporation wants to clean up the streets before they begin a massive building project. The corporation (OCP) is so huge that they have privatized the police force and have two separate robotics divisions working on automated solutions to Detroit’s crime spree. One has developed a robot which malfunctions and subsequently obliterates an executive within the first ten minutes, and the other leads to the creation of RoboCop.
The characters are almost totally one-dimensional, and we barely get to know officer Murphy before he undergoes his transformation. His character is further hampered because once Murphy’s body is replaced with bionic parts, he doesn’t speak very much. It doesn’t work quite as well as in The Crow, another movie with a silent, seemingly invincible protagonist who has returned from the dead to seek revenge on those who murdered him. Most of the drama comes from the rivalry between two of OCP’s executives, though there are some scenes where Murphy begins to remember his past life that give him some humanity.
RoboCop’s new abilities are surprisingly limited. Most of the time, the only thing that really distinguishes him from a human cop is his slow, deliberate walk and his bullet-proof armor. If made now, one would expect to see a much more agile and powerful version of the character. Now we’ve got movies like Iron Man, and video games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution which explore many of the same themes in a much more entertaining and intelligent fashion. That said, there’s supposedly a remake in the works, which will be the 2nd Paul Verhoeven favorite to get the treatment after Total Recall (which is in production at the time of this writing).
The core idea behind RoboCop isn’t especially original, given that shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and characters like Darth Vader preceded it, but the way it all comes together is still pretty entertaining. There’s some fun stop-motion animation effects for the ED 209 robot, and the hero is pure boyish wish fulfillment. Since its release RoboCop has become a cult classic amongst sci-fi film fans, and other than a few sequences where the image quality suffers, it holds up pretty well.
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