Retroplex Cinema: Robocop 30th Anniversary (1987)

Robocop turns 30 this week and back in 2011 we took a look at the film for it's 25th Anniversary.  Read the original article here with new stuff added to this edition of Retroplex Cinema!

 Robocop (1987) is a classic.  Some people may argue this and say it's just a piece of b-movie fun leftover from the 1980's.  But no it's a classic in so many ways.  We will agree that it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of Aliens, Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, and Predator when it comes to films from that era, but almost 25 years later the film holds up amazingly well.  It's ultra violent, even by today's standards, and it's a hell of a lot of fun.  Hollywood is talking about a remake/reboot of the film and a lot of people may cringe at that thought, but if done right why not.  The film won't be better than the original, but it could be a lot of fun also. 
Plot: In the near future, Detroit, Michigan is on the verge of collapse due to financial ruin and unchecked crime. The mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products enters into a contract with the city to run the police force. OCP plans to destroy "Old Detroit" to replace it with the utopia of "Delta City". Recognizing that human law enforcers are insufficient to stop the crime spree, OCP runs several programs to find robotic replacements. One program, the ED-209 enforcement droid, headed by senior president Dick Jones, malfunctions and kills a junior executive during its demonstration. As a result, the OCP Chairman opts for a cyborg program helmed by middle-ranking executive Bob Morton, named "RoboCop". Jones is furious at Morton for going over his head.  The RoboCop program requires a recently-deceased "candidate" for conversion; to obtain one, OCP reorganizes the police force to the crime-ridden Metro West precinct expecting an officer will die in the line of duty and become a candidate. One such officer is veteran Alexander James Murphy, who is partnered with Anne Lewis. On their first patrol, they chase down a team of criminals led by crime boss Clarence Boddicker  to an abandoned steel mill. Murphy and Lewis separate. Lewis is later rendered unconscious by one of the gang, while the rest of Boddicker's men corner Murphy and sadistically mutilate him with shotguns before Boddicker executes him with a pistol shot to the head. Lewis, unable to help, witnesses the murder in horror. Murphy is pronounced dead at the hospital, but OCP takes his body and uses it to create the first RoboCop.
     Once Robocop is created, he is guided by three prime directives written into his programming: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law. This is followed by a classified fourth directive that he is unaware of.  He becomes practically a one man police force, cleaning up the city and eventually going after the men who killed him, along with the CEO of OCP.  
       Legacy: The film was a critical success and listed on many best of lists that year as well as best science fiction film lists even 25 years later.  RoboCop marked the first major Hollywood production for Dutch director Paul Verhoeven.  He would go on to make controversial films such as Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Starship Troopers. Robocop was not free of controversy either though. The film was initially given an X rating due to the extreme graphic violence of the film.  To appease the requirements of the ratings board, Verhoeven strove to reduce blood and gore in the most violent scenes in the movie, including the malfunctioning of ED-209 (one of the executives shot to death by ED-209), Murphy's execution (where his entire right arm is severed by a shotgun blast and a final overhead shot of Lewis sobbing over Murphy on the blood-soaked floor), and the final battle with Clarence Boddicker (in which RoboCop stabs Boddicker in the neck with his neural spike and Boddicker's blood splatters 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. After 11 original X-ratings, the film was eventually given an R rating. he 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 edition; the latter two were released by MGM and are classified as unrated.

Regarding the omitted scenes, Verhoeven stated in the 2007 anniversary edition DVD that he had wanted the violence to be 'over the top', in an almost comical fashion (the executive that is killed by ED-209, for example, and the line about calling a paramedic soon after his demise, was meant as black comedy). Verhoeven also states 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 remove footage of the extensive animatronic puppet of Murphy just before he is executed by Boddicker.
      As we said the movie was a critical and box office success.  Robocop would go on to spawn two, not so good sequels, a television series, an animated series, and Robocop has appeared in multiple comic books and video games.  There was even a notion at one time that there be a Robocop statue built in Detroit, but was meant as an obvious joke!  The movie is still highly regarded in science fiction circles, and it's influence is still seen today in films.

The above article originally appeared in December 2011.
 

30th Anniversary Update:  Since this article we have a reboot of Robocop that while not well received, still has helped to keep the original film and the character in the spotlight.   The film is still a modern classic and we stand by our statement.  We have added some fun Robocop things to check out below for this 30th Anniversary edition!









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