Robocop (1987) Movie Review

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Right….it’s done…I can now tell people I have seen Robocop after neglecting it for so long.  Yes I’m aware that it was remade, and someday I might watch that 1 too, but until then lets talk about this.

As a lot of people are aware by now, Robocop is 1 of the stand out movies of the 1980s, especially within Sci-Fi, and is up there with the likes of Terminator, Blade Runner, Aliens and Back To The Future in terms of iconography, as well as the awe and fear of what could be around when the decade was over.  The image of Robocop himself is instantly recognisable, even with his simple looking character design, and here we are reminded of a time when visions of the future looked and sounded cool, and were sadly not to come to past to the same degree (or so we might suppose). Set in Detroit, Michigan in the near future (and some might even joke that Detroit in this film looks better than Detroit today), there is a great unrest as crime as gone up, big corporations have more or less taken over and plenty of people are out of work.  Our film revolves around the newest member of the Police Squad, Officer Alex Murphy (played by the eclectic Paul Weller).  In his 1st day at the force, Murphy ends up chasing after 1 of the main villains in our story, Clarence Boddicker (played by Red Forman himself, Kurtwood Smith) and his gang.  When he finds their hideout and attempts to arrest them, the poor, unfortunate rookie then experiences 1 of the most brutal executions ever shown on film, and it’s still really gorey and shocking today.  Left for dead…okay, he probably was dead after that.  We then begin to see the world through an analogue TV, full of pixels and lines, which is, in fact, what Murphy himself is seeing, even after death.  Soon we begin to realise that he has been resurrected by science, but has more or less been reduced to a slow-walking robot/cyborg that resembles a man…a man who is the perfect cop for the most dangerous jobs.

One thing that Robocop does very well is provide an excellent balance in substance.  It is not only a brutally awesome action sci-fi film, but also an in-depth commentary about the state of humanity and the direction that America was going at the time (and has possibly arrived at today, depending on where you live).  The concept of big corporations having all of the power.  It’s something that’s happening even now.  News Reports full of death and destruction in other parts of the world…and apathetic facial expressions.  The battle between utility and humanity (or Humanity vs Machines), even within Robocop himself.  It’s all here.

On top of all of this, Robocop also has a fair bit of humour to balance its grittiness.  It might not be overly obvious, but the creativity this film has is actually humorous.  Not in such a way to try and get a laugh, but because they were unique ways of solving problems.  I won’t be spoiling any of these.

The action scenes are brilliant, with some really gruesome and justified death scenes, even by today’s standards…some of the death scenes are also of a humorous nature (as dark as that might sound).

The music in Robocop?  It’s done by the late Basil Poledouris, who also did the music of the Conan movies, Free Willy and Con Air.  It’s Epic, fitting and surprisingly timeless, relying more on classic strings, wood, symbols, and brass with some very subtle synthesisers (which were all the rage back in the ’80s, but this oddly enough didn’t date the sound).  The most ’80s aspect would be in the night club and that’s it.

The special effects?  Amazing!  Particularly for its day.  Without spoiling anything, a lot of the movie’s best effects happen in the third act.  Back in the day when there was green-screening and stop motion animation, but little to no CGI.  Excellent make-up as well, and 1 of few films that actually feature very (literally) explosive gunshot wounds.

The acting in Robocop is also really good, and maintains a bit of a comic book feel, even if the movie came before the comics.  Characters?  You could say that everybody was at least above boring and then there are the villains.  The villains are a very colourful and memorable bunch, and Clarence Boddicker is 1 of the best Sci-fi villain leaders ever (with a laugh quite similar to Skeletor, as a friend pointed out).  You might even say a lot has happened since he left Wisconsin *wink wink*.  They say you can’t have a great hero without a great villain to compliment him/her.  In this case, Robocop is a likeable character (Murphy’s a good cop with a humanity to him, rather than simply being white bread), and the villains are all so very devious and many a-times amusing.

Would I recommend the original Robocop movie from 1987? (So you know which 1 I’m talking about and not just go to the reboot)…Yes.  It’s a well told story with good focus and justification to its existence.  For a film that’s less than 90 minutes, they managed to squeeze in a lot of substance in character development and plot.  It has great action, very good humour, a memorable cast of characters, a great humanity, and a fair amount of thought under its surface.

If I ever see the reboot, I’ll be making comparisons between it and this film.   My predictions?  I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Overall rating: ****1/2 out of 5

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