Cinepub


In The Not Too Distant Future: RoboCop by Jamie

Well, it’s officially the uber-futuristic year 2010 where cars fly, boards hover and aliens have welcomed us into the inter-galactic community. What a time to be alive! Oh, wait. None of those things have happened. Thanks a lot assorted movies for lying to me. With that in mind, I’ve decided to take a look at some films from our past that made predictions about our not too distant future. So let’s begin by taking a look at the RoboCop series, a bunch of films which never really state a specific year as to when they’re set but I think it’s safe to assume that it’s some time between the years 2000 an 2050, which is good enough for my purposes. Also, the trilogy box-set was just delivered to my house so this seems to be as good a time as any. As always, massive spoilers ahead.

Now the basic plot of the film goes thusly: Cop chases gang. Gang kill cop. Cop get’s resurrected as Cyborg. Cyborg police officer, RoboCop if you will, battles crime whilst battling the conflict between mechanical and organic within himself. It’s a simple yet awesome concept and it’s directed brilliantly by Paul Verehoeven. If you’ve seen Starship Troopers or Total Recall, then you know that Verehoeven is very good at creating worlds which seem slightly off, layering in things such as TV shows, news broadcasts and advertisements to build what you might call exaggerated versions of our own world.

The same is true throughout RoboCop. Every now and then a news broadcast will break in, updating the viewer not only on what is happening with regard to the plot but also what’s happening elsewhere in the world. For example there’s little stories about a Star Wars laser defence system, rebels fighting Mexican and American troops in Mexico and the white government of South Africa getting neutron bombs. It just crafts a vision of a world that’s going to shit. The adverts and TV shows reinforce this with one ad detailing a battleship-esque game which allows the family to play out a nuclear war. There’s even the bizarre TV show called ‘I’d Buy That For A Dollar’ which everyone seems to love.

But that’s all background, brilliant though it is. What about the meat of the story, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a futuristic Detroit in which the police force is owned by a corporation, OCP. They’re trying to clean up the crime-ridden streets so that they can begin work on turning Old Detroit into the new and improved Delta City. To that effect they’ve begun research into robotic law enforcement. One division has come up with the ED-209 but progress comes to a bit of a halt when a glitch in ED’s programming causes him to shoot the shit out of an OCP executive. Instead the company president turns to the RoboCop program which seems more promising. All the program needs is a ‘volunteer’ and in a city where cop killings are a frequent occurrence, it surely won’t be long until they get one.

Enter Alex Murphy , a recent transferee from a quieter district. He’s partnered with Anne Lewis and heads out on his first beat. Is that what it’s called? Beat? Sounds weird. Ah well, I’m sticking with it now. Anyway, they run afoul of a gang, led by Clarence Boddicker (played by Kurtwood Smith who is fucking awesome) and chase them to an abandoned steel mill… A steel mill which was abandoned with a lot of toxic waste still lying around as we’ll find out later. Anyway, Lewis is incapacitated and the gang capture and shoot the shit out of Murphy. There’s a lot of people who get the shit shot out of them in this film. It really is quite gory in some places, which just makes it all the more awesome.

Anyway, OCP get their ‘volunteer’ and incorporate part of Murphy’s brain and face into the RoboCop. The scene where he’s being built is quite cool, seeing jumps through time through RoboCop’s eyes as they switch him on and off during testing. Finally RoboCop is complete and ready to start his beat… That still doesn’t seem right. Meh. Anyway, he starts to make a difference, cleaning up the streets, averting crimes and making people feel safer. The only problem, from OCP’s perspective, is that he still has some of Murphy left in him. He dreams of his family and of the gang who killed him, eventually causing him to pursue a vendetta.

So RoboCop/Murphy manages to track down Clarence and arrests him. During the arrest Clarence reveals that he’s working for Jones, the executive at OCP who was head of the failed ED-209 program and that Jones ordered him to kill the head of the RoboCop program. So he goes to the company in order to arrest Jones but finds he can’t as a secret part of his programming forbids him from taking action against highers-up within the corporation. A fight with ED-209 ensues and is ended when ED tries to follow Murphy down some stairs. Poor ED.

So Jones has Broddick freed from jail and orders him to take down Murphy, who at this point is on the run, the police believing he has gone haywire. Jones provides the gang with some military artillery and a tracker to help find the mechanical lawman. They track him down to the abandoned steel mill where a fight ensues and one of the greatest on-screen deaths ever occurs.

One of the gangsters attempts to run down Murphy in a van. Murphy shoots at the windscreen, causing the gangster to duck and drive straight into one of those mysteriously abandoned barrels of toxic waste I was talking about earlier. This essentially causes the gangsters skin to begin to melt… No that’s not the right word. I’m not sure what is… sloughs, maybe? Why not. His flesh slowly sloughs from his bones. It’s an horrifically brilliant sight. And then a fucking car hits him and he just explodes in a shower of organic material! It’s fucking awesome! Fuck it, let’s just include a video of it. Viewers of a nervous disposition may not want to click play:

Brilliant! And that horrible, strained noise he makes too. Great stuff.

Anyway, Murphy kills Broddick and goes off to stop Jones who is trying to reinstate the ED program after RoboCop’s apparent malfunction. Still unable to take action against an executive at OCP, Murphy shows a recording of him confessing to the murder of the head of the RoboCop program and the president fires him. This allows Murphy to finally take action against him and he does so, in the form of shooting the shit out of him until he falls out of a window. Awesome.

So that’s basically Robocop. What more is there to say? Peter Weller is fantastic in the role of Murphy/RoboCop. The way that he moves when he’s all cyborged up is so mechanical and deliberate and he manages to pull off the mix of a man with thought and a computer with programming with aplomb. I salute him.

In the end, it’s an incredible film. Sure, some of the effects of ED-209, who’s movements were pretty much all stop-motion animated, look a little dated but I think it adds a charm to the ‘character’ of ED and the animation just seems to make him look more mechanical which always helps when dealing with robots. The other problem is this was made in the 80s. No, that doesn’t sound right.. What I mean is that as with all films dealing with the future, it seems as though the people who made the film assumed the fashions and hairstyles of the time would carry on for decades to come, especially in the 80s. I suppose they can’t really be faulted for that.

There you go then. I love this film, I hope I’ve made that clear, and award it five pints out of five. If you haven’t seen it then you shouldn’t have read this review. It’s full of spoilers. I warned you at the beginning. What were you thinking? Now, go watch it. Oh, and if you’re name is Ed and you haven’t changed your last name to 209 then you either haven’t seen RoboCop or you have far more sense than I would if I were named Ed. Laterz.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

“but progress comes to a bit of a halt when a glitch in ED’s programming causes him to shoot the shit out of an OCP executive”

Actually laughed out loud at this sentence.

This film sounds f**king awesome! Why the hell have I not seen it before, I ask myself? I must, I must! I must watch all three, at once!

Comment by zmotion

It is fucking awesome. You should watch them at your earliest convenience before the nostalgic 80s film police have you arrested.

Comment by Jamie




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