Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Missed Movie: Robocop

When Robocop came out in 1987, I was 9 years old: too young to watch or care about anything that didn't feature pink ponies.  Robocop became one of those movies - the movies you just never get around to watching, even thought you know you should.

With a remake in the works starring The Killing's Joel Kinnaman, I decided to finally watch the original to justify my excitement for the version where this man's face gets a clear helmet/visor:

I'd buy that for a dollar.

With a reason, Netflix, & a willing husband for company, I sat down to watch Robocop for the first time on Friday night.  Instead, we ended up watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a choice which I deeply, deeply regret.  We sat down to try again last night, vowing not to be seduced by a younger movie.  Dead or alive, Robocop was coming with me.  Into my living room. sounded clever in my head.

[Spoilers Ahead] 

[...if a 25 year old movie needs a spoiler alert...]

First of all, this movie was nothing like I expected it to be.  I have to admit that I always thought Robocop was just a cop in a metal an Officer Ironman.  I had no idea this was R rated until the scene with ED-209 made it abundantly clear.  I had assumed Robocop was PG-13 because the fake premise I had in my head seemed tailor-made for teenaged boys.  I was WRONG.  It was seriously graphically violent (which I approve of, in the context).  When Murphy was horrifically & repeatedly shot by Red Forman & his hyena crew, I was genuinely stunned by:
a) the amount of blood Paul Verhoeven thinks is in an arm (that can't be right, can it?).
b) that Murphy actually died.  Like I said, I thought he just put a suit on & arrested bad guys.

I already knew Peter Weller played Robocop, because when he showed up in season 5 of Dexter, my husband said "Hey, it's Robocop!"  So when Murphy showed up in Robocop, I thought, "Hey! Vacation shirt shady guy!"

Maybe I've been spoiled because I've read so many convincing stories that explore humanity*, but I found the "journey" of Robocop a little dull.  Here are the main points leading to his "transformation":
-he still does the gun twirl thing he learned for his son.
-the name Murphy seems familiar.
-he dreams of his death.

Seeing Emil at the gas station triggers something more, but it's not really clear if it's just memories or actual feelings, a distinction Robocop makes when speaking of his family.  Sure, the helmet coming off symbolizes the return of a humanity of sorts, but is it Murphy's humanity, or just human-like qualities left over from brain damage because he was, you know, dead?  (Also, I didn't cry, & I cry at everything.  I should feel something when a robot realizes that he used to have a human life, with a wife & son, until he was brutally murdered & turned into a machine with big guns, right?)  The dude is badass, yes.  Is he the same guy he was before he became Robocop?  I don't buy it - he never even tries to find his family.  "Where are they?"  "They've moved on."  "Ok.  Let's get some revenge."  That is a robot speaking, not a man.  Remind me to find Johnny Number 5 when I want some robot pathos.

Note to my husband: If you ever become a robot killing-machine, I still want you in my life, K?  I promise to make your food-substance paste, charge your battery & clean your gears ifyouknowwhatimean.

The future that Robocop predicts doesn't look too far off from reality.**  Future dystopian Detroit looks a lot like 2012 Detroit, but with less Kwame Kilpatrick drama.  We have ridiculous commercials & sensationalist journalism, & even some of the same gadgets. 


Overall, I think the movie ages extremely well.  Aside from the dated hair/wardrobe on half the characters, it's all very well done.  The makeup & prosthetics on Toxic Waste Guy were incredible.

Toxic Waste: that shit works fast.

And although it made me giggle, the stop-motion robot ED-209 was quite the feat in 1987.  To me, it looks like a Robot Chicken bit, but listening to these guys discuss it, I get that it was a big deal, & rightly so.

I will leave you with this compilation of all the times someone is thrown through a glass window or door in Robocop.  Very entertaining, AND it includes the one rewind-&-rewatch moment for me: Dick's fall to his death.

*Two of my favourite novels by Robert J Sawyer explore the human condition exceptionally well, from different angles: Mindscan, taking place in a future where minds (thoughts, memories, your very being) could be uploaded into an android (handy if your body is failing you, but raising questions of legality & rights), & The Terminal Experiment, in which a man creates 3 copies of his mind - 1 an exact replica, & 2 that are modified to simulate life after death & immortality, & the consequences of their choices & actions.  Both excellent novels that dive into what it means to be human.

**Again with the Robert J Sawyer, check out his cool list of science fiction predictions that came true.


Alan Branton said...

Action/Sci-Fi movies of the 80's and early 90's may not have had today's special effects(or the particularly deep and layered characters and writing we're now used to, but everything was rated R because anybody could get in or at least rent. Prime example, Punisher 1989 vs Punisher 2004. Neither are very good but guess which one has a lesbian villain, gratuitous swearing, unnecessary killings and Dolph Lundgren?

Anonymous said...

Lmao, when the toxic waste guy approaches Ray Wise, he screams, hahahaha!!!
I heard the waste is really deadly, and can detach your skin and fill up your
body making you as fragile as an old 13 century painting!! Crazy, but true