Review: RoboCop (Director’s Cut) (1987)

Genius.

As kids, my little brother and I could recite this movie backwards. Literally – I think we even tried once. Watching it again so many years (decades?) later, I was surprised to learn two things:

  1. the taped-from-TV VHS version I’d worn out so many viewings and so many years back was heavily edited (mostly by my mum), so there were all kinds of scenes (and swears!) i was only now discovering for the first time
  2. it’s dated surprisingly well. All the things I thought I’d been laughing at, turns out the movie was laughing at too.

I was delighted to discover what a fun, and incredibly satirical, film “RoboCop” actually is (and, obviouly, always was). It’s full of colourful villains, high-powered corporate crooks, riveting action scenes with cheeky codas (RoboCop’s response to the near-rape victim he’s just rescued: to coldly inform her, “You are suffering from shock. I will notify a rape crisis center”), and hilarious televisual culture motifs (from the news clips to “I’ll buy that for a dollar!”). Perhaps the most absurd and miraculous thing about RoboCop is Peter Weller (PhD)’s completely serious dedication to his invention of the main character: Weller trained with mime Moni Yakim to develop RoboCop’s distinct movements. It’d never occured to me that RoboCop’s movements had to be invented by someone; I guess that’s testament to Weller’s incredible performance.

Dystopia, police strikes, corporate intrigue, capitalism, technology – there are so many elements here, all treated with humour and biting satire, and all mixed together with more wit and sophistication (albeit hammy) than Christopher Nolan could ever hope to manage.

This movie is genius. And so, according to the increasingly popular current consensus, is director Paul Verhoeven.

As ’80s nostalgia has graduated from “so bad it’s good” to “You know what this 30-year-old thing needs? A sequel!“, Verhoeven’s satirical sensibilities have aged into sublime overlap with the American pop-cultural landscape that has grown up around them. His European-Outsider perspective, and manner of commenting, on American culture, now has more in common with the audience commentary of our times – or at least, what it strives for at its best: calling bullshit, and having absurd fun while doing so.


Further Viewing

Even if I don’t personally agree with all her takeaways, I always find Maggie Mae Fish‘s video essays interesting and thought-provoking. In her reading of Robocop, her feminist lens reveals some good-humoured, and ultimately trans-positive, findings:

Check out this behind-the-scenes look at the astounding SFX used in the film’s most violent, pivotal scene – the assassination of Alex Murphy: