When it comes to the dystopian future, many dream big and attempt to be dramatically different than what passes for current society. What made Robocop so special is the way it grounds itself in its story to the present.
The story is set in Detroit, which is on the verge of ruin and anarchy due to the high crime rate. The mayor signs a deal with Omni Consumer Products (OCP), a mega conglomerate, giving them complete control of the underfunded Detroit Police Department. In exchange, OCP is permitted to turn the slums of the city into a utopia called Delta City.
The technological wing of OCP develops robotic technology to assist the DPD with law enforcement. Their first attempt, ED-209, a massive droid with two interchangeable arms malfunctions and kills a board member with its two machine guns
Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) has his own robotic idea and develops the cybernetic RoboCop with the approval of the board chairman much to the dismay of OCP senior president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), who preferred ED-209.
A candidate for the RoboCop program emerges when Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) becomes viciously gunned down during a strike with his partner, Ann Lewis (Nancy Allen), against the ruthless Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). While Murphy’s body was ravaged and near death, OCP was able to preserve what they could biologically including his brain and face placing it in the cyborg vessel of Robocop.
From there, Murphy struggles between what he’s become and retaining his humanity. Where does RoboCop end and where does Murphy begin. The scarier prospect is that given a few keystrokes, Murphy can cease to be, which begs to question: Who was Dr. Frankenstein? Morton or OCP?
As we see the film progress, we see Morton also in conflict between two worlds, like Murphy. What right would he have to take away Murphy’s humanity and what duty would he have to his employer that allowed him to create RoboCop in the first place?
We see Murphy trying to accept his new reality as RoboCop, but instead of being viewed as just a corporate monster, he’s viewed as some revered superhero he never asked to be. Can he ever be with his family knowing he can never have that normal life again?
Again, the film really pulls off how well it’s grounded its science fiction placing a contemporary template to ongoing questions of how we define our humanity. It also parodies the rampant and ruthless consumerism of OCP.
Director Paul Verhoeven, along with writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, did everything right when it came to a superhero origin story right down to his blatant Jesus allegories which he coined the phrase, “American Jesus.” It also features one of the finest 80s composed soundtracks from Basil Poledouris. It’s ironic for an R-rated film that made light on American consumerism that it gleefully participated in it.
- Two sequels
- Video games
- A pro-wrestling appearance
- Animated TV shows
- Live action TV Show
- A grossly-sanitized modern remake
RoboCop has everything from great practical effects, cheesy one-liners, gratuitous blood squibs, and an endearing message about how much hope you can still have in humanity. It’s a top 10 must see for any fan of 80s action. It’s the kind of story you don’t really see anymore.
What is your favorite scene from the film?