From R to PG
Hi everybody! This time I wanted to showcase another trilogy that made such an impact on me when I was a kid. I want to take a close look at it and what each of the movies meant to me.
RoboCop, unfortunately, is the most violently raped franchise ever. It started out as a Hollywood blockbuster with extreme gore and deep story, and ended up as a straight to cable network low budget kiddie flicks. As a result, the current generation knows only the recent incarnation and the franchise went down like Titanic as a corny kids stuff. I think the fact that he's a robot eventually became the series' doom as obviously the kids will want to see it just based on that fact alone.
Not long ago I heard my teenage niece checking out some movie list online with friends and she and her friends stumbled upon RoboCop and laughed - "some dumb robot movie for kids". I intervened immediately! ;)
I told them they can't be more wrong and rented them the original RoboCop to watch. They were shocked at how gory and serious it was, and admitted they were dead wrong.
Just like Batman & Robin destroyed Batman franchise and turned it into kids movie, RoboCop 3 did the same for RoboCop. But it wasn't always this way, and I'm glad I got to experience it in its original vision
In the late 80's, possibly '89, my dad rented RoboCop for me. Boy, am I glad that he, just like everyone else, thought its a kids movie about some police robot! When I saw the VHS cover I thought its gonna be some type of a superhero movie, and having the then-newest Batman in mind, I was thrilled! I remember seeing Murphy walking into the police department for the first time and I knew immediately by his lips that this is gonna be the guy.
I think I got that ability to recognize people by their lips by staring so much at 89's Batman pictures!
My parents were shocked watching this movie with me, and it still gives me a smile when I think about it. What seemed to be a cheesy 80's robot flick for kids happened to be a deep, thought provoking and unimaginably gory movie with body parts flying around, tons of swearing, drugs, prostitutes and extreme violence and cruelty.
I loved it and since I was somewhat used to those kind of movies by watching horror movies with my then-teenage sisters, I wasn't traumatized and no damage was done. Although, I wouldn't let any kids watch it, oh no! I eventually got the movie on VHS from someone and used to watch it every 2 days for some time.
The movies I love the most are the ones when someone really gets it and then years later returns and avenges his enemies. So Hard To Kill (1990), The Punisher (2005), Batman Begins or Kickboxer (1989) are right up my valley, and RoboCop is just the movie for me.
As we all know, the movie's basically a futuristic version of Frankenstein. Innocent good guy gets brutally killed and never goes back home to his wife and kid, and then he reawakens as this monster, with his family and humanity gone and no way out.
We get to know Alex Murphy for a very brief while, but we know that he's a sincere person and he just moved to Detroit from a much better place, and few hours later he was killed in a very cruel and gruesome way
A year or so later, his body is used to build RoboCop - the first cyborg police officer, but very soon Murphy's memory is starting to come back.
"Dead or alive you're coming with me"
I love the scene when he comes back to his house which was now empty and completely abandoned. The music playing in the background was great and it really made you realize what he was feeling without using any words.
Peter Weller IS RoboCop, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator. He made this role his and gave a terrific performance. Just a perfect cast. He was a robot, but emotions and humanity was strongly beaming from him, yet not diluting the fact that he's a machine. The showdown is perfect. Robo takes down his killers one by one and you have this feeling like "yeah! take that!" And the music's just fantastic, one of my favorites. Especially the one playing during the showdown - it has that powerful, barbarian, Conan like theme mixed with 80's action movie synthesizers. And there is a Conan connection here since Basil Poledouris scored Conan movies as well, hence the powerful theme.
RoboCop is also full of dark humor and is virtually a satire of the 80's capitalism. As serious as the movie is, you can not laugh at those silly TV commercials but hey, "I'll buy that for a dollar!"
THE BAD GUYS
I have to mention the movie's bad guys, who are just classic. Kurtwood Smith does a phenomenal job in portraying Clarence Boddicker, a filthy and obnoxious thug. Verhoeven picked Smith because he said that with glasses he looked like the Nazi monster Hans Himmler.
Boddicker was a guy that had absolutely no remorse and no regard for human life. Kill left and right and don't flinch kind of guy, with only money and personal pleasures being the only things that count for him.
The image of Smith portraying this murderer got stuck with me, and I could never imagine him as a good guy. Today when he's a star of "That 70's Show", it's still surreal for me to see him in such role.
Dick Jones was truly a 'dick'. He symbolized corrupted and evil power in the suit. He is basically a white-collar version of Boddicker. Money, power and name is what counts. Note when the guy gets blown into pieces by ED-209, he calls it a minor glitch and is completely unmoved by the death of the guy.
"You fucked with the wrong guy!"
"You fucked with the wrong guy!"
Ronny Cox is one of the best 80's bad guys possible. He was equally as good in Total Recall, just a great actor.
