Friday, March 7, 2014

Robocop Trilogy

Get out your thigh pistols and jetpacks, we're watching the Robocop trilogy!

Alex Murphy was a model cop who was brutally gunned down and then rebuilt from the ground up as the new cyborg Robocop! 

After watching the mediocre reboot, I wanted to go back and watch the original trilogy to see which of them hold up. Join me in this robot-filled nostalgia-fest of cyborg cops and drug lords!

Yup, it still holds up! In fact, looking back, it's kind of amazing how much this holds up. It is a smart movie. The story is great, the pacing is perfect, the action is just crazy and the perfect amount of outrageous, and the effects hold up surprisingly well. It's the perfect storm of a smart satire and bloody, violent, and fun sci-fi movie. There's enough there to get a sense of who Murphy is before he goes into surgery without going too much into his family life. It's satisfying seeing him rediscover who he is, and the twist about his programming comes at the appropriate time to catch the audience off guard! 

The satire is on point, from the fake TV commercials, to the "I'll buy that for a dollar!" TV show, to the corporation wanting to put the obviously-flawed ED-209 into production. And WOW is it bloody. I can't imagine even an R rated movie with this level of gore getting past today's standards. Also, I really like how progressive the movie is. Officer Lewis is a great female side protagonist! Peter Weller is also perfect for the job as Robocop. He has those robotic movements and that mile-long robo-stare down pat. And Robocop is a badass with enough humanity to sling cheesy one-liners and enough robotics to make him a killing machine. Still a classic, go watch it. $$$$$

I guess it had to go down from the original. There's no way it could be as good, right? More than anything, instead of a movie, RoboCop 2 feels like an extended episode of a TV show. There are action and fights and a big boss at the end, but nothing really groundbreaking happens. They tease that they might address Murphy dealing with his family more, but that's dropped a quarter of the way in. Most of the time is spent dealing with a new gang that's obsessed with the new drug "Nuke" and then dealing more with OCP taking over the city. There are some cool fights and a neat stop-motion cyborg, so there's that. And I like the satire of the evil corporation trying to literally find a Robocop 2, but the satire overall doesn't feel as smart as it was in the first movie. 

The story doesn't seem as strong as the first, either, even though they try to make the pacing comparable. Robocop still gets dismantled and put back together mid-way through, but it doesn't have the same impact. Except, this time after they put him back together, they flood his mind with hundreds of extra directives that drive him insane, leading to some really funny scenes with Peter Weller. I'm even more surprised at how progressive the movie is with women when I found out it was written by Frank "Let's turn all women into prostitutes" Miller. Not only do we have Officer Lewis, but there's the good scientist lady who takes care of Robocop, the evil business woman trying to run OCP, and even evil Kane's second-in-command! All in all, lots of smart, tough ladies in varied roles. Modern action movies could learn a thing or two! But even after all that, it still doesn't feel like anything meaningful was accomplished. It felt like a lead in to the next movie or like a continuation of the series. So I don't know. It has lots of crazy action but you could go straight from 1 to 3 and not miss a beat. $$$. 

Well this feels completely different. Instead of Peter Weller, we get Robert Burke, and this movie has a PG-13 rating instead of the hard R of the last two. It's noticeably less violent and more action-figure oriented. I mean, Robocop gets a new arm attachment and a jetpack! And man, that CGI does NOT hold up. But, Robocop with a jetpack, that's pretty cool. It does feel like an improvement over its direct predecessor. It is noticeably more epic. OCP is taking over the city for profits, crushing houses and forcing people from their homes, and the people are fighting back! And which side is Robo on? Well, it's not that big of a question, OF COURSE he's fighting for the people. It's nice that they didn't have a retread of trying to mess with his programming like in 2, but it's weird that he still has that 4th directive from the 1st movie when he should have been done with it after the 2nd movie. Also, Robocop gets beat-up and rebuilt AGAIN. Do they have to have this in every movie? Can't they figure out a way to do proper pacing without this? How many Jesus metaphors do they need? Though there are some funny gags while they're operating on him.

Also, still super progressive towards women! You've got a woman leader of the resistance (a woman of color, no less!), a spunky stupid partner Lewis who always seems to get hurt, a good scientist keeping Robo in check, and even the lil' girl hacker. Half of them die in the movie, but they're there and they have roles other than being Damsels in Distresses. In fact, you could say the women do a lot more than Robo here! There's not a lot of satire, other than a pretty great 90's cartoon toy commercial. And it has robot samurai, which are actually a lot better than Robo. You think it would be a bigger deal that Japan cracked the human-looking robot enigma OCP was trying to solve in RoboCop 2, but no. And you'd also think the key to defeating them would be something in Murphy's humanity over the robot's cold decision-making, but no. Still, this has a much more epic feeling, even though it's a little more Saturday-morning-cartoon than dark-sci-fi-satire. $$$$

There you go! RoboCop is still the best robot cop movie with 3 and 2 bringing up 2nd and 3rd place respectively. And I'd say they're all still better than the remake. Now I really want to watch the series – if only I could find it somewhere. 

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