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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Verhoeven|
|Produced by||Arne Schmidt|
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Frank J. Urioste|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Box office||$53.4 million (US)|
RoboCop is a 1987 American cyberpunk action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. The film stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, and Ronny Cox. Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan, in the near future, RoboCop centers on police officer Alex Murphy (Weller) who is murdered by a gang of criminals and subsequently revived by the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) as a superhuman cyborg law enforcer known as RoboCop.
Themes that make up the basis of RoboCop include media influence, gentrification, corruption, authoritarianism, greed, privatization, capitalism, identity, dystopia and human nature. It received positive reviews and was cited as one of the best films of 1987, spawning a franchise that included merchandise, two sequels, a television series, a remake, two animated TV series, a television mini-series, video games, and a number of comic book adaptations/crossovers. The film was produced for a relatively modest $13 million. Honors for the film include five Saturn Awards, two BAFTA Award nominations and the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, along with nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Reception
- 6 Novelization
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Sequels
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In a dystopian future Detroit, Michigan, is a struggling city on the verge of total collapse due to financial ruin and a high crime rate. The mayor signs a deal with the mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP), giving it complete control of the underfunded Detroit Police Department. In exchange, OCP will be allowed to turn the run-down sections of Detroit into a high-end utopia called Delta City. OCP's Senior Vice President Richard "Dick" Jones proposes assisting the police with the ED-209 law enforcement droid. At its first demonstration, however, ED-209 malfunctions and gruesomely kills an innocent young executive named Kinney. Robert "Bob" Morton, an ambitious executive, uses the opportunity to introduce his own experimental cyborg design, "RoboCop". To Jones's anger, the company chairmanâreferred to as the Old Manâapproves Morton's plan.
OCP reassigns officers into crime-ridden districts in anticipation that someone will be killed in action for use as a test subject for RoboCop. Elsewhere, Officer Alexander James "Alex" Murphy, who has been transferred from Metro South, joins the force and becomes partners with Officer Anne Lewis. On their first patrol, they chase a gang of criminals led by the notorious Clarence Boddicker, which leads to one crew member getting thrown at the police car. The distraction allows Boddicker's gang to hide in an abandoned steel mill where Murphy and Lewis separate on foot to find them. While Murphy manages to kill one of them and attempts to arrest another, he is caught by Boddicker and the others; the gang tortures Murphy, brutally gunning him down before Boddicker delivers the finishing blow. He is declared dead, and OCP selects him as the RoboCop candidate; they replace most of his body with cybernetics, leaving only his human brain. RoboCop is programmed with three prime directives, including to serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law, he has also been programmed with a fourth directive which has been classified.
RoboCop, assigned to Murphy's former district, proceeds to efficiently rid the streets of crime. Despite this, however, the deteriorating situation in Detroit, led by the mismanagement of OCP, causes the human officers to threaten to strike. Lewis, who witnessed Murphy's "death", believes RoboCop is Murphy, based on his exhibiting some behaviors from his old life. As RoboCop suffers from latent memories from Murphy, he discovers his true identity and that his wife and son moved away after Murphy's death. Meanwhile, Jones becomes frustrated when Morton gets promoted for his latest success with RoboCop's reputation; fearing that he will be displaced, Jones discreetly hires Boddicker to kill Morton at his home.
During a hold-up at a gas station, RoboCop recognizes the robber as Boddicker's henchman Emil Antonowsky, and after a shootout that results in the gas station exploding and Emil being injured, manages to arrest him. RoboCop reviews police records, identifies Boddicker and the other gang members before confronting them at a drug deal. During his arrest, Boddicker admits to being hired by Jones, and with this evidence recorded on video. Jones openly admits his role in Morton's death. RoboCop attempts to arrest Jones, which results in triggering Directive 4: RoboCop will shut down if he attempts to arrest any senior executive of OCP. With RoboCop's programming limiting his abilities, Jones sends an ED-209 stationed in his office to attack RoboCop, severely damaging him with its heavier firepower. RoboCop manages to evade ED-209, but is ambushed by a Special Weapons and Tactics unit which has been authorized by Jones to eliminate RoboCop. Lewis, who had been following RoboCop, helps him escape to safety at the steel mill and undergo repairs.