And let's not forget his iconic creation, parodied in many movies and cartoons like South Park or Family Guy. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you ED-209
I gotta say tho that the movie always leaves me kind of depressed. It's really gloomy and underlines the dark reality of the world: cruelty, crime and no real happy ending. The bad guys got killed, but at the end so what? Murphy's situation still didn't change and half of the characters from the movie were dead nonetheless. Whenever the credits show up and that orchestrated music starts, I'm more of "wow, poor guy lost everything, now what?" then "yeah, glad things turned out OK"
Robocop was so cool, for adults and young audience. Now I was watching movies with Peter Weller just because it was Peter Weller!
One more thing worth mentioning is the Christ overtones in the movie. According to director Paul Verhoeven, he wanted to present Murphy as Christ with crucifixion (Murphy's death), resurrection (RoboCop) and walk on water (by the end of the movie)
To my surprise, cartoon series was made in the late 80's! The only thing that the movie had suitable for children was the idea of the main character being a robot, and that's pretty much it! I'm really surprised even today that a movie with heavy R rating got a Saturday morning cartoon. I mean, we're talking about a movie that has scenes like an executive snorting coke from some protitutes breasts!
It's funny how they describe RoboCop's origins in the most delicate ways possible: "Officer Alex Murphy, mortally wounded..."
And I can't get used to the fact that this scene is presented in a cartoon. It's just a bit surreal, I mean Murphy's death is a really gory and cruel execution. I've never seen Robo cartoon when I was a kid, I wasn't even aware that there is one. I found out fairly recently.
ROBOCOP 2 (1990)
RoboCop 2 was all over the entertainment magazines and everyone wanted to see it, but in my city it was next to impossible to find it in rental places once it got released on video. And also, along with the release I remember the game being released for Nintendo and it kicked ass! My older cousin had it and unfortunately all I could do was watch :/
It appeared to be quite an extravaganza, showing the battle of the titans! RoboCop facing a gigantic evil monster robot - yeah, sounds pretty cool for a little boy!It was kind of a "Godzilla vs King Kong" type of a thing. I had to see it, the hype was pretty big. It was pretty exciting time and then not long after, my cousin (much older than I was) managed to find a copy of R2 in some rental store. When I stopped by for a second that day cause my sister wanted to pick something up, I caught my cousins watching the movie. I was so jealous! But I only had about 10 minutes and we had to leave after that. Two days later my family rented the movie too B)
Naturally, I loved it
Of course today I have a different perspective on about every single movie I've seen as a kid. Still love it, just as I did back then, but today the reasoning for liking it goes much deeper than 2 robots fighting each other!
I just can't understand the criticism the movie gets. Just a month or so ago I found out that the movie is and was hated by fans and critics. Why? It follows the formula of the first movie so closely. We get the over the top gore, language and violence, the ridiculous commercials and the exploration of Robo's character. All that plus all the characters from the first movie like "Old man" (the head of OCP), Johnson and naturally, the hottest officer Anne Lewis. I like How Irvin Kershner explored the character even more, and actually showed us the meeting between Robo and Murphy's wife. And of course, Peter Weller again gave a great performance.
"I'm officer Alex Murphy"
This time RoboCop faces even worse villains - Cain, a psychopath who believes in voodoo and is a heavy drug user who takes pleasure in torturing people (live operations...). He's a even more dangerous criminal than the ones from the first movie since he's completely insane and out of touch with reality. And we also have one of the most controversial movie villains ever - Hob, a small boy. The character created quite a storm. Here's the movie that kids may see, whether they're suppose to or not. And Hob's a kid who's in a gang, deals with drugs, have a personal prostitute Angie and kills people like he's playing a video game.
Great plot or not, to this day I think the major attraction of R2 is naturally the unforgettable battle of the giants: OCP builds a monstrous machine with the brain of Cain and of course things go wrong.
I remember his first appearance when he enters the warehouse and all the lights go down, and you only hear those monster noises and see his lights. I was pretty terrified, yet of course, it was one of the coolest movie things ever. What was really scary was the CG face that appeared on the monitor that was hidden in his head
I always thought R2 was a big hit, I didn't know it flopped and that it was (and still is) so underrated. As to why, I still don't know. I think its as good as the first movie and makes a hell of a duo with its predecessor. It's also more violent and here the crime and gore really pushes the envelope.
ROBOCOP 3 (1993)
Oh boy. The Batman & Robin of the RoboCop series. Well, before I'll comment on it let me recall the first viewing
While R2 seemed well promoted and I could feel the hype, the third movie was kept so low that I didn't have a clue that it was even released until I saw the actual VHS! Obviously it was a thrill for me and I almost jumped in the air when I saw it. My cousins stopped by once in the evening on their way from the rental store and I noticed that they rented two tapes with 'new release' marks on them. I grabbed the covers and I was shocked to see RoboCop 3! "What? part 3? but..how? when?!" I asked the younger cousin. I wanted to watch it so badly, I already asked my sister to rent it for me after they'll return it. What a surprise, I was on fire!
