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RoboCop is a 1987 cyberpunk/science fiction film directed by Paul Verhoeven. Set in a crime-ridden Detroitmarker, Michigan in the near future, RoboCop centers on a police officer who is murdered brutally and subsequently re-created as a super-human cyborg known as "RoboCop". RoboCop includes larger themes regarding the media, gentrification and human nature in addition to being an action film. It has spawned merchandise, two sequels, four television series, video games and two comic book adaptations.

The film features Peter Weller, Dan O'Herlihy, Kurtwood Smith, Nancy Allen, Miguel Ferrer and Ronny Cox.

Plot

In the dystopian near-future, Detroit, Michiganmarker is on the verge of collapse due to financial ruin and unchecked crime. Megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is brought in by the city to help solve its issues; OCP privatizes the police force and makes plans to raze "Old Detroit" to be replaced with the utopia of "Delta City". The OCP President (O'Herlihy) recognizes that the human law enforcement is insufficient to stop the crime spree and seeks other opportunities. Senior President Dick Jones (Cox) offers a law enforcement droid, the ED-209, but when the demonstration kills one of the other executives, the Presidents turns to the "Robocop" program to create an augmented cyborg, led by junior executive Bob Morton (Ferrer); Jones becomes bitterly jealous of Morton's success.

Meanwhile, officer Alex J. Murphy (Weller) is transferred to a new precinct and partnered with Anne Lewis (Allen). On their first duty, they chase down a team of criminals led by crime boss Clarence Boddicker (Smith) to an abandoned steel mill outside of town. Murphy and Lewis separate, and Boddicker's men capture Murphy, shooting him numerous times before running off. Murphy is pronounced dead at the hospital, but OCP takes his body and uses it to create the first Robocop. Robocop is guided by three Directives in his programming, and is able to single-handedly deal with much of the violent crime in the city, causing the rest of the police force to become worried they may be replaced. However, Robocop is not perfect; a fourth unknown Directive is apparent in his programming, while Robocop still retains memories of his life as Murphy, including brief glimpses of his wife and son, and the action of spinning his gun before holstering it, a trick Murphy had done for his son. Lewis recognizes these elements from Murphy's mannerisms, and tries to learn more from Robocop, but he remains silent on the issues.

Morton's success and arrogance leads Jones to have Boddicker, secretly in his hire, kill the junior executive. An armed gas station holdup by one of Boddicker's men allows Robocop to track down Boddicker, who identifies Jones as his employer before Robocop arrests him. Robocop visits Jones at his offices at OCP, showing him Boddicker's statement and prepares to arrest Jones. However, as Robocop does so, the Fourth Directive—preventing Robocop from acting against any senior executive of OCP—activates, disabling the cyborg. Jones boasts about the Fourth Directive which he added and his role in Morton's murder, and then sends an ED-209 against Robocop just after idiotically admitting to killing Morton. Robocop is severely damaged but is rescued by Lewis. Lewis tends to Robocop's injuries at the same steel mill where Murphy was killed, and discovers that there is still some of Murphy present despite the cyborg augmentation. Meanwhile, the police launch their long-threatened strike, sending the city into chaos. Jones arranges for Boddicker and his men to be released from prison and funds them with new cars and Cobra Assault Cannons capable of puncturing Robocop's heavy armor. With a tracking device, Boddicker's team converges on the steel mill. Robocop and Lewis are able to defend themselves and manage to kill the entire gang, but Lewis is severely wounded at the end.

Robocop returns to OCP headquarters, and uses one of the Assault Cannons to destroy the ED-209 guarding the building. Arriving during the middle of an executive board meeting with the president, Jones, and other executives, Robocop plays back Jones' confession of Morton's murder. Jones quickly takes the president hostage, and reiterates that Robocop is bound by the Fourth Directive. The president, without pause, fires Jones, resulting in the Fourth Directive being not applicable to Jones. After thanking the president, Robocop promptly shoots Jones, with the force of being shot he falls out the window to his death. As the board room recovers from the crisis, the president asks for Robocop's name, to which he replies, "Murphy", then smiles and walks away.

