Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Verhoeven|
|Produced by||Arne Schmidt|
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Frank J. Urioste|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Box office||$53.4 million (US)|
RoboCop is a 1987 American science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. The film stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, and Ronny Cox.
Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan, in the near future, RoboCop centers on police officer Alex Murphy (Weller) who is murdered by a gang of criminals and subsequently revived by the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products as the superhuman cyborg law enforcer RoboCop.
Themes that make up the basis of RoboCop include media influence, gentrification, corruption, authoritarianism, greed, privatization, capitalism, identity, dystopia, surrealism and human nature. The film received positive reviews and was a box office success. It was cited as one of the best films of 1987, spawning a franchise that included merchandise, two sequels, a television series, a remake, two animated TV series, a television mini-series, video games, and a number of comic book adaptations/crossovers. In 2018 it was announced that a direct sequel to the original film titled RoboCop Returns was in the works and it would ignore the other sequels and remake, including the 1994 TV series and the TV mini-series. RoboCop was produced for a relatively modest $13 million. Honors for the film include five Saturn Awards, two BAFTA Award nominations and the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing, along with nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
In a dystopian future, Detroit is on the verge of collapse due to financial mismanagement and a high crime rate. The city signs a deal with the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to run Detroit's police department in exchange for letting OCP rebuild run-down sections of the city into a high-end utopia. Senior Vice President Dick Jones demonstrates a new law enforcement robot, ED-209. However, the robot malfunctions, killing an executive. Bob Morton, an ambitious executive, uses the opportunity to introduce his own experimental cyborg design, RoboCop. The chairman is dismayed at the ED-209 failure and approves Morton's plan, to Jones' anger.
On patrol in the violent Metro West precinct, officers Alex Murphy and Anne Lewis pursue a notorious gang after an armed robbery. Investigating their hideout, an abandoned steel mill, Murphy kills one of the gang members, but is ambushed by the leader, Clarence Boddicker. Boddicker's accomplices shoot Murphy repeatedly with shotguns, until Boddicker shoots him through the head. Lewis arrives too late to help. Murphy is evacuated by helicopter but dies in the trauma unit.
OCP claims Murphy's body and converts it into RoboCop. The cyborg is programmed with three main directives: serve the public trust; protect the innocent; and uphold the law. RoboCop is assigned to Metro West, where he begins a brutally efficient campaign against crime. However, though Murphy's memory was wiped, RoboCop begins to remember scenes from Murphy's life, including his death. Lewis confirms to RoboCop that he is Murphy, to his shock. On patrol, RoboCop foils an armed robbery perpetrated by Emil Antonowsky, one of Boddiker's gang members who participated in Murphy's execution. Emil recognizes Murphy's mannerisms, furthering RoboCop's memory recall. RoboCop uses the police database to identify the gang members and locate his home, now abandoned. Meanwhile, at the behest of Jones, Boddicker murders Morton.
RoboCop locates Boddicker at a cocaine factory, where the workers open fire on him, but he shoots them all and captures Boddicker. RoboCop brutalizes Boddicker, but before RoboCop can kill him, Boddicker reveals that he is in Jones's employ. Depositing Boddicker at Metro West, RoboCop heads to OCP Tower to confront Jones. However, when RoboCop attempts to arrest Jones for aiding Boddicker, he discovers a previously-unseen fourth directive, implanted by Jones himself: "Any attempt to arrest a senior officer of OCP results in shutdown". Jones admits his culpability in Morton's death and tries to kill RoboCop with an ED-209 unit. However, RoboCop escapes to the garage, where police ambush him. Lewis finds RoboCop and helps him escape to the abandoned steel mill to repair himself.
The police, angered by OCP's underfunding and short-staffing, call a strike, and Detroit descends into chaos. Jones, having freed Boddicker and his gang, provides them with heavy weapons and a tracking system for RoboCop, then sends them out to destroy RoboCop. The gang arrives at the steel mill, but they are dispatched by RoboCop and Lewis. Boddicker impales RoboCop with a steel beam, but RoboCop stabs him in the neck with the computer interface spike embedded in his hand, killing him.
