With the remake coming out next year, I figured it was about time to see the original RoboCop (1987). It did not disappoint, and it was actually more than I anticipated it to be. I went into it preparing for a sci-fi action movie, full of gun fire and explosions, and I did get that. In fact there was enough guts and gore to make one think it was a Freddy Krueger film. The action isn’t what made the film stand out though. That part was predictable; it used the same formula cop movies have been using for years: partners are chasing down the bad guys, coincidentally there is no back up available, one partner dies, there’s a huge shootout in a warehouse, then in the end one of the assumed “good guys” has been working with the bad guys. The only added aspect is that the dead partner comes back as a robotic super cop. What made this cop film stand out is how much the director had to say about culture in Detroit, and America in general.
Throughout the film there are random clips from a news station reporting on current events. Every clip seems to involve real life problems in 1980s Detroit, such as unemployment and uncontrollable crime. What makes it even worse is that the bad news is so common that the news anchors don’t even care; they don’t even blink an eye when they report on an accident where 113 people are killed, including two former Presidents of our own country. But along with every news clip comes a commercial concerning new technology. The movie even opens with a news story followed by a commercial for a mechanical heart made by Yamaha. The fact that the director would include all of these commercials shows that he is trying to inform his audience about the dangers of technology and consumerism, which is made even more clear in the car commercial for the “6000 SUX,” parodying the real life Pontiac 6000. That RoboCop defeats the film’s antagonists without his mask, embracing his human side, continues to confirm this reading of the film.
The themes of consumerism and industry really made this movie more than just another cop flick. But it makes me wonder about the upcoming remake: how are they going to modernize the news segments? As a culture we are still very materialistic, and technology has grown immensely since 1987, so what are we going to see now? Will people be waiting in line for days for the release of the iSux 5?
The only other note I have about RoboCop is that, as a fan of That 70’s Show, it was so weird to see Kurtwood Smith in a role where he doesn’t call somebody a dumbass. It does explain why Red was so bitter throughout the show though…