Frankly, in hindsight, it’s a little surprising Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop wasn’t on the list to begin with. It’s popular, it’s groundbreaking, and most importantly, it has just about everything the editors of the Book seem to want out of a must-see picture, including the layers of subtext and metaphor about the then-current society the film was made in. It was the film largely responsible for Verhoeven’s breakthrough into the moviemaking business of the States; this and his following picture, Total Recall. I gotta say; for a foreign director, he could’ve done a hell of a lot worse, and his vision seemed especially adaptable to the Hollywood sense of moviemaking.
Peter Weller is Alex Murphy, a police officer transferred to one of the seedier and crime-ridden areas of Detroit. On his first day at the new department, he ends up getting a handful of shotgun shells unloaded into him courtesy of a gang led by Clarence Boddicker. He is then selected as the first candidate of Omni Consumer Products’ (or OCP) new RoboCop program, which aims to create a half-man, half-machine cyborg police officer as a “product” they can use to ensure public support and effectiveness of the privatized company’s taking over of the police department. Naturally, RoboCop ends up working a little too well, and one of the rival department heads of OCP sets out to destroy the company’s creation before it can ultimately turn on him. As I said in the opener, there’s a lot to this film for people to uncover and make sense out of, in terms of metaphors and themes; corruption, privatization, for-profit companies, and even the media find themselves a target for Verhoeven’s creation. The latter, in fact, comes into play with amusing faux news segments intercut into the film, which were originally added to help pull back the film’s rating from an X to an R (which was thanks to Verhoeven’s trademark use of hyper-violence). But, I didn’t want to watch this and force myself to mull over all the themes and whatnot of the film, trying to determine what exactly the film was trying to say to me; I wanted to watch it for sheer entertainment value, and in that end, I was not disappointed. As a summer blockbuster, this succeeds immeasurably, and thankfully, it holds up to close scrutiny on the technicals as well, though I will say that some of the film’s stop-motion animation in regards to the ED-209 droid are rather dated nowadays. Sure, it’s a little predictable, and the good guys and bad guys are so clear-cut you’d think they were stenciled into the script itself, but given the time period the film was made in, that was just how summer blockbusters were made. It’s a testament to Verhoeven and his film that it still manages to work quite well despite all that.
Having never seen this before today, and still managing to avoid most of the reputation and hearsay surrounding the film, I can say that I enjoyed myself with this one. It wasn’t oh-my-god amazing, but it was very good, and even with the limited knowledge I had of RoboCop going into it, I still knew to be thankful that it had measured up. I can’t say much for the film’s social commentary, as that wasn’t my intention while I was watching the film, but as an entertainment vehicle, you could do much worse than RoboCop (as, I’ve heard, the sequels can tell you). I do still feel that this will largely be a “seen it, check; next film” experience for me, but don’t let that deter you from giving this a spin anyway.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10