RoboCop returns to OCP Tower, destroying the ED-209 at the door with Boddicker's weapon, the Cobra Assault Cannon. He confronts Jones at a board meeting, revealing the fourth directive and his recording of Jones' confession. Jones grabs a gun and takes the OCP chairman hostage, planning to escape via helicopter. The chairman clues in and fires Jones, therefore nullifying the fourth directive; RoboCop shoots Jones in the chest, and he falls out of a window to his death. Impressed and thankful for saving his life, the chairman asks RoboCop's name; he replies "Murphy" and smiles, indicating he has gained a sense of his humanity.
- Peter Weller as Alex Murphy / RoboCop:
A police officer in old Detroit who is murdered by the Boddicker gang, and revived by OCP as an experimental cyborg police officer
- Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis:
A veteran police officer and Murphy's former partner
- Dan O'Herlihy as The Old Man:
The chief executive of OCP
- Ronny Cox as Dick Jones:
The Senior President of OCP
- Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker:
A career criminal in the employ of Dick Jones, and leader of the Boddicker gang
- Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton:
A young and ambitious OCP executive responsible for the "RoboCop" project
In addition to the main cast, RoboCop features Paul McCrane as Emil Antonowsky, Ray Wise as Leon Nash, Jesse D. Goins as Joe Cox, and Calvin Jung as Steve Minh, members of Boddicker's gang. The cast also includes Michael Gregory as Lt. Hedgecock, Robert DoQui as Sergeant Warren Reed, Mario Machado as Casey Wong, Leeza Gibbons as Jess Perkins, Felton Perry as Donald Johnson, Lee de Broux as Sal, and S. D. Nemeth as Bixby Snyder.
Development and writing
RoboCop was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Neumeier was inspired by a poster for the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner; he asked his friend what the film was about and his friend replied, "It's about a cop hunting robots". While the two were attempting to pitch the screenplay, they were stranded at an airplane terminal with a high-ranking film executive for several hours. Here, they were able to speak to him about the project, and thus began the series of events which eventually gave rise to RoboCop.
In 1981, before seeing the Blade Runner poster, Neumeier wrote the first, unrelated treatment, about a robot police officer who was not a cyborg but in the development of the story his computer mind became more similar to human. The plot takes place in a fairly distant future, the world is ruled by corporations and it was assumed that this world would be visually similar to the world shown in Blade Runner. The treatment was rejected by many studios because of the incompleteness of the storyline and settings. In 1984 Neumeier met music video director Michael Miner, who worked on a similar idea; his rough draft of the script was called SuperCop, which was about a police officer who has been seriously injured and becomes a donor for an experiment to create a cybernetic police officer. Neumeier and Miner felt that they could successfully combine their ideas. Miner also shot a music video featuring this character for the rock band Y&T.
RoboCop was the first major Hollywood production for Dutch director Paul Verhoeven. Although he had been working in the Netherlands for more than a decade and directed several films to acclaim, such as Soldier of Orange in 1977, he moved to Hollywood in 1984 to seek broader opportunities. While RoboCop is often credited as his English language debut, he had in fact previously made Flesh & Blood in 1985. Verhoeven recalled that, when he first glanced through the script, he discarded it in disgust. Afterwards, his wife, after picking the script from the bin and reading it more thoroughly, convinced him that the plot had more substance than he had originally assumed. Repo Man director Alex Cox was offered the opportunity to direct before Verhoeven came aboard. Kenneth Johnson, creator of television series V, The Bionic Woman, and The Incredible Hulk, said that he was offered the chance to direct, but turned it down when he was not allowed to change aspects of the script that he considered to be "mean-spirited, ugly and ultra-violent."
The character of RoboCop itself was inspired by British comic book hero Judge Dredd, as well as the Japanese toku series Space Sheriff Gavan and the Marvel Comics superhero Rom. A Rom comic book appears onscreen during the film's convenience store robbery. Another Rom comic appears in a flashback depicting Murphy's son. Neumeier based the character Dick Jones on a landlord he had the time he was writing Robocop, who always wore grey suit and was always really drunk. His actual name was Dick Jones, which Neumeier thought sounded old fashioned and used it for the character. Although both Neumeier and Verhoeven have declared themselves staunchly on the political left, Neumeier recalls on the audio commentary to Starship Troopers that many of his liberal friends perceived RoboCop as a fascist movie. On the 20th Anniversary DVD, producer Jon Davison referred to the film's message as "fascism for liberals" – a politically liberal film done in the most violent way possible.
