All Time Classics: RoboCop (1987)

Robocop Poster

RoboCop 1987

Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith

Writers: Edward Neumier, Michael Miner

Director: Paul Verhoven

There are certain movies that are released way ahead of it’s time and presents the viewers with new ideas that takes a bit of time to appreciate.  “2001 a Space Odyssey” is one that comes to mind when I think of movies that needed some time for people to like.  I’m not saying that this one reaches that same level and some may call me a bit snobbish for bringing it up in the first place. But I do think that “RoboCop” should be considered a classic.  Not only is it a great action movie where the good defeats both street and corporate crime. It’s also a good satire of the 80′s and it’s views on capitalism, wealth, and media influence on the public. It achieves these things and more because it was released in the same decade as the one it’s parodying. However this is not another spoof movie, as both screenwriters and director are bringing us a legitimate action movie. With a recent
version coming to theaters this year. I thought I would take a quick look back at the cyborg who had only three directives.

Screen Junkies released an Honest trailer for this flick that I had to use here.

To fully understand and appreciate this movie. I almost have to bring you back in time to the late 80′s. Movie heroes were not like the ones we have now. This was before the average looking guy started kicking ass like in “Die Hard” or “Mission Impossible” . Our action heroes were Arnold Schwartzenegger in “Commando” and Slyvester Stallone
in “Rambo“. Characters who were bigger then life and never seemed to get hurt. Ronald Regan was president at the time and the whole country seemed to have this major set of balls. Everything needed to be bigger, faster and we wanted more. This kind of lifestyle was tough for a lot of people to achive and so they turn to drugs which in turn leads to crime. I’m not saying that those things don’t still happen now but back then everything seemed to have more access then it did. So when “RoboCop” gets released in 87.  Everyone just assumes that it’s a story about a guy who battles an evil corperation. I tend to view it more as a story about an average guy who gets these great powers to defend the weak and punish the guilty. He is a metal angel.  A metal angel that kicks a lot of ass.   He may be an unstoppable machine, but what sets this guy apart from other action heroes is that he has a tortured soul.  He has this family he can’t quite remember and it’s tearing him up inside. Not to mention a a little grudge about being shot multiple times by Red of “That 70′s Show” and his cronies. I’m pretty sure one of the henchmen was the dad on “Twin Peaks” too.

robocop-guns

One of the best things about “RoboCop” is how it starts. In most action movies you would have a scene that establishes who the bad guys are or ones that introduces the hero.  In this we are treated to a newscast complete with commercials. This is done before the story even begins. I love this because it does help set the satirical nature for the film. The way the two anchors smile throughout the show while the world is going to shit. Reminds me of “The Today Show” and other news programs that trade hard facts for a gossip coffee break feel.  All of the commercials poke fun at our needs to have bigger and better things.The artificial heart is made by Yamaha who were a big electronics company in the 80′s. The show that eveyone watches for that one tag line “I’ll buy that for a dollar” was a concept that later became a hit on many shows. “Don’t have a cow, man” from The Simpsons. “Oh my God! They killed Kenny” from South Park, ect ect.

RoboCop” also addressed the topic of capitalism. Take for example when we first meet the new prototype Ed-209 at a board meeting. Not one person in that entire room cares anything about helping the public.  They only care about what kind of profit they’re new toy will make. After one of their employees is gunned down by the malfunctioning Ed 209 Dick Jones(Ronny Cox) only thinks that it’s a small set back on an item that will eventually make tons of money. It seems to play into the notion that bigger is better and in the 80′s that was evident with cars and certain stereo systems. Ed 209 is a lot bigger then RoboCop and has a lot more weapons. It should be the better weapon, but the movie clearly proves.  The bigger they are, the harder they most definitely will fall. Sometimes from a large flight of stairs. The idea that bigger isn’t always better also plays into a car that everyone wants. The 6000 SUX may look cool, but it has a lot of problems and Im sure that shitty gas mileage is just a small part.  It has the misfortune to have its ads place the car next to a Dinosaur. Reinforcing the fact that it’s becoming extinct. Even when it tries to prove otherwise.

Every single actor in this movie is top notch.   Peter Weller is great as a small time cop who both is seeking answers to his past while also doing his duty.  He is a lot more caring then a lot of other people in this because his programing is very basic.  If you are a criminal that kills people and you try and attack Robo.  You probably deserve to die.  Nancy Allen has been known to play bitchy girls in movies like “Carrie”  and her role as Officer Lewis was a good companion.  She saw the human side in Murphy aka Robocop before he did.  Ronny Cox as Dick Jones is just that, a dick.  Not only is this character making shitty products but he is also in cohoots with the main bad guy who shot our hero.   This proves what a great actor he is, because I hated that character so much.  Kurtwood Smith as Clarence J. Boddicker was  so great I found it hard to picture that actor in a sitcom.  Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton took a different approach to a guy who was just as money grubbing and corrupt as everyone else.    He may not have any compassion for his product, but at least he cares in making it the best.

Robocop - 03 Clarity

RoboCop” was one of my favorite movies when I was 12 and it still holds up today.  Yes I saw a heavy violent movie and I’m still OK. A lot of those scenes are so over the top in the unrated version that it becomes very comical.  The action is still good and the themes remain as potent as ever.  It is one that I will never get tired of watching.  It is by all counts, an all time classic.

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About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with eachother and it's fun to discover new classics. I also cohost the podcast As You Watch and write for The Cinematic Katzenjammer.
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11 Responses to All Time Classics: RoboCop (1987)

  1. Dan Heaton says:

    Vern, I’ve found that Robocop is so easily re-watchable and stands up really well. While the effects might seem dated on the surface today, the practical and stop-motion work seems more down to Earth than a lot of the CGI movies. The satire is a big selling point like you say. The commercials are classic and really add depth to the film.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    It’s a bit dated in spots and bits, but overall, still a kick-ass thriller that reminds us what Paul Verhoven used to for the male race. Good review Vern.

  3. jjames36 says:

    I’d have to see it again before I start calling it an all time classic, but from what I remember about it, I agree with you. The original was good.

    Excellent analysis.

  4. The Vern says:

    I may be jumping the gun a bit by calling it a classic, but hey it did get the criterion treatment at one point so I think its fair to call it that. Thanks for reading

  5. Ha Nukem, loved those ads in the film. Great review :D

  6. ninvoid99 says:

    It’s been a longtime since I’ve seen the film as I think it was once released by Criterion and needs a reissue.

  7. The Vern says:

    It needs a better Blueray release then the one MGM put out. A Criterion version would be perfect

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