The next day I told everyone about R3 and everyone was surprised as well, except for one girl who had just seen it two days before. She was THE person in our class because of that and everyone, myself included, kept asking her questions about what happened and who's the villain. She didn't say much but she revealed that Lewis will die and that Robo will fight with some punks. Of course everyone went 'wooow'.
One major flaw tho, right up front - the main character was recast. I thought and to this day I think that's the worst thing Hollywood can do. It was kind of a party killer, but we still wanted to see it nonetheless but we knew that recasting really sucks!
Who the hell is Burke?
So few days later my Mom rented the movie for me and I watched it right after school. It was actually the first RoboCop I watched alone. Wow, was I surprised. Not in a good or bad way, just surprised - it had such a different feel and had absolutely nothing to do with other movies. The "sorry honey, but this is a movie for adults" label that I always used to hear from adults befire disappeared and it was clearly a movie for my age. And RoboCop was cool, but he seemed like a guy dressed as Robo, not Robo himself. The voice was so incredibly different and his overall character. R3 was so full of cliche kids features: genius kid hacker, flying Robocop, ninjas etc
I was wondering how the Robocop II Monster can be topped? It couldn't and it wasn't. Japanese Ninja androids Otomo proved to be a weak idea coming after such extravaganza. We already had life-like cyborgs and terminator and any other movie did a much better job. Also, there was no skeleton visible, nothing. About the only thing we got was fractured face
And the actual confrontation between RoboCop and the Japanese ninja android was short and uneventful or -just not what I would expect from RoboCop movie. And Ninjas in Robocop always seemed out of place!Besides, androids were not cool ever since terminator came out and cyborgs appeared in the movies.
So how do I view it now? Almost the same way, although I think I even like it less than I did then. I mean, I liked it then, but didn't love it and wasn't wowed by it. I think I was just really taken aback by how different and kid friendly it was. The movie always seemed like The Meteor Man for me. The change in rating is so evident that its really jumping you all the time. You really feel like it's a movie made for 8-14 and there's no real serious material here. The movie should be called "The New Adventures of RoboCop".
The characters have absolutely no personality and no real life quality in them. They're all like cartoon characters, especially Robo.
OK, so Weller didn't want to star in it. I understand, not their fault he's not there. I actually think Burke is pretty close to Weller in appearance, so I really do believe that's the best they could do without Peter. But the voice...why did they gave him such completely different voice? His voice is so low now that he sounds like some giant robot or like Arnold. And most importantly and the worst of all - his personality. Lack of it I mean. Where's Murphy? Why is Robo acting like a dumb cliche robot? It's like he never ever was human. He talks like a 50's sci-fi robot all the time and the character we knew from the first two movies is completely gone. Robocop here is just a walking image with nothing behind it. Murphy is completely gone. But even so, he didn't act so dumb in the first movie while he didn't have the memory yet. I mean, how dumb is the line (with low monotone voice) "you are arrested for *blank*..(gets his fingers cut)...and destroying police property". lol
He's basically a real life toy here, and can even replace his parts. Example: hands to gun, hand to flame thrower - classic action figure here! What else can kids want?
Comes with detachable arms! Batteries not included
About the only time he sounds like the RoboCop is when Mcdagget, the movie's bad guy, asks him "how can I help you officer?", and he answers "by resisting arrest!". That's a good one
I also gotta admit that Mcdagget is a good villain in a classic Robocop style. Depraved of moralitites, cruel and cold with a real asshole ring to him. Oh, and I still think the actor John Castle looks so much like Steve Martin! I thought it's Martin at first
Is this Steve Martin?
Maybe part of his appeal is that like in the first movie, we have a personal gripe with this guy - he killed Lewis. I must admit, with the bad guy they did well.
The ninja androids, the jet pack...it's all so Sunday morning movie. Nikko seems to be the main character, and she's the person kids can identify with. She's a young genius with hacker skills and Robocop toys. A far cry from murderous swearing minors of the previous installment. The only thing missing is some super smart dog who would help out too.
Lewis dies almost immediately, so another familiar character goes AWOL on this movie. Johnson from OCP is the only true link with his previous incarnation.
And the plot is so Hollywood. What they do or say is unimaginable for the first movie.
RoboCop, to the rescue!
So do I hate it completely? Well, the movie was just so different from what I became a fan of and completely derailed the franchise. The series was no longer being taken seriously and R3 really was what the stereotype said: a B movie for kids for one viewing. I think it's an OK, cliche filled entertainment for some lazy day off, but a far cry from the stellar first two movies.
R3 flopped badly in theaters and returned only half of its budget. Also, it only has %5 on RottenTomatoes. 5!
R3 spawned a TV series for kids year after it's release. The series was for everyone and it was aimed at pre-teen audience with supervillains in capes and such. A short miniseries followed.
Today, RoboCop is such a dead franchise not even kids like it. The latest spinoff miniseries, as ridiculous as the TV series, was a straight to DVD obscure release that couldn't even hold any viewers on cable TV. A sad turn of events for something that was once a great, deep and serious sci-fi series