RoboCop

[This review includes spoilers.]

Murphy: "Dead or alive, you're coming with me."

I don't care for heavy-duty violence in movies. But I've always had a soft spot for RoboCop. It should have been a forgettable B movie, and it wasn't. It's clever, bitingly satirical, moving and visceral. It stayed in my head a long time after I first saw it.

Murphy is the only truly human character in this movie. He's a dead man in a super suit, a Frankenstein monster who is more human than those he hunts. We're with Murphy throughout the movie. We see his death and his transformation into RoboCop through his own dead eyes, from his perspective. The poor guy loses everything: his life, his family, everything that made him human. But he still manages to be a good person, and one we care about.

How did a monster in a metal suit remain human and vulnerable? The dreams about his family. His relationship with Lewis. The baby food (good writing there). And we can always see his lips; such a vulnerable part of the human body. When his fellow cops turn on Murphy in the parking garage scene, his face plate is damaged and we can see one of his eyes. (He crawls like a baby, too.) Peter Weller, an often underrated actor, did an outstanding job projecting strength, sensitivity, emotion, and most importantly, vulnerability from under that immense robot suit and disfiguring make-up. Weller clearly put a lot of work into his portrayal of RoboCop, and it showed.

And the villains in this movie – all of them, including the supporting players – were something special. Ronny Cox's Dick Jones, corporate shark extraordinaire, may be one of my favorite movie villains of all time. Kurtwood Smith's Clarence Boddicker is also brilliant as well as memorable; so over the top but believably evil that he just jumps off the screen. I particularly loved the scene where he pulled the pin on the grenade with his tongue, as well as the one where he spit blood on the police desk.

The dialogue is so clever, too. I particularly loved Boddicker screaming "What is this shiiiiittttt..." as RoboCop is throwing him through windows while simultaneously reading him his rights. RoboCop's law enforcement platitudes are humorous as well as a little poignant. ("I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening.") We're very conscious that all RoboCop has left is law enforcement, after all.

The ending ("Dick! You're fired!") is totally satisfying. The human element triumphs, goodness wins, justice is served; Murphy avenges his own murder and makes peace with himself. The president of OCP, the very corporation that made Murphy into a monster in the first place, acknowledges and applauds Murphy's humanity. Yes, Murphy has only an imitation of life left, but at least he has a purpose that he cares deeply about. It's something.

Bits and pieces:

— The RoboCop suit is freaking cool. It's one of the best things about this movie. It just works. You believe it.

— The satirical news segments and commercials are delicious. The news in particular reflects the current downward trend toward info-tainment and takes it to a comically absurd level.

— One of my favorite bits has always been the visual of the city councilman plummeting to the ground with the cameraman following his fall with a camera. It says all there is to say about predatory reporters. And it's really funny.

— ED-209, the scary enforcement droid, is just hilarious in the initial boardroom scene that pretty much set the tone for the entire movie, as well as later, when it falls down the stairs. The stop-motion effects are starting to look a little dated, but I think it still works.

— Why were objects in the Murphy house burned? That has never made sense to me.

— Even though the extreme violence in this movie has literary warrant and worked well as a backdrop to the story (inhumanity was sort of the point, after all), it has always bothered me and I think it went too far. To this day, I have to look away when Boddicker and his minions blow Murphy to pieces. And the minion disfigured by toxic waste? Come on. Was that extreme level of gross-out really necessary? I don't think Verhoeven could have gotten more blood in this movie if he had tried. (And he probably did.)

— I'll answer the obvious question. No, I didn't like the sequels. Although I did rather like the too brief television series. It was going in the right direction: exploring RoboCop's humanity and human relationships. Ah, well.

Quotes:

Prisoner: "I'm what you call a repeat offender. I repeat, I will offend again."

Reporter: "Robo, excuse me, Robo, any special message for all the kids watching at home?"
RoboCop: "Stay out of trouble."

Cop: "Okay, Miller. Don't hurt the mayor! We'll give you what you want."
Miller: "First, don't fuck with me! I'm a desperate man. And second, I want some fresh coffee. And third, I want a recount! And no matter how it turns out, I want my old job back!"
Cop: "Okay."
Miller: "And I want a bigger office! And I want a new car! And I want the city to pay for it all."
Cop: "What kind of car, Miller?"
Miller: "Something with reclining leather seats that goes really fast and gets really shitty gas mileage."
Cop: "How about a 6000 SUX?"
Miller: "Yeah, okay, sure. What about cruise control? Does it come with cruise control?"
Cop: "Hey, no problem, Miller. You let the mayor go, we'll even throw in a Blaupunkt."

(Commercial)
Voice-over: "Red alert! Red alert!"
Girl: "You crossed my line of death."
Mom: "You haven't dismantled your MX stockpile."
Boy: "Pakistan is threatening my border!"
Dad: "That's it, buster. No more military aid."
(nuclear explosion over the game board)
Voice-Over: "Nukem. Get them before they get you. Another quality home game from Butler Brothers."

OCP President: "Nice shooting, son. What's your name?"
RoboCop: "Murphy."

I've noticed that critics rarely give science fiction movies more than three stars, no matter how good they are. But science fiction movies are my favorites, and this is an outstanding science fiction movie. So I'm giving it four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Can you fly Bobby?......."