The police follow through with their strike, creating chaos in the city. Boddicker and his gang are released from prison and acquire new high-powered rifles from Jones to finish off RoboCop. Boddicker, using a tracking system provided to him by Jones, heads towards the steel mill. RoboCop and Lewis work together to eliminate the gang; Lewis gets shot by Boddicker before he attacks RoboCop, who stabs Boddicker fatally in the neck.
RoboCop subsequently heads to OCP headquarters alone, destroys ED-209, barges in on an executive meeting where the Old Man and Jones are present, and shows them the video of Jones' confession. Jones quickly takes the Old Man hostage, knowing that Directive 4 still protects him. The Old Man promptly fires Jones, which cancels Directive 4 against Jones and allows RoboCop to shoot him, who falls out of a window to his death. Grateful, the Old Man commends RoboCop's shooting and asks what his name is; RoboCop smiles and answers, "Murphy".
- Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/RoboCop
- Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis
- Ronny Cox as Dick Jones
- Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker
- Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton
- Dan O'Herlihy as "The Old Man" (OCP Chairman)
- Paul McCrane as Emil Antonowsky
- Ray Wise as Leon Nash
- Jesse D. Goins as Joe Cox
- Calvin Jung as Steve Minh
- Michael Gregory as Lt. Hedgecock
- Robert DoQui as Sergeant Warren Reed
- Felton Perry as Donald Johnson
- Lee de Broux as Sal
- S. D. Nemeth as Bixby Snyder
Inspiration and script
RoboCop was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Neumeier stated that he first got the idea of RoboCop when he walked with a friend past a poster for Blade Runner. He asked his friend what the film was about and his friend replied, "It's about a cop hunting robots". For him, this sparked the idea about a robot cop. While the two were attempting to pitch the screenplay to Hollywood executives, they were accidentally stranded at an airplane terminal with a high-ranking movie executive for several hours. Here, they were able to speak to him about the project, and thus began the series of events which eventually gave rise to RoboCop.
In 1981 Neumeier wrote the first treatment, about a robot police officer who was not a cyborg but in the development of the story his computer mind became more similar to human. The plot takes place in a fairly distant future, the world is ruled by corporations and it was assumed that this world would be visually similar to the world shown in Blade Runner. The treatment was rejected by many studios because of the incompleteness of the storyline and settings. In 1984 Neumeier met music video director Michael Miner, who worked on a similar idea; his rough draft of the script was called SuperCop, which was about a police officer who has been seriously injured and becomes a donor for experiment to create a cybernetic police officer. Neumeier and Miner felt that they could successfully combine their ideas.
RoboCop marked the first major Hollywood production for Dutch director Paul Verhoeven. Although he had been working in the Netherlands for more than a decade and directed several films to great acclaim, such as Soldier of Orange in 1977, he moved to Hollywood in 1984 to seek broader opportunities. While RoboCop is often credited as his English language debut, he had in fact previously made Flesh & Blood, starring Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh, during 1985.
On the Criterion Edition audio commentary (available on both the LaserDisc and DVD versions), Verhoeven recalls that, when he first glanced through the script, he discarded it in disgust. Afterwards, his wife, after picking the script from the bin and reading it more thoroughly, convinced him that the plot had more substance than he had originally assumed. Repo Man director Alex Cox was offered the opportunity to direct before Verhoeven came aboard. Kenneth Johnson, creator of television series V, The Bionic Woman, and The Incredible Hulk, said that he was offered the chance to direct, but turned it down when he was not allowed to change aspects of the script that he considered to be "mean-spirited, ugly and ultra-violent."
The character of RoboCop itself was inspired by British comic book hero Judge Dredd, as well as the Japanese toku series Space Sheriff Gavan and the Marvel Comics superhero Rom. A Rom comic book appears onscreen during the film's convenience store robbery. Another Rom comic appears in a flashback depicting Murphy's son. Although both Neumeier and Verhoeven have declared themselves staunchly on the political left, Neumeier recalls on the audio commentary to Starship Troopers that many of his liberal friends perceived RoboCop as a fascist movie. On the 20th Anniversary DVD, producer Jon Davison referred to the film's message as "fascism for liberals" – a politically liberal film done in the most violent way possible.
