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From Under A Rock: RoboCop

July 2, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: RoboCop  


Some movies are just awesome, non-stop pieces of action. This week’s pick is one of those. Aaron hadn’t seen it, and I remembered having a blast both times I checked it out. Well, the third time was no different, except I now get to share in the awesomeness with a friend (who actually liked it more than I do).

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week we watched Clint Eastwood’s modern Western classic, Unforgiven. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock on RoboCop.

Released: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written by: Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
Peter Weller as Officer Murphy/RoboCop
Nancy Allen as Officer Anne Lewis
Ronny Cox as OCP Senior President Richard “Dick” Jones
Kurtwood Smith as Clarence J. Boddicker

Michael Ornelas: Movies are supposed to be a good time. What says a good time better than a shoot-em-up vengeance story of a cop who keeps his moral framework (largely because he’s programmed that way)? The answer is nothing, so I felt exploring RoboCop this week was just the right thing to do.

Aaron Hubbard: Man do I love it when a movie exceeds my expectations. I won’t call RoboCop a perfect movie, but I think it’s about as perfect as this concept can get. I loved it and this surely won’t be the last time I see it.
Practical Action
Michael: I really don’t hate CGI, but man do I appreciate good practical effects. The action in this movie was captured in such imaginative ways that it’s really inspiring. I want to go out and figure out how to do some of these action effects for my own channel (cheap plug: it’s linked at the bottom of this page). When you’re forced to invent out of necessity (because computer effects weren’t up to snuff yet in 1987), some really cool things are created. I knew from the moment Peter Weller had his hand shot off in the opening 15 or so minutes of the film that I was in for a treat. I was not wrong.

Aaron: I’ve always been a sucker for great special effects in any era, whether I’m watching the original King Kong or the mind-blowing motion capture work of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Seeing the make-up on RoboCop, the blood spatter effects, and the models used for the ED robot were a real treat. Maybe a little dated, but I’ll take a good script and solid direction with dated effects any day of the week.

Michael: The showdown at the climax of the film was the most satisfying scene for me from an effects standpoint. We had a mix of misdirection (the steel beams being dropped on Murphy), pyro (Ray Wise being blown to smithereens), practical blood effects (the slaying of Boddicker), and of course the make-up on Peter Weller that had been consistent since he removed the mask. All these components coming together made for a visually compelling stretch of storytelling that served as not only a thematic and narrative high point, but one for effects as well.
The Human Element
Aaron: RoboCop has an advantage over a lot of movies because it has aspects of several of my favorite genres. It’s dystopian sci-fi, but it’s also a superhero movie and a monster movie. I was going to like it at least a little bit. But I really appreciate scenes that reminded us that RoboCop was human, and that Murphy really was a terrible loss. The scene where we see through his eyes as he’s rebuilt and the scene where he visits his old house both resonated with me.

Michael: I wonder what it says that the most human character in the movie is a robot? To the villains, their decisions are made with no consideration for humanity — just the outcomes. Murphy, however, finds away around his machine programming to overcome the odds and defeat the bad guys. It’s very simple, but it drives the point home. And simple is oftentimes better when it comes to storytelling. On the actual human side though, Officer Lewis stands in as our moral surrogate. Unlike Murphy, she doesn’t kill anyone except for the evilest character in the film: Boddicker. With RoboCop, there is a ton of collateral damage, but it’s justified because it’s all criminals. But even then, I’d argue it’s overboard so it makes for an interesting study in police brutality.

Aaron: I might actually disagree with you here. The director’s intent was to make RoboCop a Christ allegory; he dies horribly, comes back to life, and protects the innocent from the absolute worst people in Detroit. He kills because he is “more than human”, in a sense; his judgment is more worthy than ours. Lewis is more to represent us, the innocent caught in a crossfire. The one person she kills is the worst because even we can make that call. At least I think that’s what Verhoeven was going for. Regardless, she’s a good character and actually one of the stronger females in 1980s action flicks.
The Best Ideas Get Remade
Michael: RoboCop went on to be a monstrous franchise because the core idea is so marketable. We have seen two sequels, a reboot, two live-action TV series, two animated TV series AND…best of all: a fan-made scene-for-scene remake of the original called “Our RoboCop Remake” in which each scene had a different director, cast, idea, execution, tone…and it’s a blast. You can see it here and note that it is NSFW:

I love that remake so much because it’s a ton of fun in ways different from the original. Some of the scenes are misses but the hits are absolute gems (despite all the penises, scene 27 is the funniest thing I’ve seen in such a long time).

Aaron: This is an example of Michael and I’s sensibilities not clicking. I can get how someone could enjoy this remake, which is somewhere between a love letter and straight up parody. For me, there are a few jokes that land (the scene where RoboCop shoots baby food jars, the gas station scene, etc.), but mostly I just want my two hours back. Your mileage will likely vary.

Michael: Regardless of how you feel though, I think it speaks to the durability of this premise given that it has spawned so much from the property. That is the mark of a true classic.

Aaron: This one is actually kind of hard to grade. It’s smart, it’s fun, and there’s just not a lot wrong with it. I don’t feel it quite deserves top marks, but this is definitely one of the best the action genre has to offer.


Michael: RoboCop makes its claim as a classic by still being referenced almost 30 years after the fact. Culturally, it has endured, and when you add that to a unique premise, quirky/unique execution, and just…fun?…you end up with a high-scoring film in my books. It kind of peaks in its score capability because the acting isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s enough to end up in that all-time classic echelon.


Aaron: Yeah, that’s what was missing, now that you mention it. But I really appreciate how the story takes care to eliminate plot holes and pointless fluff. They really did more with the premise than could reasonably be expected.

Michael: On that note, please go see Swiss Army Man because that’s my top movie of the year right now of the 20 I’ve seen…

If you could be a robot, would you?

Next week:

Aaron: Hey, it’s been a minute since we reviewed a TV show, hasn’t it? Let’s jump into the sequel series to my favorite action cartoon series of all time…
Michael: Dopeness. You got me into Avatar: The Last Airbender and, against my expectations, I loved it. Looking forward to this.

Aaron: I have probably watched Avatar: The Last Airbender front to back more than any show. It’s one of my favorite things in media, period. And the follow-up is really strong.

What are your favorite action cartoon series?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop

Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews the greatest symbol our country has: The American Flag. It’s…a hilariously shitty situation.

The Force Gets Breakfast in this second part of my three-column analysis of the seventh Star Wars episode.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
RoboCop is well-oiled machine of an action film. While it lacks any standout acting performances, it has a cool concept, a good, smart story, and fun, brutal action. Add in some great special effects and you have a recipe for a classic that stands the test of time.