Production details

RoboCop was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Edward Neumeier stated that he first got the idea of Robocop when he walked past a poster for Blade Runner. He asked his friend what the film was about and he replied saying, "It's about a cop hunting robots". This then sparked the idea for him about a Robot Cop.

Allegedly, while the two were attempting to pitch the screenplay to Hollywood executives, they were stranded accidentally at an airplane terminal with a high-ranking movie executive for several hours. Here they were able to speak to him about the project and thus begin the series of events which eventually became RoboCop the movie.

RoboCop marked the first major Hollywood production for Dutch director Paul Verhoeven. Although he had been working in the Netherlands for more than a decade and directed several films to great acclaim (e.g. Soldier of Orange), Verhoeven moved away in 1984 to seek broader opportunities in Hollywood. While RoboCop is often credited as his English language debut, he had in fact previously made Flesh & Blood during 1985, starring Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It was for RoboCop, however, that Verhoeven would rise to the international spotlight.

On the Criterion Edition audio commentary (available on both the laserdisc and DVD versions) Verhoeven recalls that, when he first glanced through the script, he discarded it in disgust. Afterwards, his wife picked the script from the bin and read it more thoroughly, convincing him that the plot had more substance than he originally assumed. Repo Man director Alex Cox was offered to direct before Verhoeven came aboard.

The character of RoboCop itself was inspired by British comic book hero Judge Dredd as well as the Marvel Comics superhero Iron Man. An Iron Man comic book appears on screen during the film's convenience store robbery. Although both Neumeier and Verhoeven have declared themselves staunchly on the political left, Neumeier recalls on the audio commentary to Starship Troopers that many of his leftist friends wrongly perceived RoboCop as a fascist movie. However, on the 20th Anniversary DVD, producer Jon Davison referred to the film's message as "fascism for liberals" - a politically liberal film done in the most violent way possible.

Casting

Paul Verhoeven initially considered Rutger Hauer, whom he had worked with on most of his films, as well as Michael Ironside, for the role of RoboCop. Ironside was also originally considered for the villainous part of Clarence; he later portrayed a similar villain in Verhoven's Total Recall (coincidentally, Kurtwood Smith (who portrayed Clarence) was considered to play the villain in Total Recall, but passed the script to Ironside). Allegedly Arnold Schwarzenegger was at one point in talks to do the film, but Verhoeven eventually dismissed all three on the basis that the bulky RoboCop costume would require an actor of light build to work with. Peter Weller, a method actor known for playing everyman characters, was subsequently cast as Murphy/RoboCop.

After being cast as Anne Lewis, Nancy Allen had to get her hair cut several times, until it was short enough for Verhoeven, because he wanted to desexualize her character.

In the commentary, Verhoeven explains his choice to cast Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox as the central villains. Cox was an actor who until then was primarily known for "nice-guy" roles such as fatherly figures, and similarly Smith was cast as a more intellectual type; Smith was originally brought in to audition for both Clarence and Jones. Verhoeven comments that the look of Clarence Boddicker with the glasses reminded him of Heinrich Himmler.

The principal cast of RoboCop:

In addition, Barbara the secretary of OCP Vice President Dick Jones (whom Boddicker lasciviously hits on) is played by Joan Pirkle, the real-life wife of Kurtwood Smith. Television personality Leeza Gibbons has a small role as news anchor Jesse Perkins. Paul Verhoeven himself has a small cameo appearance during the arrest of Leon in the nightclub scene; there is one brief close-up of him dancing maniacally as Leon is being dragged away by his hair. Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen has a uncredited cameo as an unemployed person being interviewed by a reporter (Bill Farmer).

Filming

Filming began during the summer of 1986 and lasted from August 6 until mid-October. The scenes depicting Murphy's 'death' were not filmed until the following January (1987), some months after principal shooting had ceased. Many of the urban settings of the movie were filmed in downtown Dallas, Texasmarker due to the futuristic appearances of the buildings. The front of Dallas City Hallmarker was used as the exterior for the fictional OCP Headquarters, combined with extensive matte paintings to make the building appear taller.