Before Peter Weller was cast, Rutger Hauer and Michael Ironside were favored to play RoboCop by Verhoeven and the producers, respectively. However, each man's large frame would have made it difficult for either of them to move in the cumbersome RoboCop suit, which had been modeled on hockey gear and designed to be large and bulky. Weller won the role both because Verhoeven felt that he could adequately convey pathos with his lower face, and because Weller was especially lithe and could more easily move inside the suit than a bigger actor.
Stephanie Zimbalist, who at the time was one of the stars of the television series Remington Steele, was originally cast as Anne Lewis. NBC had canceled Remington Steele in 1986, leaving the stars free to accept other roles, subject to options for further episodes on their contracts. However, an upsurge of interest in the show saw the network exercise the options, which meant that Zimbalist was then forced to withdraw from RoboCop, to be replaced by Nancy Allen. Similarly, this move forbid Pierce Brosnan from accepting the role of James Bond in The Living Daylights.
In the DVD director's commentary, Verhoeven explained that he intentionally chose to cast Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox against type by making them the central villains. Cox was an actor who, until then, was primarily known for "nice-guy" roles, such as fatherly figures. Similarly, Smith had been cast as more intellectual characters. Verhoeven chose to outfit Smith's character Clarence Boddicker in rimless glasses because of their intellectual association, creating a disparity in the character that Verhoeven found akin to the similarly bespectacled Heinrich Himmler.
Filming began on August 6, 1986, and wrapped on October 20, 1986. The scenes depicting Murphy's death were not filmed until the following January (1987), some months after principal shooting had ceased. Although RoboCop is set in Detroit, Michigan, many of the urban settings in the film were actually filmed in Dallas, Texas. The futuristic appearances of the Dallas buildings, such as Reunion Tower, are visible in the background during the car chase. The front of Dallas City Hall was used as the exterior for the fictional OCP Headquarters, combined with extensive matte paintings to make the building appear taller than it actually is. The steel mill scenes were filmed at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel's Monessen Works, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monessen, Pennsylvania.
Peter Weller had prepared extensively for the role using a padded costume, as development of the actual RoboCop suit was three weeks behind schedule. By the time shooting was underway and the costume had arrived on set, however, Weller discovered he was almost unable to move in it and needed additional training to become accustomed to it. Weller later revealed to Roger Ebert that during filming, he was losing three pounds a day due to sweat loss while wearing the RoboCop suit in 100 Â°F (38 Â°C) temperatures. Weller's personal assistant, Todd Trotter, was responsible for keeping the actor cool in between takes with electric fans and, when available, large ducts connected to free-standing air conditioning units. The suit later had a fan built into it.
The 1986 Ford Taurus was used as the police cruiser in the movie, due to its then-futuristic design. As of May 2012, RoboCop's Taurus is on display at the Branson Auto Museum in Branson, Missouri.
The task of creating the RoboCop suit was given to Rob Bottin. The studio decided that Bottin would be the ideal person to create the RoboCop suit, as he had just finished doing the special effects for John Carpenter's The Thing. A budget of up to one million dollars was allotted to the completion of the suit, making it the most expensive item on the set. A total of six suits were made: three intact and three showing damage.
Bottin himself had produced early design sketches for the suit's prototype that the studio accepted enthusiastically, albeit with the request of some minor adjustments. Rob, Paul Verhoeven, and Edward Neumeier came up with the concept of the suit being more of an outer shell, with very little of the actor's actual face being visible. Bottin explained the basis of the design:
It's meant to look very speedy and aerodynamic. All the lines are measured to go on a slant – forward, forward, forward! All the lines were geometric, and complement every shape on the body from all angles. When Verhoeven came on the project, he requested numerous design changes, additions to the suit which looked more like machine than man-like. I've never done so many conceptional drawings for a director in my entire life – changing it, and changing it, and changing it!
However, the design ended up bearing a closer resemblance to Bottin's original design:
RoboCop looks the way he does because that's the way a man's body works! Although we went through fifty different variations, developing his character, everything came back to man-like. It's definitely a guy in the suit, which doesn't belittle it any.
The suit itself was attached to the actor in sections. To wear the helmet, Peter Weller wore a bald cap that allowed the helmet to be removed easily. After almost 10 months of preparation, the RoboCop suit was completed based on life casts from Peter Weller and Bottin's six-foot clay models. The suit's color was supposed to be bright blue; however, it was given a more grayish tint to make it look more metallic and produce less glare on the camera when it was being filmed.