Before Peter Weller was cast, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rutger Hauer, and Michael Ironside were favored to play RoboCop by Verhoeven and the producers, respectively. However, each man's large frame would have made it difficult for either of them to move in the cumbersome RoboCop suit, which had been modeled on hockey gear and designed to be large and bulky. Weller won the role both because Verhoeven felt that he could adequately convey pathos with his lower face, and because Weller was especially lithe and could more easily move inside the suit than a bigger actor.
Stephanie Zimbalist, who at the time was one of the stars of the television series Remington Steele, was originally cast as Anne Lewis. NBC had canceled Remington Steele in 1986, leaving the stars free to accept other roles, subject to options for further episodes on their contracts. However, an upsurge of interest in the show saw the network exercise the options, which meant that Zimbalist was then forced to withdraw from RoboCop, to be replaced by Nancy Allen. Similarly, this move forbade Pierce Brosnan from accepting the role of James Bond in The Living Daylights.
In the DVD director's commentary, Verhoeven explained that he intentionally chose to cast Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox against type by making them the central villains. Cox was an actor who, until then, was primarily known for "nice-guy" roles, such as fatherly figures. Similarly, Smith had been cast as more intellectual characters. Verhoeven chose to outfit Smith's character Clarence Boddicker in rimless glasses because of their intellectual association, creating a disparity in the character that Verhoeven found akin to the similarly bespectacled Heinrich Himmler. However, the film's producer Arne Schmidt had already worked with Smith and Miguel Ferrer, on the film Flashpoint as the First Assistant Director, Smith similarly played the villain and Ferrer's character was killed by his character. In addition, he previously worked as 1st AD with special effects supervisor Dale Martin on John Milius's Red Dawn, and has already used the latest Ford model as a near-future patrol car on the Michael Crichton's Runaway. Herewith artist Robert Webb claiming that Schmidt had a great influence on Verhoeven during production.
Filming began on August 6, 1986, and wrapped on November 8, 1986. The scenes depicting Murphy's death were not filmed until the following January (1987), some months after principal shooting had ceased. Although RoboCop is set in Detroit, Michigan, many of the urban settings in the film were actually filmed in Dallas, Texas. The futuristic appearances of the Dallas buildings, such as Reunion Tower, are visible in the background during the car chase. The front of Dallas City Hall was used as the exterior for the fictional OCP Headquarters, combined with extensive matte paintings to make the building appear taller than it actually is. The steel mill scenes were filmed at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel's Monessen Works, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monessen, Pennsylvania.
Peter Weller had prepared extensively for the role using a padded costume, as development of the actual RoboCop suit was three weeks behind schedule. By the time shooting was under way and the costume had arrived on set, however, Weller discovered he was almost unable to move in it and needed additional training to become accustomed to it. Weller later revealed to Roger Ebert that during filming, he was losing three pounds a day due to sweat loss while wearing the RoboCop suit in 100 °F (38 °C) temperatures. Weller's personal assistant, Todd Trotter, was responsible for keeping the actor cool in between takes with electric fans and, when available, large ducts connected to free-standing air conditioning units. The suit later had a fan built into it.
