July 2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of Robocop, a classic of the venerable action genre. Not only is it also an iconic part of the '80s and pop culture in general, but it's also movie that had a lot to say about the time period in which it was released.
Decades after its initial opening, #Robocop proves its worth by being relevant even in today's modern day context.
Here are five reasons why Robocop is still considered required viewing in the current decade and beyond.
1. Glorious '80s Action
1980s action movies are known for their love of ultra-violence and one-liners. Robocop is no slouch in this department. The movie used a combination of stunt work and stop motion animation to bring its futuristic, insanely gory fights to life. The film is an ode to practical effects, even if some of them may not have aged as well as the movie itself (i.e. Dick Jones' death, seen above).
Yet even by today's standards, it's hard to top Robocop's action scenes that served as both escapist fun and darkly humorous visual punchlines. (For reference on the latter description, see ED-209's incredibly successful weapons test below.)
Robocop's action scenes worked well with the story. The exaggerated action set-pieces and explosive amounts of blood added dramatic depth to the narrative and served as more than just eye candy.
2. Basil Poledouris' Music
One of the best parts of Robocop is Basil Poledouris' bombastic score that mixes orchestral music and synthesized tunes. According to the composer, this was done to reflect the two sides of Robocop, the man (represented by the orchestra) and the machine (embodied by the synthesized music).
The iconic soundtrack that swelled in all the right moments is responsible for making the aforementioned action sequences in Robocop not only memorable, but legendary.
Though Poledouris' score was an essential part of the Robocop experience, his work was not heard in the sequels or the the remake. The other entries in the franchise obviously took inspiration from the original movie's score, but the end result was a collection of generic tracks that ranged from bland to serviceable at best.
3. The Passion Of Alex Murphy
The story of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), the officer who is turned into Robocop, may look like a superhero origin story, but its execution is what makes it stand out. Part of the allure of Murphy's story is the fact that the emotions behind his transformation into Robocop relies more on body language than exposition. Despite its campy reputation and an unapologetic lack of subtlety, Robocop is a surprisingly good example of minimalist storytelling when it comes to its characters.
The film shows just enough of Murphy's tragedy and lets audiences infer how it must feel for him to come to terms with his robotic fate and that he was reborn an amnesiac with only the most basic of mental functions still intact. This kind of storytelling is rarely seen today, which makes the original Robocop an old-school gem. That, and director Paul Verhoeven openly admitted in an interview with MTV that Murphy's story is based on that of Jesus Christ, saying:
4. Iconic '80s Satire
Thanks to its scathing, tongue-in-cheek jabs at unchecked capitalism, urban decay, and a number of other concepts associated with the '80s, Robocop can be viewed as a time capsule of American culture from the decade.
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Nevertheless, many of the issues tackled in Robocop are still present in today's society. Cases in point: Scandals of political corruption that are tainted with corporate interests are still rampant in almost every government on Earth, American ties with Russia are currently at their lowest since the height of the Cold War, and Detroit City became the spitting image of the fictional Old Detroit when it filed for bankruptcy in 2013. The city has since recovered, though major problems such as crime and poverty still remain.
The fact that Robocop's messages and symbols still have something to say about today's political climate is a testament to its entertainment excellence.
5. An Unlikely Comedy
At first glance, Robocop may look like any other straightforward action movie from a bygone decade, but closer examination reveals the depths of a movie about an indestructible cyborg police officer who threw a cartoonishly evil bad guy literally named "Dick" out of a window.
One of the best things about Robocop is that despite its bleak outlook of the future, Verhoeven still considers it to be a comedy. He confirmed this with Collider, when he gave his opinion on what the 2014 remake got wrong, saying:
Robocop worked because it's self-aware, not because of its action and sci-fi setting alone. Verhoeven's signature brand of satire was sorely missing in the later chapters of Alex Murphy's crime-stopping crusade that would follow, solidifying the director's vision as an integral part of Old Detroit's story.
Unlike many of its action-packed contemporaries, the original Robocop has aged well. Instead of being a time capsule of '80s tropes and clichés, the film ascended new to sci-fi heights and its influence can be seen in dystopian movies that try to have a satirical edge.
Robocop has proven itself to be more than just a campy '80s action romp and while it turns 30 this year, the movie still remains as one of the genre's best thanks to its execution and story.