Peter Weller had in the meantime hired Moni Yakim, the head of the Movement Department at Juilliard, to help create an appropriate way for him to move his body while wearing the RoboCop suit. He and Moni had envisioned RoboCop moving like a snake, dancing around its targets very elusively. The suit, however, proved to be too heavy and cumbersome. Instead, at the suggestion of Moni, it was decided that they would slow down RoboCop's movements in order to make them more appealing and plausible. Filming stopped for three days, allowing Peter and Paul Verhoeven to discuss new movements for the suit.
The original gun for RoboCop was a Desert Eagle, but this was deemed too small. A Beretta 93R was heavily modified by Ray Williams of Freshour Machine, Texas City, Texas, who extended the gun barrel to make it look bigger and more proportional to RoboCop's hand. The gun holster itself was a standalone piece that was not integrated into the suit. Off-screen technicians would operate the device on cue by pulling cables that would force the holster to open up and allow the gun to be placed inside.
The ED-209 stop motion model was designed by Craig Hayes, who also built the full size models, and animated by Phil Tippett, a veteran stop-motion animator. As one of the setpieces of the movie, the ED-209's look and animated sequences were under the close supervision of director Paul Verhoeven, who sometimes acted out the robot's movements himself. ED-209 was voiced by producer Jon Davison. Davies and Tippett would go on to collaborate on many more projects.
In one scene, Emil attempts to run down RoboCop, but instead accidentally drives into a vat of toxic waste, causing the flesh to melt off his face and hands. These effects were also conceived and designed by Bottin, who was inspired by Rick Baker's work on The Incredible Melting Man, and who dubbed the RoboCop effects "the Melting Man" as an homage to the production.
Chiodo Brothers Productions fabricated and animated the dinosaur puppet in the 6000 SUX commercial. The dinosaur itself was animated by Don Waller, who also had a cameo in the same sequence, reacting to the rampaging creature in a tight close-up.
The soundtrack score for the movie was composed by Basil Poledouris, who used both synthesized and orchestral music as a mirror to the man-versus-machine theme of the movie. The score alternates brass-heavy material, including the RoboCop theme and ED-209's theme, with more introverted pieces for strings, such as during RoboCop's homecoming scene. The music was performed by the Sinfonia of London, conducted by Howard Blake and Tony Britten. The soundtrack initially was released by VarÃ¨se Sarabande containing highlights from the score in an order different from that heard in the movie. The final four tracks were included on later CD re-issues.
|RoboCop (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Film score by |
|RoboCop (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|6.||"Robo vs. ED-209"||2:07|
|8.||"Across The Board"||1:52|
|10.||"Clarence Frags Bob"||1:46|
|11.||"Robo Tips His Hat"||2:11|
|12.||"Drive To Jones' Office"||1:48|
|13.||"We Killed You"||1:46|
|16.||"Have A Heart"||0:33|
|19.||"Big Is Better"||0:27|
The complete score in film sequence order was released in 2015 containing four previously unreleased tracks, the full end credits suite and the four previous CD bonus tracks.
|Music From The Motion Picture RoboCop (Original Score)|
|Film score by |
|Music From The Film RoboCop ( Complete Original Score By Basil Poledouris)|
|2.||"Have A Heart"||0:35|
|4.||"Twirl (previously unreleased)"||0:27|
|6.||"Murphy Dies (previously titled "Murphy's Death)"||2:39|
|7.||"Robo Lives (previously unreleased)"||1:06|
|8.||"Drive Montage (previously unreleased)"||1:06|
|9.||"Helpless Woman (previously unreleased)"||1:18|
|11.||"Murphy's Dream (previously titled "The Dream")"||3:09|
|12.||"Gas Station Blow-Up (previously titled "We Killed You")"||1:46|
|13.||"Murphy Goes Home (previously titled "Home")"||4:16|
|14.||"Clarence Frags Bob"||1:47|
|16.||"Robo Drives To Jones (previously titled "Drive To Jones' Office")"||1:49|
|18.||"Robo & ED 209 Fight (previously titled "Robo vs. ED-209")"||2:11|
|19.||"Force Shoots Robo (previously titled "Betrayal")"||2:47|
|20.||"Big Is Better"||2:38|
|21.||"Care Package (previously titled "Robo Tips His Hat")"||3:01|
|22.||"Looking For Me (previously titled "Showdown")"||5:18|
|23.||"Across The Board/End Credits (previously unreleased extended version)"||7:33|
The song "Show Me Your Spine" by P.T.P. was played during the nightclub scene. P.T.P was a short-lived side project consisting of members of the band Ministry and Skinny Puppy. However, this song was not available in any official form and could only be heard in the film. It was eventually released in 2004 on a compilation album called Side Trax by Ministry.