Monte Hellman acted as second unit director after Verhoeven began to fall behind schedule. He directed many scenes with Robocop, and the sequence in which Murphy and Lewis chase the van that Clarence and his gang are using to escape from a robbery. Everything relating to the actual chase - including all of Weller and Allen's dialogue - up to the point where Bobby, a member of Clarence's gang, lands on the windshield of Murphy's car, is by Hellman, though he was not responsible for the dialogue inside the van. He also directed all the exteriors of Murphy's house on Primrose Lane - a single shot of Murphy's wife and son standing outside the house waving at a retreating camera (inserted into the sequence in which Murphy undergoes an operation), the whole sequence of Robocop driving down Primrose Lane, pulling up outside the house and getting out of the car, and part of the sequence inside the house - it was shot back to back with first unit, Verhoeven directed Murphy's memories, Hellman did Robocop scenes and his vision. As Hellman recalls, "I spent four weeks working as second unit director, from September 30 to October 24, 1986. Second unit was somewhat of a misnomer, since most of my scenes were with Peter Weller and sometimes Nancy Allen. The crew would fight to be assigned to my unit, since working for me was less stressful than working for Verhoeven. I worked with Robocop almost every day, I think I only worked with Nancy a couple of times. I did anything that could conceivably be second unit during the time the company was in Dallas: my second unit was the only one for the bulk of the Dallas shoot, and I was there every day from about the third week until they finished in Dallas. For budgetary reasons, and because they were no longer so behind schedule, they decided not to take me to the other location. I have a clearer picture of the scenes I did with Peter and Nancy, just because we had such a good time doing them. You can safely assume that any shot of Robocop driving was by me, except where a shot culminates in a big dialog scene after he gets out of the car. I shot tons of footage of Robo driving through the city at dusk, but only a fraction is in the movie. Like most directors, Paul hated the idea that there was a second unit at all, particularly one that was shooting with his actors and not just sunsets. They did want to credit me as second unit director, but I wasn't able to accept that credit because Verhoeven was not a member of the DGA, and the company had not signed an agreement with the DGA. I had got into trouble once before with the DGA over Cockfighter, which unbeknownst to me was non-DGA, even though I was paid DGA scale. I was put on trial and nearly suspended, so I couldn't risk another offence. I did try to keep my involvement with Robocop quiet, but it's so long ago, and the DGA is not quite as hard-ass as they once were. I didn't break all the rules: I did get DGA scale for my work, and my assistant director was DGA. They were hard times." Among many other things, Hellman directed the boardroom scene in which ED-209 kills OCP executive Kinney. After that he directed blood running through the streets of the model city, close shots of the model being shot up and the blood running through it, but none of this footage was used in the final version.
The 1986 Ford Taurus was used as the police cruiser in the movie, due to its then-futuristic design. As of May 2012, RoboCop's Taurus is on display at the Branson Auto Museum in Branson, Missouri.
The task of creating the RoboCop suit was given to Rob Bottin. The studio decided that Bottin would be the ideal person to create the RoboCop suit, as he had just finished doing the special effects for John Carpenter's The Thing. A budget of up to one million dollars was allotted to the completion of the suit, making it the most expensive item on the set. A total of six suits were made: three intact and three showing damage.
Bottin himself had produced early design sketches for the suit's prototype that the studio accepted enthusiastically, albeit with the request of some minor adjustments. Rob, Paul Verhoeven, and Edward Neumeier came up with the concept of the suit being more of an outer shell, with very little of the actor's actual face being visible. Bottin explained the basis of the design:
It's meant to look very speedy and aerodynamic. All the lines are measured to go on a slant – forward, forward, forward! All the lines were geometric, and complement every shape on the body from all angles. When Verhoeven came on the project, he requested numerous design changes, additions to the suit which looked more like machine than man-like. I've never done so many conceptional drawings for a director in my entire life – changing it, and changing it, and changing it!
However, the design ended up bearing a closer resemblance to Bottin's original design:
RoboCop looks the way he does because that's the way a man's body works! Although we went through fifty different variations, developing his character, everything came back to man-like. It's definitely a guy in the suit, which doesn't belittle it any.
The suit itself was attached to the actor in sections. To wear the helmet, Peter Weller wore a bald cap that allowed the helmet to be removed easily. After almost 10 months of preparation, the RoboCop suit was completed based on life casts from Peter Weller and Bottin's six-foot clay models. The suit's color was supposed to be bright blue; however, it was given a more grayish tint to make it look more metallic and produce less glare on the camera when it was being filmed.
