The crime-ridden streets of Detroit have come to the point of dogmatic self-destruction. Drug peddlers and gangsters run rampant, but they only share half of the credit for Detroit’s current condition. The other half is reserved, like everything else, for the corrupt, white-haired corporations who mask their greed with good, but have the intention of obtaining total domination. There’s certainly a lot going on in #RoboCop, which, in turn, does not make it the standard '80s #action epic we would far too normally dismiss it as (like we would Commando).
Part gory depiction of criminal violence and part techno-satire, RoboCop has become one of the few movies bred from the 1980s that is one of the most relevant of our time. If it is defined by something that we can go back to in relation to our current state, comparing something that was controversial then to something even more controversial now, then RoboCop certainly has all the makings of a relevant masterpiece.
RoboCop, really? When people speak of science fiction movies envisioning a future that is not too far off than that of the one we live in currently, they often refer to older films like Metropolis or the recent Children of Men. Never has RoboCop been awarded the same amount of acclaim as the latter two, however. Arguably though, the film is more relevant and ahead of its time than most films released before or after.
Dead Or Alive, You're Coming With Me
The film was popular enough to spawn a whole slew of half-hearted sequels and an ill-advised remake with all the visuals and shootouts, but none of the social commentary that made the 1987 original worth writing this article about.
The film is a social satire of what we, the public, found most important during Reagan Era America. Not politics or big business, but what was on the television and what made us look popular. RoboCop did an exemplary job in taking its subject and not mirroring its fundamental stupidity, but rather took what we were accustom to and magnified to it an all-time high.
The point of this? For us, the viewers, to see this and rethink our way of culture or something, I guess, I don’t really remember. I was too distracted by that Nukem board game commercial. A fun board game for the whole family equipped with the big red nuclear button and where you can supply other players with military aid and weaponry so long as they don’t threaten you borders. “Get them before they get you!”
RoboCop attempts to satirize what distracts us the most. Throughout the film are short cutaways to commercials like these that mix our love of fun and unflinching violence — like a board game where you’re the leader of a country at war, or picking out the new, artificial series seven sports heart for your upcoming surgery. And in between all of those commercials are breaking news coverages of nuclear threats and even more violence. All this to feed our infatuation with entertainment at any cost.
I digress, but the film’s relevance can easily be called into action for our current Trump Era America. Just like the late 20th century, it is a corporate country and big businesses have too much say in our lifestyle — and sometimes they run it too. While we are easily distracted by the watchable commercials and news coverages, corporate corruption runs amok underneath us all. At least that notion is relevant to the themes of RoboCop.
Omni Consumer Products, OCP, is run by the aptly named executive Dick Jones, who works with Bob Morton of security concepts to adapt a cyborg police officer in an attempt to restructure the system of Detroit. Choosing the remains of Alex Murphy, brutally killed on his first day working for the precinct ("Good Luck" Murphy is what they should be calling him).
Corporations begin privatizing the police after privatizing hospitals and school. “I say good business is where you find it,” says Jones. From there the film becomes both a satire and social commentary of denationalization and the ensuing police brutality that is a result of it. After the failed ED-209 (don’t know how anybody thought this was a good idea) RoboCop is born, but, of course, still with the safety of the corporation intact, as the officer is not authorized to arrest any employee of OCP.
Technology is merging into manmade work more and more as we veer more towards a predominately technological future. RoboCop is part human and mostly robotics with no other needs than to obey and conduct the best work as possible. However, RoboCop eventually becomes a character with identity issues. One that tries to find his place in a society where he is expected to act a certain way without any question of why. The film makes the valuable choice of only showing Alex Murphy’s wife and son in flashback or conversation, allowing an emotion of mystery and absence. This adds more character to RoboCop who, up until that point, was primarily subjected to badass crime stopping. The robots are taking the jobs away from humans, so where does that leave the humans? And where does that leave RoboCop, since he is on both sides of the spectrum?
What oilm’s creation dates back to 1981 when screenwriter Edward Neumeier wanted to tell a counter story to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, which was about a cop hunting down robots. After being rejected once or twice (kidding it was actually dozens), he met his co-screenwriter Michael Miner, who was writing a similar script about an injured police officer donating parts of his anatomy to a cyborg unit. Combining their stories proved successful and brought in Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven.
Verhoeven will primarily be known for directing Sharon Stone in her erotic femme fatale and barely-clothed performance in Basic Instinct and attempting to turn Arnold Schwarzenegger into a dramatic actor in Total Recall, but RoboCop is his real masterpiece. Very rarely does a filmmaker fully understand the concept of their screenplay. Choosing elaborate shot compositions and gratuitous elements in order to distract the audience from the story has plagued films for far too long. However, in a sense, Verhoeven checks off all of the above, but to the film’s benefit. It is a reflection of America’s necessity to overdo everything.
Big Gulps and combo packs didn’t just come out of nowhere. We want everything at a reasonable price with just enough products to feed a small army. The overuse of pop culture stapled into an absurd story of a dead police officer, shot to smithereens, reincarnated as a single-minded automaton with nothing else to do but protect and serve. Over-the-top much?
Police brutality is no fresh notion, so the story becomes even more relevant if you consider recent events and concerns of excessive force. I mean, he tosses a convenience store robber into a frozen food aisle fridge and thanks the store owners for their cooperation before wishing them “Goodnight.” Isaac Asimov would be proud!
I'll Buy That For A Dollar
It accurately illustrates our obsession for mass media and the mentality that we need to go big or go home. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously because we, as a culture, do not take ourselves too seriously. The film is filled from head to toe with gruesome shootouts and bloody carnage because we, as a culture, love our entertainment and violence in a Kellogg's mix. It is in the shape of a dark comedy with a serious undertone where its heart is.
Everything is big — the exaggerated action, the absurd amount of blood, the stereotypical villains, or the overbearing game show that every character seems to revolve their lives around. Arguably, that game show, which features some short guy with a group of attractive ladies swarming behind him, is the only thing that brings each and every character, good or bad (except for RoboCop), together.
The film tries to fool you into thinking it is an action movie, but is really under the guise of a dark comedy movie with some action in it. However, in actuality it's a serious social commentary under the surface of a dark comic action movie. That's pretty meta if you ask me, and a sort of dream within a dream concept that could only come out of Inception. It's a singular approach to filmmaking that would definitely make RoboCop, not only one of the most relevant film ventures in today’s scope, but also a film well ahead of its 1987 release.
What other elements of RoboCop do you think are relevant in today's world?