The movie was originally given an X rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 1987 due to its graphic violence, in sharp contrast to most other X-rated movies that received the rating due to strong sexual content. To appease the requirements of the ratings board, Verhoeven reduced the blood and gore in the most violent scenes in the movie, including ED-209's shooting of Kinney in the boardroom, Bobby being shot in the leg, the Boddicker gang's execution of Murphy with shotguns, and the final battle with Boddicker (in which RoboCop stabs him in the neck with his neural spike and Boddicker's blood spatters onto RoboCop's chest). Verhoeven also added humorous commercials throughout the news broadcasts to lighten the mood and distract from the violent aspects of the movie (most of the commercials satirize various aspects of the American consumer culture, such as the commercial for the 6000 SUX sedan). After 11 original X ratings, the film was eventually given an R rating. The original uncut version was included on the Criterion Collection LaserDisc and DVD of the film (both out of print), the 2005 trilogy box set, and the 2007 anniversary editionâthe latter two were released by MGM and were unrated. The 2014 Blu-ray 4K master edition also features this unrated cut.
Regarding the omitted scenes, Verhoeven stated on the 2007 anniversary edition DVD that he had wanted the violence to be "over the top", in an almost comical fashion (such as the scene involving the executive that is killed by ED-209, and Bob Morton immediately asking "Somebody wanna call a goddamn paramedic?!", which was meant as black comedy). Verhoeven also stated that the tone of the violence was changed to a more upsetting tone due to the deletions requested by the MPAA, and that the deletions also removed footage of the extensive animatronic puppet of Murphy just before he is executed by Boddicker.
The following scenes are now presented in the uncut version of the movie available on Blu-ray and DVD:
1) During the boardroom meeting, ED-209 begins to shoot Kinney who falls back on a table. Additional shots are then shown of him being shot at continuously in rapid succession. There is also an additional, quick shot of ED-209's programmer unsuccessfully trying to shut it down by ripping out its power cord.
2) A very quick shot of Bobby being shot in the leg and the impact that follows before he's tossed out of the getaway van.
3) Murphy's death scene is the most altered scene in the movie. Additional shots include when his hand is shot off, Murphy gets up and a visible stump is seen where his hand used to be. An additional shot shows his right arm being shot off completely and him screaming in pain. In the theatrical version, this scene is missing and Murphy is merely shown with one arm without any explanation. The final seconds of his murder shows an additional shot of the camera spinning around Murphy as he writhes in pain and Clarence shoots him in the head and a hole appears. This original shot was achieved using a sophisticated animatronic puppet of Peter Weller controlled off-screen. One final overhead shot also shows the bloody aftermath of what has happened to Murphy as Lewis looks on shocked at his dead body.
4) Bob Morton's death now shows a close up of additional bullet holes puncturing his leg before he falls down.
5) When Clarence Boddiker is stabbed in the neck, there is an additional shot of him holding his neck as he turns around and blood spurts from the wound like a fountain.
RoboCop was released in American theaters on July 17, 1987. The film opened no. 1 at the US box office and grossed over $8 million in its opening weekend and another $6 million in its second weekend, again regaining the top spot at the box office. It topped rival films released at the same time, including Full Metal Jacket and Superman IV. In total, it grossed $53.4 million during its North American run, making it the 16th most successful film that year. It also grossed an additional $24,036,000 from video rentals in the United States.