Peter Weller had in the meantime hired Moni Yakim, the head of the Movement Department at Juilliard, to help create an appropriate way for him to move his body while wearing the RoboCop suit. He and Moni had envisioned RoboCop moving like a snake, dancing around its targets very elusively. The suit, however, proved to be too heavy and cumbersome. Instead, at the suggestion of Moni, it was decided that they would slow down RoboCop's movements in order to make them more appealing and plausible. Filming stopped for three days, allowing Peter and Paul Verhoeven to discuss new movements for the suit.
The original gun for RoboCop was a Desert Eagle, but this was deemed too small. A Beretta 93R was heavily modified by Ray Williams of Freshour Machine, Texas City, Texas, who extended the gun barrel to make it look bigger and more proportional to RoboCop's hand. The gun holster itself was a standalone piece that was not integrated into the suit. Off-screen technicians would operate the device on cue by pulling cables that would force the holster to open up and allow the gun to be placed inside.
The ED-209 stop motion model was designed by Craig Hayes, who also built the full size models, and animated by Phil Tippett, a veteran stop-motion animator. As one of the setpieces of the movie, the ED-209's look and animated sequences were under the close supervision of director Paul Verhoeven, who sometimes acted out the robot's movements himself. ED-209 was voiced by producer Jon Davison. Davies and Tippett would go on to collaborate on many more projects.
In one scene, Emil attempts to run down RoboCop, but instead accidentally drives into a vat of toxic waste, causing the flesh to melt off his face and hands. These effects were also conceived and designed by Bottin, who was inspired by Rick Baker's work on The Incredible Melting Man, and who dubbed the RoboCop effects "the Melting Man" as an homage to the production.
Chiodo Brothers Productions fabricated and animated the dinosaur puppet in the 6000 SUX commercial. The dinosaur itself was animated by Don Waller, who also had a cameo in the same sequence, reacting to the rampaging creature in a tight close-up.
The soundtrack score for the movie was composed by Basil Poledouris, who used both synthesized and orchestral music as a mirror to the man-versus-machine theme of the movie. The score alternates brass-heavy material, including the RoboCop theme and ED-209's theme, with more introverted pieces for strings, such as during RoboCop's homecoming scene. The music was performed by the Sinfonia of London, conducted by Howard Blake and Tony Britten. The soundtrack initially was released by Varèse Sarabande containing highlights from the score in an order different from that heard in the movie. The final four tracks were included on later CD re-issues.
On the theatrical trailer, the theme of The Terminator (1984) was used instead of the RoboCop theme. Similarly, the track Van Chase was used for the trailer of "Dollman". The theme song also made its way into the arcade and NES RoboCop video games.
The song "Show Me Your Spine" by P.T.P. was played during the nightclub scene. P.T.P was a short-lived side project consisting of members of the bands Ministry and Skinny Puppy. However, this song was not available in any official form and could only be heard in the film. It was eventually released in 2004 on a compilation album called Side Trax by Ministry.
The movie was originally given an X rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 1987 due to its graphic violence. To appease the requirements of the ratings board, Verhoeven reduced the blood and gore in the most violent scenes in the movie, including ED-209's shooting of Kinney in the boardroom, Bobby being shot in the leg, the Boddicker gang's execution of Murphy with shotguns, and the final battle with Boddicker. Verhoeven also added humorous commercials throughout the news broadcasts to lighten the mood and distract from the violent aspects of the movie (most of the commercials satirize various aspects of the American consumer culture, such as the commercial for the 6000 SUX sedan). After 11 original X ratings, the film was eventually given an R rating for graphic violence, strong language, and brief nudity.
The film was released on Philips CD-i VCD (Video CD) in 1994. Criterion released the uncut "director's edit" on LaserDisc in 1996. In 1998, Criterion released it on DVD, while Image Entertainment released the R-rated theatrical version. The R-rated theatrical version was slated to be released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2006. However, pulled the Blu-ray just days before it was to be released. On June 6, 2006, the film was released and doubled-featured with The Terminator (1984) on 2-disc only. Only a handful of copies were released to the general public, mainly reviewers, making it very rare. It was re-released on Region 1 DVD in 2007 and on Blu-ray in 2010 as part of the Blu-ray Robocop Trilogy. A remastered Blu-ray edition was released in January 2014 to tie into the 2014 remake. The original uncut version was included on the Criterion Collection LaserDisc and DVD of the film, the 2005 trilogy box set, and the 2007 anniversary edition—the latter two were released by MGM and were unrated. The 2014 Blu-ray 4K master edition also features this unrated cut.