Peter Weller had prepared extensively for the role using a padded costume (supposedly, development of the actual RoboCop suit was three weeks behind schedule). By the time shooting was underway and the costume arrived on set, however, Weller discovered he was almost unable to move in it as he had anticipated, and required additional training to get accustomed. Weller later revealed to Roger Ebert that during filming, he was losing three pounds a day due to sweat loss while wearing the RoboCop suit in +100°F (+38°C) temperatures. Peter's personal assistant, Todd Trotter, was responsible for keeping the actor cool in between takes with electric fans and, when available, large ducts connected to free-standing air conditioning units. The suit later had a fan built into it.

Vehicles

6000 SUX advertisement.
The 1986 Ford Taurus was used as the police cruiser in the movie, due to its then-futuristic design.

One of the Taurus's competitors at the time, the Pontiac 6000, is parodied in the movie as the "6000 SUX". The 6000 SUX itself was based on a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass with extensive bodywork. Commercials advertise the SUX as "an American tradition" with a fuel efficiency of 8.2 miles per gallon. In early production, it was to be powered by jet turbines; the exhaust of the turbine is still visible above the rear license plate of Clarence Boddicker's SUX in chase scenes. The 6000 SUX was designed by Gene Winfield of Winfield Rod & Custom, while Chiodo Brothers Productions fabricated and animated the dinosaur puppet in the 6000 SUX commercial. The dinosaur itself was animated by Don Waller, who also had a cameo in the same sequence, reacting to the rampaging creature in a tight close-up.

The newly-released Merkur XR4Ti makes a small cameo appearance as an executive vehicle when RoboCop is delivered to the precinct.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack score for the movie was composed by Basil Poledouris (1945 - 2006), who used both synthesized and orchestral music as a mirror to the man-versus-machine theme of the movie. The score alternates brass heavy material, including the memorable RoboCop theme and ED-209's theme, with more introverted pieces for strings, such as during RoboCop's home-coming scene. The soundtrack is available on CD and has been reissued and remastered several times in recent years. The theme song also made its way into the arcade and NES RoboCop video games.

In the Nightclub scene of the movie, the song "Show Me Your Spine" by P.T.P. was played. P.T.P was a short lived side project consisting of members of the band Ministry and Skinny Puppy. However, this song was not available in any official form and could only be heard in the film. It was eventually released in 2004 on a compilation album called Side Trax by Ministry.

Rating

Prior to being released, the movie was originally given an X rating by the MPAA in 1987 (The rating which replaced X, NC-17, emerged in 1990) due to its graphic violence. To satisfy the requirements of the ratings board, Verhoeven reduced blood and gore in the most violent scenes in the movie, including the malfunctioning of 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 a chunk of Boddicker's throat 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.
 The original version was included on the Criterion Collection laserdisc and DVD of the film (both now 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.

Reception

RoboCop was vended first in American theaters on July 17, 1987. The film was a commercial success and grossed over $8 million in its opening weekend and almost $54 million during its domestic run, making it the 16th most successful movie that year.

The film received mostly positive reviews. On the Rotten Tomatoes site, it has an 85% freshness from critics, with the following consensus: "While over-the-top and gory, Robocop is also a surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture."

RoboCop was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing and an Academy Award for Sound. It won the Academy Award for Sound Effects Editing. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named it the #14 greatest action movie of all time.

At its release, British director Ken Russell said that this was the best sci-fi movie since Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927).

Themes

RoboCop explores larger themes regarding the media and human nature in addition to being a big budget action film; the philosopher Steven Best wrote an essay on some of this content.

In the Criterion Edition DVD commentary track, executive producer Jon Davison and writer Edward Neumeier both mention the decay of American industry from the 1970s through the early 1980s. The abandoned "Rust Belt-style" factories that RoboCop and Clarence Boddicker's gang use as hideouts demonstrate this theme. Massive unemployment is prevalent, being reported frequently on the news, as is poverty and the crime that results from economic hardship.

Director Paul Verhoeven, known for his heavy use of Christian symbolism, states in the documentary "Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop" (featured on the RoboCop DVD) that his intention was to portray RoboCop as a Christ figure. This is represented in Murphy's horrific death, his return as RoboCop, and the scene at the steel mill where RoboCop is seen walking ankle-deep in water, creating the illusion of him walking on water.