The film was released on Philips CD-i VCD (Video CD) in 1994. Criterion released the uncut "director's edit" on LaserDisc in 1996. In 1998, Criterion released it on DVD, while Image Entertainment released the R-rated cinema version. The R-rated cinema version was slated to be released on Blu-Ray by Sony in 2006. However, Sony pulled the Blu-Ray just days before it was to be released. Only a handful of copies were released to the general public, mainly reviewers, making it very rare. It was re-released on Region 1 DVD in 2007 and on Blu-ray in 2010 as part of the Blu-ray Robocop Trilogy. A remastered Blu-ray edition was released in January 2014 to tie into the 2014 remake.
On Metacritic, the film has an average rating of 67/100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively gave it a rating of 89% based on reviews from 63 critics and an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's consensus is: "While over-the-top and gory, RoboCop is also a surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture".
Roger Ebert praised the film, calling RoboCop "a thriller with a difference," praising the way it puts the audience off-guard, and calling it a thriller not easily categorized with splashes of other genres added. Ebert praised Weller for his performance and his ability to elicit sympathy despite the layers of makeup and prosthetics. Walter Goodman, writing for The New York Times, believed the film's anti-corporate message "has more trouble emerging from Mr. Verhoeven's sizzling battles than poor Murphy does from his robosuit."
Feminist Susan Faludi called RoboCop one of "an endless stream of war and action movies" in which "women are reduced to mute and incidental characters or banished altogether." Author Rene Denfeld disagreed with Faludi's characterization of the film, calling it her "favorite blow-'em-up movie," citing Officer Lewis as an example of an "independent and smart police officer." In the commentary track of the Special Edition DVD release, Verhoeven explained that he intentionally depicted Officer Lewis as "gender neutral", thus her hidden gender during her introductory scene, a physical fight with a male in the police station, and the choice to give the character short hair.
|Academy Awards||Best Sound Editing*
*Special Achievement Award
|Stephen Hunter Flick and John Pospisil||Won|||
|Best Film Editing||Frank J. Urioste||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Michael J. Kohut, Carlos Delarios, Aaron Rochin, and Robert Wald|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Makeup and Hair||Carla Palmer|||
|Best Special Visual Effects||Rob Bottin, Phil Tippett, Peter Kuran, Rocco Gioffre|||
|Saturn Awards||Best Science Fiction Film||Won|||
|Best Director||Paul Verhoeven|
|Best Writing||Michael Miner and Edward Neumeier|
|Best Make-up||Rob Bottin and Stephan Dupuis|
|Best Special Effects||Peter Kuran, Phil Tippett, Rob Bottin and Rocco Gioffre|
|Best Actor||Peter Weller||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Nancy Allen|
|Best Costume||Erica Edell Phillips|
In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named the film the 14th greatest action film of all time, and Complex rated it as the 19th best action film of all time in 2016. In 2008, it was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, placing at #404. The New York Times also included the film in their list of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made. AMC Filmsite.org and Film.com rated it as one of the best films of 1987.
The film was on the ballot for two of the American Film Institute's 100 Series lists. These included 100 Years ... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding films, and AFI's "Ten Top Ten", a list of the best 10 films in 10 "classic" American film genres. RoboCop was a candidate in the science fiction category. At its release, British director Ken Russell said that this was the best science fiction film since Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927).
Themes and analysis
In a 2013 interview, Edward Neumeier reflected on how the film's script is starting to play into reality: "We are now living in the world that I was proposing in RoboCop ... how big corporations will 'take care of us' and ... how they won't."
Two of the primary themes explored by RoboCop are the media and human nature. On the Criterion Edition DVD commentary track, executive producer Jon Davison and writer Edward Neumeier both relate the film to the decay of American industry from the 1970s through the early 1980s, with the abandoned "Rust Belt style" factories that RoboCop and Clarence Boddicker's gang use as hideouts reflecting this concern. Massive unemployment is prevalent, being reported frequently on the news, as are poverty and the crime that results from economic hardship.
Director Paul Verhoeven, known for his heavy use of Christian symbolism, states in the documentary Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop (featured on the RoboCop DVD) that his intention was to portray RoboCop as a Christ figure. This is represented in: Murphy's horrific death (read: crucifixion); his return (read: resurrection) as Robocop; the showdown with Clarence Boddicker at the steel mill, which finds RoboCop trudging through ankle-deep water (this creates the illusion of him walking on water).
