Robocop (1987) Review

They don’t make movies like Robocop anymore. They tried and failed to capture the classic, original magic of the 1987 film and after watching the debut of Robocop, you can see why. Robocop is an ultra-violent satire of the crime-ridden, commercially driven world that many would argue we are beginning to live in today. For those that don’t subscribe to that viewpoint, it is a solid sci-fi action movie with a decent story and a memorable hero.

In fact, Robocop as a hero has been copied but never bettered. The film takes time to flesh out the human side of Robocop, Peter Weller’s Alex Murphy, giving him a new partner on his first day as a cop in the violent Detroit. The character points are subtle but well-established, from the spinning of the gun to impress his son or the keen enthusiasm to stop crime. It means that when Murphy, and his partner Lewis played by Nancy Allen, meet up with the gang of criminals, and he meets his demise, it means so much more.

Kurtwood Smith is a great villain

The villains are worth mentioning and its to Robocop’s credit that we have lots of them. Kurtwood Smith is the central bad guy and is a swearing, violent and scary gang leader who makes for a great foil to our titular hero. The rest of the gang is made-up of recognisable if not instantly nameable actors; for example Paul McCrane and Ray Wise.

There are other villains but I won’t spoil them here. It isn’t exactly hard to guess who they will be, although that doesn’t take away from Robocop’s decent story. It is a satire after all and highlights the corporate greed that runs the futuristic Detroit. Corporate suits compete to present the best, effective and cheapest way to fight crime in the city, while great, creative adverts flash across the screen to highlight the future of the city and also it’s commercially focused society.

ED-209 makes for an iconic villain too

This quest for the best robotic cop also introduces the most iconic “villain” of the movie – the ED-209. The scene when the huge robot is first introduced is a classic, and showcases the great violence and black humour that the movie possesses.

Unfortunately, it also highlights the dated special effects. It is clear that the movie was made in 80s and ED-209 is the worst example of this. It looks shaky, awkward and clearly not in the room. It’s a minor complaint but compare it to how good the central hero of Robocop looks, it can really jar.

Robocop is a different type of origin story

If you can look past the “special effects” and the satire, then what you are left with is a unique superhero story. It follows all the usual origin story traits but is packaged in a unique way, offering something different in a movie genre that is full of very similar films. It also means that when someone does try to reboot the series, that unique feel gets lost and muddied.

Overall, Robocop is a science-fiction classic. It has a great story, the origin of an iconic hero, all packaged up in violent, gory and clever visuals. For the people wanting more from the story, the satire on greed, advertising and crime is very apparent. For others, this film is a showcase for how to present an original superhero origin story – albeit one that has been repeated but fails to capture the original magic.

Rating – 4

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

A movie you were never going to be able to “reboot.”
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