Derivatives

Due to the enduring popularity of the character, there have been a number of RoboCop spin-offs, sequels, and attractions. They are:
  • Two feature film sequels, RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, were made. Both movies were based on a story by Frank Miller, but each one was less successful than the last, both critically and commercially.
  • A series of licensed video games for various arcade and home console systems. See: RoboCop computer and video games and RoboCop versus The Terminator.
  • Two animated television series, RoboCop: The Animated Series (a sequel to the first film) in the 1980s, and RoboCop: Alpha Commando in the late-1990s.
  • A live-action television series in 1994, RoboCop: The Series.
  • RoboCop: The Ride – SimEx-iWerks (formerly iWerks Entertainment) opened RoboCop: The Ride around the world at its various iWerks Motion Simulator Theaters, amusement parks, and casinos in the winter of 1995. The "Turbo Ride", as it was dubbed, was a "ride simulation" which could accommodate between 20-30 riders depending on the size of the theater where synchronized hydraulically-activated seats with an over-sized screen displaying the projection, putting the audience right in the middle of the movie action. The ride focused on you partnering with RoboCop in where you and Robo would ride souped-up police motorcycles on a mission to save the mayor of Detroit from the clutches of the vicious Cyberpunk ROM and his gang of villains. In the latter part of the ride the bike would then convert into hover mode where you and Robo would fly through the skyline of New Detroit using rockets that jettisoned from the back sides of the motorcycle. Though not as impressive or technical-savvy as other iWerks attractions at the time, due to the enduring popularity of the character the ride was very popular amongst children and teenagers and especially in foreign markets outside of North America. The ride was a mixture of motion picture film and computer animation which lasted approximately 4:00 minutes, the cost in the United States was $5.00 USD to ride at pay-per-ride theaters. The ride was removed from the iWerks theaters in the North American market in 1998.
  • A four-part television mini-series, RoboCop: Prime Directives, in 2000.
  • Comic books published by Marvel, Dark Horse Comics and Avatar Press which, along with containing the further adventures of RoboCop, also included titles such as the speculative crossover RoboCop vs. The Terminator (which was also converted into a video game and almost into a movie) and Frank Miller's RoboCop, a graphic novel limited series of Miller's rejected original script for RoboCop 2.
  • In 1989, Toei Company created a series similar to, and based on, RoboCop, called Kidou Keiji Jiban. They did the same in 1993 with Tokusou Robo Janperson. The former's similarity was in concept (a police officer revived as a cyborg, but specifically to fight a mutant criminal element); the latter's was in appearance (Janperson's head design greatly resembled Robocop's, yet was otherwise closer to 1973's Robot Detective).
  • In 1990, Data East released a pinball machine based on the movie.
  • In 1992, the Matrix Theater Company performed the first stage version of Robocop at four Detroit theaters. The production was interrupted, however, during its second performance at the Gem Theater when Tom Sizemore, in the role of Clarence Boddicker, fell from the stage, breaking his collar-bone. The play resumed three weeks later at the Fox Theater but cast members, taking their cue from Shakespearean theatre tradition, refused to refer to the production by its name, instead citing it as "the Detroit Play" in a bid to ward off further bad luck.


2011 film

Sony Pictures (Screen Gems division) was working on a new RoboCop film in late 2005. No details were revealed other than the unofficial (and confirmed) announcement. In November 2006, Bloody Disgusting reported that the RoboCop remake had been halted.

In March 2008, however, RoboCop was mentioned in an MGM press release regarding franchises it would be focusing on in the future. An MGM poster displayed at the Licensing International Expo of June 2008 read, "RoboCop coming 2010". The studio has met with Darren Aronofsky to discuss the possibility of his directing the film. At the San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Aronofsky has been confirmed to direct the "2010 Robocop" movie with David Self writing the script . Release has now been postponed to 2011.

On July 23, 2009 at the San Diego Comic-Con 2009 MGM's presence was clearly present at the convention but when questions were asked about the Robocop 2010 movie MGM representatives confirmed that there will be no promotion or information concerning the movie at the convention this year except the confirmation that the movie will be pushed back to a summer 2010 or a later date due to conflicting projects with the director. When asked if Darren Aronofsky is still being considered/signed to direct the movie MGM representatives said they can neither confirm nor deny if Mr. Aronofsky is still connected with the project at this time.

Critics Review



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