Darian Leader considers RoboCop one example of how the cinema has dealt with the concept of masculinity, showing that to be a man requires more than having the body of a man: something symbolic that is not ultimately human must be added. He sees RoboCop as similar to The Terminator and The Six Million Dollar Man in this respect. Leader wrote of RoboCop:
The RoboCop is a family man who is destroyed by thugs, then rebuilt as a robot by science. His son always insists, before the transformation, that his human father perform the gun spinning trick he sees on TV. When the robot can finally do this properly, he is no longer just a male biological body: he is a body plus machinery, a body which includes within it the symbolic circuitry of science. Old heroes had bits of metal outside them (knights), but modern heroes have bits of metal inside them. To be a man today thus involves this kind of real incorporation of symbolic properties.
Philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek wrote that:
RoboCop, a futuristic story about a policeman shot to death and then revived after all parts of his body have been replaced by artificial substitutes, introduces a more tragic note: the hero who finds himself literally "between two deaths" – clinically dead and at the same time provided with a new, mechanical bodyâstarts to remember fragments of his previous, "human" life and thus undergoes a process of resubjectivication, changing gradually back from pure incarnated drive to a being of desire. ... [I]f there is a phenomenon that fully deserves to be called the "fundamental fantasy of contemporary mass culture," it is this fantasy of the return of the living dead: the fantasy of a person who does not want to stay dead but returns again and again to pose a threat to the living.
The depiction of Murphy's struggles in reasserting his humanity also deals with themes of identity. This is even touched upon in the cyborg's construction. On the Robocop: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD, Paul Sammon states:
Rob Bottin and Paul Verhoeven, and Ed Neumeier had all come up with a concept that there would be such a potential for psychological disruption. Even if you had supposedly wiped someone's memories and emotions they'd still might have some kind of residual humanity where, if they'd looked at themselves as a complete robot with no relation to their past organic form, they'd completely freak out and have a psychotic breakdown. So the idea was that surgeons had literally skinned off Alex Murphy's face and then placed it on the cyborg. So it's not like they transplanted his head, they just took his face off and laid it on the cyborg, and that was to give him his own little sense of identity.
The film novelization, written by Ed Naha, was released on June 1, 1987. The novel differed in several ways from the film by following one of the earlier drafts of the screenplay. It expanded on Murphy's struggle with being part man and part machine, and his memories. It also included more "humanized" dialogue from RoboCop, as opposed to the minimal, cold dialogue heard in the film.
The success of the movie spawned a large franchise, including merchandise, two sequels, a television series, a remake, two animated TV series, a television mini-series, video games, and a number of comic book adaptations/crossovers.
In January 2018, it was announced that original RoboCop writer Ed Neumeier was writing a direct sequel to the 1987 film that would ignore the two previous sequels and the 2014 remake. "We're not supposed to say too much. There's been a bunch of other RoboCop movies and there was recently a remake and I would say this would be kind of going back to the old RoboCop we all love and starting there and going forward. So it's a continuation really of the first movie. In my mind. So it's a little bit more of the old school thing" Neumeier said.
In February 2011, a humorous ploy asked Detroit Mayor Dave Bing if there was to be a RoboCop statue in his "New Detroit" proposal, which was planned to turn Detroit back into a prosperous city again. When Bing said there was no such plan, and word of this reached the Internet, several fundraising events raised enough money for the statue, which would be built at the Imagination Station. There were plans to unveil the RoboCop statue in spring of 2014. On May 2, 2018, Imagination Station announced an agreement with the Michigan Science Center to serve as the home of the permanent installation of the RoboCop statue.
Following MGM's outright acquisition of the defunct Orion Pictures film and television library, including Robocop, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony produced a remake of RoboCop, directed by JosÃ© Padilha. Joel Kinnaman plays the role of Alex Murphy and Gary Oldman is "Norton", a new character, "the scientist who creates RoboCop and finds himself torn between the ideals of the machine trying to rediscover its humanity and the callous needs of a corporation." Samuel L. Jackson plays a powerful and charismatic media mogul, while Michael Keaton plays the CEO of Omnicorp after Hugh Laurie dropped out of the project in August 2012. Actress Abbie Cornish plays Murphy's wife and Watchmen star Jackie Earle Haley plays Maddox, the man who gives RoboCop his military training. The film was finally released in the United States on February 12, 2014.
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