Sci-Fi Movie Month: "RoboCop" Review
on 2013-07-29 14:42
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Sci-Fi Movie Month: "RoboCop" Review
-- Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: July 17, 1987
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Genre: Drama/Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Fantasy
"RoboCop" was first shown in theaters twenty-five years ago, but the movie still feels futuristic to this day. The day when cyborg cops protect the streets is yet to come, but the world seems to move closer to this possibility as time goes by. This movie inspires people to reflect on this question: Do humanity and technology mix?
The movie is set in an undetermined future in Detroit (now called Old Detroit) where lawlessness has taken over the city. In the face of the rampant killings of police officers, Omni Consumer Products, a megacorporation that manufactures products to fill every need, proposes to automate the police force.
Omni's president, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), funds the development of the Enforcement Droid Series 209 (ED 209), a robot designed to arrest lawbreakers or kill them if they move in a threatening way. However, ED 209 malfunctions during its demonstration and a young executive dies. After the mishap, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer)-another executive at Omni-reveals that a plan to create a law enforcement cyborg is in the works. Morton calls this cyborg RoboCop.
Meanwhile, police officers Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) and his partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), chase a band of robbers into an abandoned warehouse. However, the two become separated and are overpowered by the villains. One of the gang members knocks Lewis unconscious while Murphy is taken hostage. A short time later, Murphy is sprayed with bullets but survives the first round of shooting. Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), the leader of the gang, shoots the bullet that finally kills Murphy.
Murphy's severely mutilated body is brought to Omni's laboratory and revived. There, his body is fitted with state-of-the-art robotic enhancements. His mind is reprogrammed and purged of his past memories. RoboCop becomes a superhero and foils quite a number of crimes, including robbery and rape. He seems to be the perfect law enforcer. He shoots his targets unerringly. Bullets simply bounce off his titanium suit. His reflexes are superhuman. He does not stray from his directives. He is dispassionate. However, he begins to have dreams and flashes of memory about his past, especially his wife and son.
At this point, the viewer begins to wonder what happens when RoboCop's humanity begins to seep through his robotic brain. Like a normal human being, he desires revenge, but his programming prevents him from doing harm to his killers unless he catches them behaving in a threatening manner. He longs for his family and remembers how he was loved, but he cannot go back to them because he is no longer the same.
"RoboCop" seems to be a poignant reminder to viewers that while technology is good, it should not undermine an individual's humanity. The movie could not have been more relevant 25 years ago than it is now because it inspires reflection on what it is to be human in the face of rapid technological advancement. It is interesting to note that the villains are humans, and the main protagonist is a cyborg.
That said, the movie is also fun to watch, moving at a breakneck pace. It leaves no room for boredom at all. The movie has a comic book vibe. The viewer is given a healthy dose of wit and humor to counterbalance the violence and gore. The over-the-top destruction sometimes border on the humorous but not quite on the ridiculous. At the time, some people thought several scenes were too bloody for comfort, but the explosions, the shootings, and the gore are mind-blowingly wonderful. A viewer's typical response is likely to be awe instead of disgust. Only a Paul Verhoeven flick can pull this off.
Peter Weller delivers a remarkable performance in this movie as he creates sympathy for his robotic character and shows his humanity despite his mechanical monotone voice. He succeeds in keeping Alex Murphy's and RoboCop's characters separate. Yet, when he becomes RoboCop, Murphy is not completely lost. It takes a considerable degree of talent and skill to accomplish this. Tragically, Weller remains one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood.
Nancy Allen was perfect for her role as Murphy's partner, who is determined to find out what really happened to him. She comes off strong and cocky; a woman in a man's world out to show everybody what she is made of. Allen is brilliant in the scene where her character and Murphy talk about what happened to his family. She skillfully blends Anne Lewis' tough exterior and inner strength with her soft side.
Some kudos is due to the actors who play the villains. Dick Jones, Bob Morton, and Clarence Boddicker are all vile and despicable, but actors Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, and Kurtwood Smith make these characters fascinating and unforgettable.
With its fast-paced story, special effects, humor, and wit, "RoboCop" is immensely entertaining and thrilling. It is likely to be on an action-buff's list of favorite movies. However, it does have a touch of humanity and a dash of poignancy. A quarter of a century has passed, yet time has not diminished the movie's universal appeal. It is indeed a genuine classic.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5