In this April's edition of POP Retro, we take you back into 1987 where a groundbreaking original idea took popular culture by storm. Part man, Part machine and All Cop, this month's POP Retro is the future of law enforcement, Robocop.
In the future, the city of Detroit, Michigan is on the verge of collapse due to financial ruin and unchecked crime. The mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products enters into a contract with the city to run the police force while the company makes plans to destroy "Old Detroit" to replace it with the utopia of "Delta City".
Recognizing that human law enforcers are insufficient to stop the crime spree, OCP runs several programs to find robotic replacements.
One program, the ED-209 enforcement droid, headed by senior president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), accidentally kills an executive during its demonstration. As a result, the OCP Chairman (Dan O'Herlihy) opts to go with a cyborg program helmed by junior executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), named "RoboCop". Jones is furious at Morton for going over his head.
The RoboCop program requires a recently-deceased "candidate" for conversion; to obtain one, OCP reorganizes the police force to the crime-ridden Metro West precinct expecting an officer will die in duty and become a candidate. One such officer is veteran Alexander James Murphy (Peter Weller), who is partnered with Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen).
On their first patrol, they chase down a team of criminals led by crime boss Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) to an abandoned steel mill. Murphy and Lewis separate. Boddicker's men corner Murphy and sadistically mutilate him with shotguns before Boddicker executes him with a pistol shot to the head. Lewis, disarmed and unable to help, witnesses the murder in horror. Murphy is pronounced dead at the hospital, but OCP takes his body and uses it to create the first RoboCop.
RoboCop is guided by three prime directives written into his programming: serve the public trust, protect the innocent and uphold the law.
Unknown by his human monitors, RoboCop still retains memories of his life as Murphy, including brief glimpses of his wife and son, and the action of spinning his gun before holstering it, a trick Murphy had done for his son. Lewis recognizes these elements from Murphy's mannerisms, and tries to learn more from RoboCop.
The success of the first Robocop film spawned 2 sequels. The film was well received by critics and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1987. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an 88% "Certified Fresh" rating from critics, with the following consensus: "While over-the-top and gory, RoboCop is also a surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture". Susan Faludi called RoboCop one of "an endless stream of war and action movies" in which "women are reduced to mute and incidental characters or banished altogether." Rene Denfeld calls Faludi's characterization of the film amazing, calling it her "favorite blow-'em-up movie", giving Officer Lewis as an example of an "independent and smart police officer."
With such a reception came concerns of whether the Robocop franchise was too violent and that children might not be able to enjoy or learn from the prime directives of this cyborg cop.
Eventually the franchise took a different turn in 1994. It stared Richard Eden as the title character. Made to appeal primarily to children and young teenagers, it lacks the graphic violence that was the hallmark of RoboCop and RoboCop 2. RoboCop now has several non-lethal alternatives to killing criminals, which ensures that certain villains can be recurring. The OCP Chairman and his corporation are treated as merely naïve and ignorant, in contrast to their malicious and immoral behavior from the second film onward.
There was also an animated kid friendly version of Robocop which had much success especially in merchandise.
In 2000, Robocop Prime Directives was released as a Mini Series. The series consisted of four feature length movies: Dark Justice, Meltdown, Resurrection, and Crash and Burn. It returned RoboCop to his dark, violent roots. Although Prime Directives takes place ten years after the original film, the production was not permitted to use clips from the feature films.
In May 1990, Marvel Comics released the first issue of an ongoing RoboCop comic book series based on the movie. The series ran for 23 issues, ending in January 1992. In addition, a one-shot was released in August 1990, reprinting in color the 1987 black and white magazine adaptation of the movie. That same month also saw a black and white magazine adaptation of the movie sequel RoboCop 2, as well as a three issue mini-series, printing in color the same contents as the RoboCop 2 magazine.
The stories told within these issues take place between the second and third Robocop movies. Entering the Marvel universe, Robocop’s futuristic setting is expanded beyond the restrictions of a Hollywood budget. Most likely to give the “future of law enforcement” a more science fiction based reality, gangs now ride on hover bikes, urban droids carry out public services like waste disposal, and almost anyone with the know-how or money can create a giant killer robot.
Hottoys have released replica versions of Robocop as a movie masterpiece between 2006 and 2007.
One of the more rare master pieces is Robocop 3, where Alex Murphy aka Robocop had lots of add ons which to me made the character more cool and interesting. He was no longer relying on his side arm alone but a detachable Machine gun / smart bomb launcher / flame thrower all in one as well as a flight pack which he used at the end of the film.
Fans all over the world were quick to snap up this masterpiece which could easily go on Ebay for over 1000 dollars.
Sony Pictures (Screen Gems division) was working on a new RoboCop film in late 2005. No details were revealed other than the unofficial (and confirmed) announcement. In November 2006, Bloody Disgusting reported that the RoboCop remake had been halted.
In March 2008, however, RoboCop was mentioned in an MGM press release regarding franchises it would be focusing on in the future. An MGM poster displayed at the Licensing International Expo of June 2008 read, "RoboCop coming 2010." The studio met with Darren Aronofsky to discuss the possibility of his directing the film. At the San Diego Comic-Con 2008, Aronofsky was confirmed to direct the "2010 RoboCop" film, with David Self writing the script. However, the release date was postponed to 2011.
On July 23, 2009, at the San Diego Comic-Con 2009 MGM was clearly present at the convention but when questions were asked about the RoboCop 2010 film, MGM representatives confirmed that there would be no promotion or information concerning the film at the convention that year except the confirmation that the movie would be pushed back to a summer 2010 or a later date, due to conflicting projects with the director. When asked if Darren Aronofsky was still being considered or had been signed to direct the film, MGM representatives said they could neither confirm nor deny if Mr. Aronofsky was still connected with the project at that time.
On January 5, 2010 the film and entertainment website Moviehole reported that the Robocop 2011 remake was indeed on hold and Darren Aronofsky was still attached to direct. However, once MGM executives, particularly Mary Parent the chairperson of MGM, saw the immense success of the James Cameron film Avatar it was clear to the higher-ups that they wanted a 3D film for the new Robocop. Due to the current financial state of MGM, without an owner, and the disagreements between the studio and Aronofsky, the film is still on hold until those issues get resolved.
However, on February 18, 2011, MGM announced that they had still plans to film the RoboCop remake. On March 02, 2011, it was announced that Brazilian director José Padilha was attached as the director. No further updates have been given.
Many fans including myself do hope that if a reboot is to be made, that it would keep to the roots of Robocop and most importantly the design of Robocop himself.
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