Ladies and gentlemen, I did not expect it, but I loved the everliving crap out of RoboCop. It’s over-the-top 80s gory, it’s a slapstick satire of 80s America, and it’s got some of the simplest but most effective visual storytelling that anyone who’s ever seen a movie before should be able to grasp.
Let’s summarize the plot to begin:
Detroit really sucks, and the cops can’t do much. Some are bought, but all are outgunned. The corporation that basically owns the police decide to replace cops with AT-STs. Some guy in a suit gets blown into Campbell’s Chunky Tomato by one, so another exec says, “Let’s try making the Borg instead. They’re at least half-people in there, and this won’t happen.” They dig up a cop that got blown into Garden Medly Ragu by Red Forman and turn him into an emotionless law enforcement machine, complete with badass one-liners and pistol spins. He robo-dozes off in his tiny I’m-a-robot-so-it’s-ok dormitory holding cell, and dreams about when he was a person. Then he starts hunting down The Formans to avenge himself and remember enough of his humanity to have a celibate crush on his old police partner. END OF MOVIE.
So how in the sweet name of Cyberdyne Systems is this a good movie? Because it does all of its simple shit perfectly.
Simple Shit: RoboCop is a robot.
They do a good job differentiating him from humanity in general with his monotone voice and shiny armor parts and the fact that his holster’s INSIDE his leg and he plugs into machines and blah-dee-fucking-blah, but they do much more than that. They accent his robonity by upselling humanity’s well, humanity. These fleshy motherfuckers couldn’t avoid emoting if they filled their anuses with a slurry of Xanax and Sleepytime Tea (I swear I’m not getting paid for these links, which bums me right the hell out). Let’s find a gory clip of Red turning NotYetRobo-Cop into another unappetizing food joke indicating that he’s probably not intact anymore. These people (definitely people) cannot stop laughing. They’re animated and enthralled, and, well, emotional. Or how about this clip of Red busting in on an exec, trying to feel alive by doing coke off of not one, but two pairs of tits (he’s certainly not concerned about the women they’re attached to), and exploding his ass? The bottom line here is that the humans in the movie are always bouncing off the walls and feeling their narrow emotional ranges so strongly it’s comical. It contrasts RoboCop’s Tin Man issues wonderfully, and makes him seem even-keeled like Lt. Commander Data, instead of creepy like Wednesday Addams.
Simple Shit: RoboCop has a soul
The movie would be really boring without some kind of redemption plot. Robot cleans up crime, no inner conflict exists, cake at the end. Luckily for the plot, this guy’s still a guy in there somewhere, but no one really notices or cares, because he keeps it on the down-low. Funnily enough, his humanity mostly comes through in his targeting computer.
Basically, instead of having him prance around the place like some kind of futuristic Hamlet, spouting pointless exposition, (“Oh, how I would love to help the innocent, if only I could love at all! But maybe I can, for perhaps I am more Cop than Robo!”) he just quietly readjusts his robo-priorities. Even when he loosens up because…
Simple Shit: RoboCop slowly remembers being Officer Murphy
This is really the resolution of the plot. Sure, he gets to kill the guys that killed him and Detroit or Delta City or whatever the fuck this setting is is safer as a result, but the real plot is that turning a dude into a robot is kinda messed up, and in movies robo-ex-dudes have a penchant for being dudes again. So when he gets in a fight with the more-robotic cop, his human side is revealed through a fresh bullet hole in his visor.
His externality reflects his internality. Remembering humanity, becoming human. Eventually, he recalls enough personhood to earn himself a face.
Look at that obviously human not-robot guy over there! Giving us the most convincingly human of all smirks! There’s a fella who has earned his soul! Compare this to other movie automata, like the T-800 say, which is more about deception. As Ahnold is revealed as an assassin or earns the trust of his human compatriots (depending on the movie), he tends to look more and more robotic, showing some twisted form of honesty. RoboCop, though, has earned the right to lie like a person, which he uses to get cheap thrills with his partner in one of those touchy-feely teach-me-to-shoot scenes.
So, without further ado, here’s a bunch of clips from the in-movie commercials to convince you this shit is hilarious and that you should watch it because I’m done (although after the dinosaur clip they’re from RoboCop 2 which I can’t vouch for just yet).