Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Robocop Retrospective: Robocop (1987)

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ronny Cox, Dan O'Herlihy, Ray Wise
Rated: R

Bitches leave.
~Clarence J. Boddicker

In anticipation for the upcoming Robocop remake, we're going to go and take a look back at the original film series, as well as the Prime Directives mini series.  I chose Prime Directives as Robocop is a franchise that has highly been relegated to television since his last theatrical appearance.  At one point, he was a very recognizable A-level character even if his movies were to be considered B-level.  He was as much in the pantheon of movie creations like the Terminator and Predator back in the day.  I think over the last 15 years he's slowly been forgotten by the general populace.  Those who were around will never forget him, what with that ridiculous camp name he has.  But, I think his appeal and knowledge with much younger audiences is pretty low.
Robocop will always hold a special place in my heart and always be monumental stop on Brandon's life in film appreciation.  It was the first RATED R film I ever saw.  I think this might be the case for most of my peers in my generation as well.  The title wasn't corny to us.  This metallic, precise supercop was AWWWWESOME and we had to see it, despite the age restriction.  And...oh my, was it ever the R rated film it was touted.  While it had all the gun fire and explosions it promised, it also brought copious amounts of blood splatter, cursing, cruelty and ruthlessness.  There was also a bit of a satirical social commentary going on that I'm sure went over every one of our heads.
Oddly enough, Robocop is a film I had not revisited at all since the early 90s.  I have no idea why.  Was I afraid it wasn't going to hold up?  Was it merely a nostalgia thing?  Was it just something I felt was ingrained enough in my brain?  I couldn't tell you what over all these years kept me from picking this film back up and revisiting it.  Its baffling.  I have no grudge with the film or anyone that was involved with making it.  So, this strange occurrence became rectified with doing this retrospective.  Plus there's a gorgeous new Blu-ray edition that's out for it and its only $7.99 right now which is a complete steal.  Seriously, the film looks absolutely terrific now (I've heard the previous edition was severely lacking).
So, instantly upon watching, I realized I have been missing out on revisiting such a great film.  Robocop is a film that manages to hit on so many sensibilities.  Its a film that's actually pretty funny and the humor and story actually does hold up incredibly well.  The effects in the film are also still pretty bad ass.  Yes, there's some noticeable stop motion work, but I'll take that over some crappy, hollow lifeless CGI creature anyday.  This is real genuine filmmaking going on in this movie.  Most of the gore and and makeup effects hold up really well.
A lot of Robocop works so well because Peter Weller goes all in.  Most actors would demand their face be shown for X amount of minutes of screen time or that they need to be able to be as human as possible.  Weller puts the film above personal aspirations.  He is a full on cyborg in this.  His movements, delivers and little bitty mannerisms sell us on Robocop.  Its perfect.  And its not over-the-top B movie robotic stuff either.  Its an actual performance.  Through his performance there is also a great tragedy that comes across, too.  I've always found Alex Murphy's story to be insanely depressing.  His death might be one of the most cruel, unjust and unfair scenes ever captured on film.  And the fact that you get his face back, but no emotion, no life, just a robot...I just always found it incredibly tragic and was saddened by it.  There may be this bad ass robot cop kicking ass and taking names, but at the end of the day...he just has no emotion and truly is only a person in memory and face.  Something just deeply upsetting about it.  And its a strength of the film.
The action in the film is just some good old fashioned movie making.  Practical effects, real explosions, stunts...and that's all it is.  No CG.  This stuff took a lot of effort and danger to make.  And it holds up quite well.  There are even moments that Robocop was a stop motion action figure that you really can't pick out until someone points it out to you.  There's just a genuine enjoyment I get when I can tell everything I'm seeing on screen is real and has substance and weight to it.  Like I said, some of it looks obvious, but there's a real charm is seeing something that you can understand what they were trying to do and appreciate seeing how they did the effect.
The next time I pop Robocop in will not be soon enough.  I had a f*%&ing blast revisiting it.  There was so much fun to it.  And its a terrific B movie taken to A-level heights.  It holds up and works in many facets, action/comedy/camp/drama.  I had already lowered expectations for the new one, but rewatching this first one pretty much killed any shot it had at being held up with this one.  This film is damn near perfect, and its an absolute high risk to go and remake something of its stature.  The remake can still be solid and not be near as good as this, but man...its going to be far far from this marvel!

NEXT TIME: Robocop 2 stars in Robocop 2

Does anyone else get super giddy when they see old defunct studio logos like the Orion one?

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