Regarding the omitted scenes, Verhoeven stated on the 2007 anniversary edition DVD that he had wanted the violence to be "over the top", in an almost comical fashion (such as the scene involving the executive that is killed by ED-209, and Bob Morton immediately asking "Somebody wanna call a goddamn paramedic?!"). Verhoeven felt that the tone of the violence was more upsetting due to the deletions requested by the MPAA. An alternate network TV Version was also released. The stronger language was either deleted or dubbed over. Blood was kept to a minimum. And, instead of Boddicker running over Emil with his sedan, decapitating him in the process, he swerves around, and misses him.
The following scenes are presented in the uncut version of the movie which originally received an X Rating:
- During the boardroom meeting, ED-209 continuously shoots Kinney, who falls back on a table. This scene is now extended slightly to show additional shots being fired and Kinney's body reacting to them. There is also a quick shot of ED-209's programmer unsuccessfully trying to shut it down by ripping out its power cord.
- A brief alternate shot of Bobby being shot in the leg and the impact that follows before he's tossed out of the getaway van.
- Murphy's death scene is the most altered scene in the movie. When his hand is shot off, Murphy gets up and a stump is seen where his hand used to be. His right arm is shown being shot off completely (in the theatrical version, Murphy is shown with one arm without any explanation). In the final seconds of his murder, the camera spins around Murphy as he writhes in pain, Clarence shoots him in the head, and a hole appears. This shot was achieved using a sophisticated animatronic puppet of Peter Weller controlled off-screen. An overhead shot also shows the bloody aftermath of what has happened to Murphy as Lewis looks on shocked at his dead body.
- When Clarence Boddicker is stabbed in the neck, there is an alternate shot of him holding his neck as he turns around and blood spurts from the wound.
On November 26, 2019, Arrow video put out a special Blu-ray edition with new extras, both cuts of the film, a television version cut, and interviews with Nancy Allen and Julie Selzer. It uses the same 4K remaster MGM put out on their release back in 2014.
In a 2013 interview, Edward Neumeier reflected on how the film's script is starting to play into reality: "We are now living in the world that I was proposing in RoboCop ... how big corporations will 'take care of us' and ... how they won't."
Two of the primary themes explored by RoboCop are the media and human nature. On the Criterion Edition DVD commentary track, executive producer Jon Davison and writer Edward Neumeier both relate the film to the decay of American industry from the 1970s through the early 1980s, with the abandoned "Rust Belt style" factories that RoboCop and Clarence Boddicker's gang use as hideouts reflecting this concern. Massive unemployment is prevalent, being reported frequently on the news, as are poverty and the crime that results from economic hardship.
Director Paul Verhoeven, known for his heavy use of Christian symbolism, states in the documentary Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop (featured on the RoboCop DVD) that his intention was to portray RoboCop as a Christ figure. This is represented in Murphy's horrific death alluding to the crucifixion of Jesus, his return alluding to the resurrection of Jesus, and the showdown with Clarence Boddicker at the steel mill, which finds RoboCop trudging through ankle-deep water, which alludes to Jesus walking on water.
Darian Leader considers RoboCop one example of how the cinema has dealt with the concept of masculinity, showing that to be a man requires more than having the body of a man: something symbolic that is not ultimately human must be added. He sees RoboCop as similar to The Terminator and The Six Million Dollar Man in this respect. Leader wrote of RoboCop:
The RoboCop is a family man who is destroyed by thugs, then rebuilt as a robot by science. His son always insists, before the transformation, that his human father perform the gun spinning trick he sees on TV. When the robot can finally do this properly, he is no longer just a male biological body: he is a body plus machinery, a body which includes within it the symbolic circuitry of science. Old heroes had bits of metal outside them (knights), but modern heroes have bits of metal inside them. To be a man today thus involves this kind of real incorporation of symbolic properties.
Philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek wrote that:
RoboCop, a futuristic story about a policeman shot to death and then revived after all parts of his body have been replaced by artificial substitutes, introduces a more tragic note: the hero who finds himself literally "between two deaths" – clinically dead and at the same time provided with a new, mechanical body—starts to remember fragments of his previous, "human" life and thus undergoes a process of resubjectivication, changing gradually back from pure incarnated drive to a being of desire. ... [I]f there is a phenomenon that fully deserves to be called the "fundamental fantasy of contemporary mass culture," it is this fantasy of the return of the living dead: the fantasy of a person who does not want to stay dead but returns again and again to pose a threat to the living.
The depiction of Murphy's struggles in reasserting his humanity also deals with themes of identity. This is even touched upon in the cyborg's construction. On the Robocop: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD, Paul Sammon states:
Rob Bottin and Paul Verhoeven, and Ed Neumeier had all come up with a concept that there would be such a potential for psychological disruption. Even if you had supposedly wiped someone's memories and emotions they'd still might have some kind of residual humanity where, if they'd looked at themselves as a complete robot with no relation to their past organic form, they'd completely freak out and have a psychotic breakdown. So the idea was that surgeons had literally skinned off Alex Murphy's face and then placed it on the cyborg. So it's not like they transplanted his head, they just took his face off and laid it on the cyborg, and that was to give him his own little sense of identity.
RoboCop was released in American theaters on July 17, 1987. The film opened no. 1 at the US box office and grossed over $8 million in its opening weekend and another $6 million in its second weekend, again regaining the top spot at the box office. It topped rival films released at the same time, including Full Metal Jacket and Superman IV. In total, it grossed $53.4 million during its North American run, making it the 16th most successful film that year. It also grossed an additional $24,036,000 from video rentals in the United States.
On Metacritic, the film has a score of 67 out 100 based on reviews from 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively gave it a rating of 90% based on 67 reviews and an average rating of 7.84/10. The site's consensus is: "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". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A- on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert praised the film, calling RoboCop "a thriller with a difference," praising the way it puts the audience off-guard, and calling it a thriller not easily categorized with splashes of other genres added. Ebert praised Weller for his performance and his ability to elicit sympathy despite the layers of makeup and prosthetics. Walter Goodman, writing for The New York Times, believed the film's anti-corporate message "has more trouble emerging from Mr. Verhoeven's sizzling battles than poor Murphy does from his robosuit."
Feminist 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." Author Rene Denfeld disagreed with Faludi's characterization of the film, calling it her "favorite blow-'em-up movie," citing Officer Lewis as an example of an "independent and smart police officer." In the commentary track of the Special Edition DVD release, Verhoeven explained that he intentionally depicted Officer Lewis as "gender neutral", thus her hidden gender during her introductory scene, a physical fight with a male in the police station, and the choice to give the character short hair.
Barry Norman was critical of the film, viewing its excessive violence as "verging on sadism". He praised "some cracking jokes and special effects", concluding by calling it "almost admirable." At its release, British director Ken Russell said that this was the best science fiction film since Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927).
|Academy Awards||Best Sound Editing*
*Special Achievement Award
|Stephen Hunter Flick and John Pospisil||Won|||
|Best Film Editing||Frank J. Urioste||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Michael J. Kohut, Carlos Delarios, Aaron Rochin, and Robert Wald|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Makeup and Hair||Carla Palmer|||
|Best Special Visual Effects||Rob Bottin, Phil Tippett, Peter Kuran, Rocco Gioffre|||
|Saturn Awards||Best Science Fiction Film||Won|||
|Best Director||Paul Verhoeven|
|Best Writing||Michael Miner and Edward Neumeier|
|Best Make-up||Rob Bottin and Stephan Dupuis|
|Best Special Effects||Peter Kuran, Phil Tippett, Rob Bottin and Rocco Gioffre|
|Best Actor||Peter Weller||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Nancy Allen|
|Best Costume||Erica Edell Phillips|
In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named the film the 14th greatest action film of all time, and Complex rated it as the 19th best action film of all time in 2016. In 2008, it was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, placing at #404. The New York Times also included the film in their list of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made. AMC Filmsite.org and Film.com rated it as one of the best films of 1987.
