RoboCop

robocop_28198729_theatrical_posterYear: 1987

Synopsis: In the not too distant future, in a very familiar Detroit, Officer Murphy is killed in the line of duty and transformed into a crime fighting cyborg.

Pros:
• As insanely fun as it was subversive.
• All the actors understood the film they were in, and certainly enjoyed the attack of the 1980s with sometimes not so subtle glee.
• Overcame technically corny lines through self-awareness and extreme violence. The film was infinitely quotable in it subversiveness.
• Has aged surprisingly well. Debates over “necessary force” and body-cams are perhaps far more in the forefront today than in 1987.
• Ahead of its time, with origin story films often having the same DNA today.
• The depiction of a financially crumbling Detroit was disturbingly prophetic.

Cons:
• The depiction of ultra-violence was certainly not for anyone looking for a family friendly cop film.
• Certain elements of the plot seemed a little too convenient or too predictable.

Discussion:
There are subversive films and there are 1980s subversive films. The attacks were complete, as Reagan-era America was one of homogenizing sameness. It was a pro-business era, as consumer conformity was more than encouraged. RoboCop was a film that was never about glorifying violence, but it used violence to pry into our primal emotions, suggesting to us that somethings were horribly wrong. It was wrong that Murphy was so brutally murdered. It was wrong that a powerful corporation took over law enforcement and the military. It was wrong that Murphy’s humanity was almost stripped away from him. Yet, the only way to make things right was with both bullets and brains. He became far more than the sum of his old and new parts to become what the city needed him to be. He nearly lost everything, only to find a new path. In the end, though, there was still great uncertainty. He was still bound by the very company that remade him, while that same company might as well have still had an iron grip on everything. Perhaps that was the true message of the film: we can see what is wrong around us, and we can find a way to start fixing everything.


Essay on film @ The Criterion Collection

Rotten Tomatoes — 89%

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