25 Years Ago: Robocop

I almost didn’t see Robocop in theaters. It almost didn’t become one of my top 20 favorite movies of all time or one of my top 10 science fiction films.

Back in the summer of 1987 some friends and I went to a mall to specifically see The Living Daylights. I was born in 1970 and had seen all James Bond movies in theaters since I was old enough to go to the movies. The other Bond films I had seen on video or television up to that point. I’m a big fan of the film franchise and still am to this day. So I sure wasn’t going to miss Timothy Dalton make his debut and usher in a new era for the character. That is until my friends decided they wanted to see Robocop instead.

We were standing in line for The Living Daylights and the poster was on the wall and it caught my friends’ attention. I had seen commercials for Robocop on TV and it didn’t really capture my interest. It just seems like a B-level science fiction/action movie with no big-name actors in it. Besides, James Bond, Beverly Hills Cop II and Predator were the movies I was looking forward to the most that summer.

Since there was a showing that was close to The Living Daylights’ time they decided to see that instead. I was furious. I didn’t want to see Bond by myself so reluctantly I paid for a Robocop ticket.

What I got was a ballet of violence, humor, style and one of the greatest cinematic costumes ever created. The hardcore action and genius visual effects complement an intelligent script that could have easily been portrayed as something we see on SyFy today.

In a nutshell, Old Detroit is baron, crime-ridden and run by the corporate conglomerate, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). OCP senior president, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), has developed a heavily armed android called the ED-209 to battle the ever-growing street crime. After the ED-209 fails it’s initial demonstration with a gory shoot-out in a board room, OCP employee Bob Morton takes the chance to pitch his Robocop program with the hopes of advancing his career.

With criminal violence escalating in the city it doesn’t take long for cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) to be brutally killed by a gang of sadistic hoodlums led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). In the style of a futuristic Frankenstein, Murphy’s body is reconstructed by technicians and dubbed Robocop. The newly christened cyborg is a success and angers Jones because his ED-209 program has been pushed aside. This motivates tJones to team up with Boddicker to destroy Robocop.

Murphy not only has to deal with a target on his back but also flashes of memory of his former self. He has to decide if he wants to be a man or a machine.

Peter Weller is outstanding as the title character before and after his transformation. Because of his performance in this movie I went to see Shakedown in theaters the following spring and sought out The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension on video.

And who can forget Clarence Boddicker played by Kurtwood Smith. Boddicker is nasty, vulgar and one of the best movie villains ever. Even though he’s a hired gun he’s still out to do his own thing. Backed up by a rag-tag gang of thugs,

Budgeted at $13 million, the film went on to gross more than $53 million at the U.S. box office making it a bona fide surprise hit. It spawned two theatrical sequels, a syndicated television series, video games, two animated cartoon TV shows, and a four syndicated TV mini-series and several comic book incarnations.

A remake of Robocop is scheduled for 2013. An Internet campaign has already started for it.

I’m holding judgment on the remake until we learn more about it. Robocop’s look is big for me so if there are major changes in how he looks then I’ll be very disappointed.

The 1987 film still holds up and I revisit it at least once a year.

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9 thoughts on “25 Years Ago: Robocop

  1. Yes, there is no way to overestimate how influential this movie was to us kids back in the day. I didn’t get to see it in theaters. I had to watch an ABC editted version. But it was still awesome.

  2. I loved robocop back in the day. I saw it in HD a year or two ago, which was a decidedly odd experience. While the special effects were always of a good quality, the actual filming was of a rather low quality, even for it’s time (perhaps that was intentional, to give it more of a “gritty cop flick” feeling? *shrug* ), and the version which was broadcast had not been remastered at all.

    Personally, I’m getting quite tired of all these “we can’t come up with any decent ideas of our own, so lets remake an old classic (and usually ruin it)” movies. Even when they don’t actually screw it up too much (which is extremely rare), it’s tedious getting so many of these rehashed movies in such a short timeframe.

  3. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Robocop was staggeringly original and brain-meltingly violent.

    They’ll never come close to equal it with the remake.
    It’ll be vanillacop.

    I’ll be keeping my dollar.

    But the good part of these remakes is that, like The Retroist pointed out with the Total Recall Blu-Ray, the originals are getting the red-carpet treatment for home viewing.

  4. TheSixMillionDollarJedi says:

    Hopefully Robocop 3 taught the lesson that the character doesn’t work as PG-13. But since this is Hollywood I’m going to guess no.

    Did anyone watch the clip of the movie trailer? The music is the Terminator. I never realized that until I put it in this post.

    I don’t mind remakes. Remakes don’t mean the originals are destroyed and you can never get them. If anything a remake draws attention to the original film like Atari said with Total Recall. A lot of times the original gets a Blu-Ray release to coincide with the remake.

  5. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I gotta admit my initial reaction short-changes the possibilities of Robocop’s robotopia remade for a wider audience, with tech-fun a higher priority than the ultra-violence that dropped jaws in the first one.

    The more gruesome parts of Robocop (the ‘un-making’ of officer Murphy – body part by body part, the many many squibs asplodin’ merrily about throughout the picture, etc) weren’t necessary to get the point across (though Boddicker’s squishy outcome still deserves a standing-O).

    I’d be curious to see Iron Man-level of smarts applied to this session of movie-making.

    Yeah, I’ll see about that dollar.
    They may have it, yet.

    I may have been overly judgemental for dem H’wood folks ruining Spidey and Total Recall this summer.

  6. Great post, Six Million Dollar Jedi!

    1) 25 years? Really? It makes me feel old. Ha, ha
    2) I’ve heard that things are going to look mighty different in the remake for our pal, Murphy. The big change I’ve read about is that he has a transparent visor, so you can see all of his face, and it’s rumored to be PG-13…so…probably not quite as much violence as the original.

  7. My favorite robocop scene of all time has always been the one where some thug is holding a lady hostage and robocop shoots through her skirt to nail the guy in the crotch.

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