The film was on the ballot for two of the American Film Institute's 100 Series lists. These included 100 Years ... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding films, and AFI's "Ten Top Ten", a list of the best 10 films in 10 "classic" American film genres. RoboCop was a candidate in the science fiction category.
In February 2011, a humorous ploy asked Detroit Mayor Dave Bing if there was to be a RoboCop statue in his "New Detroit" proposal, which was planned to turn Detroit back into a prosperous city again. When Bing said there was no such plan, and word of this reached the Internet, several fundraising events raised enough money for the statue, which would be built at the Imagination Station led by Jerry Paffendorf and Brandon Walley. There were plans to unveil the RoboCop statue in spring of 2014. On May 2, 2018, Imagination Station announced an agreement with the Michigan Science Center to serve as the home of the permanent installation of the RoboCop statue. Not long after, sculptor Giorgio Gikas of Venus Bronze Works put down his work on the statue due to financial reasons, leaving all parties involved pointing fingers at each other. In October 2019, the Michigan Science Center announced that the project was no longer being worked on. The status has been unknown as of December 29, 2019. On December 31, 2019, Jerry Paffendorf of the Imagination Station announced that the statue was still underway to be revealed later that winter. In August 2020 photos of the almost complete statue were shared along with information on an installation date in March 2021.
Sequel and franchise
The success of the movie spawned a large franchise, including merchandise, two sequels, a television series, a remake, two animated TV series, a television mini-series, video games, and a number of comic book adaptations/crossovers.
Following MGM's outright acquisition of the defunct Orion Pictures film and television library, including Robocop, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony produced a remake of RoboCop, directed by José Padilha. Joel Kinnaman plays the role of Alex Murphy and Gary Oldman is "Norton", a new character, "the scientist who creates RoboCop and finds himself torn between the ideals of the machine trying to rediscover its humanity and the callous needs of a corporation." Samuel L. Jackson plays a powerful and charismatic media mogul, while Michael Keaton plays the CEO of Omnicorp after Hugh Laurie dropped out of the project in August 2012. Actress Abbie Cornish plays Murphy's wife and Jackie Earle Haley plays Maddox, the man who gives RoboCop his military training. The film was finally released in the United States on February 12, 2014.
In January 2018 it was announced that original RoboCop writer Ed Neumeier was writing a direct sequel to the 1987 classic film that would ignore both sequels and the 2014 remake. "We're not supposed to say too much. There's been a bunch of other RoboCop movies and there was recently a remake and I would say this would be kind of going back to the old RoboCop we all love and starting there and going forward. So it's a continuation really of the first movie. In my mind. So it's a little bit more of the old school thing," Neumeier said.” In July 2018, it was confirmed a new film, titled RoboCop Returns, was in development, with Neill Blomkamp directing and Justin Rhodes rewriting an original script by Neumeier and Michael Miner. In 2019, Neumeier said that Blomkamp wanted RoboCop Returns to be as close to the 1987 film as possible saying that Blomkemp feels that "it should be the proper Verhoeven if Verhoeven had directed a movie right after RoboCop. On June 29, 2019, Blomkamp confirmed that the original RoboCop suit would be used in this film saying "1 million% original" when answering a fan's question on Twitter. Blomkamp also gave an update on the script saying "“Script is being written. Going well! Imagine watching Verhoeven do a follow up film.” On August 15, 2019, Blomkamp announced on Twitter that he is no longer directing the film as he is focusing on directing a horror movie instead. On November 20, 2019, Abe Forsythe was revealed to be Blomkamp's replacement as director.
The film novelization, written by Ed Naha, was released on June 1, 1987. The novel differed in several ways from the film by following one of the earlier drafts of the screenplay. It expanded on Murphy's struggle with being part man and part machine, and his memories. It also included more "humanized" dialogue from RoboCop, as opposed to the minimal, cold dialogue heard in the film.
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