Wait—smart? How could a science-fiction movie about a super-cop assembled from metal and a deceased officer be “smart?” Because our hero, Alex J. Murphy/RoboCop is both man and machine, it opens the forum to the discussion of machinery and/vs. mankind, which is more than can be said of The Terminator. The RoboCop is both lethal (disregard for the Miranda rights) and respectable (offers to notify a rape crisis center for a female victim), but which is the man and the machine? Welding with this theme is the recovering of one’s identity, as the resurrected Murphy battles with his shattered past and new persona as a futuristic, gun-wielding Christ. And most appealing, there’s the satire on big corporations and media that serves as the backbone to RoboCop, as the story is frequently interrupted by news coverage and mindless commercials.
The titanium killing machine of the title (whose directives are to Serve the public trust, Protect the innocent, and Uphold the law) is played by Peter Weller, who brings a soul to the could-have-been monotonous role, no doubt thanks to his pre-production prepping with a professional mime. There’s a scene where, intercut with flashbacks, Murphy returns to his home, which has since been abandoned. We only need to see his mouth to feel his loss—it’s one of the most pleasing moments in RoboCop.
But bollocks to the tenderness and statements on Capitalism, right, you bloodthirsty teens? The consistent action sequences and über-violence will be enough to keep the videogame generation latched to the couch for the movie’s duration, as will the memorable one-liners (the “I’ll be back” rival, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”). Though Verhoeven obviously isn’t hell-bent on creating the most original of shootouts or villains, what’s delivered is adequate for this sort of movie—still, a baddie more intimidating than Clarence J. Boddicker (Smith) would’ve made a more thrilling watch.
The movie rebounds in the technicalities, as the Oscar-nominated special effects work well for much of the action, though the blue screen (the ED-209 boardroom scene) and matte paintings are dated, while the Basil Poledouris score is a broad symphony for the ears, utilizing both synthetic and orchestral instruments to fit the man-machine theme.
RoboCop has everything an action movie needs, and, unlike most action movies of the ‘80s, has the brass (err, titanium) to present social commentary, placing less dependence on pyrotechnics and corpses–though, don’t worry, there’s an abundance of bullets and bags of blood splashing about for those bored by the politics. “I’d buy that for a dollar!”
Each and every feature on the first disc are recycled from previous releases.
Commentary with Director Paul Verhoeven, Writer Ed Neumeier and Executive Producer Jon Davison: Thick accents aside, this is a solid commentary, as all three men offer a number of facts and stories behind the movie.
Flesh and Steel: The Making of…(36:53): This in-depth piece covers it all, from early influences (Metropolis), how the script (and “silly” title) came about, attracting the cast/crew, the famous armor (and the 11 hours it took to put on), blue screen usage, and many more interesting notes. The enthusiasm of the commentators makes the 30-plus minutes fly by; definitely worth watching.
1987 Featurettes: Shooting RoboCop (7:59) is a standard piece with the cast and crew offering a general summary, as well as insight into how the movie was made mixed with behind-the-scenes footage. Making…(8:01) is nothing more than a promotional piece for the movie.
The Boardroom: Storyboard with Commentary by Animator Phil Tippett (6:01): This is a short bit on the creation of the scene that introduces the deadly ED-209. A solid watch for those who love this bloody moment.
There are 4 Deleted Scenes (2:51), none of which are mastered or worth a look…except, of course, ‘Topless Pizza.’
And rounding out Disc One are Photo Galleries and Previews.
Buffs of the theatrical cut of RoboCop will likely be eager to check out the Extended Cut, which hosts more violence, but doesn’t quite enhance the story.
And now onto the newer features added for this 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition:
Villains of Old Detroit (16:58) brings together the thugs of RoboCop for interviews on their experiences in the summer of 1986. The fellas chat about dangerous explosives, golf cart thievery, duking it out for the role of Clarence, and more. An excellent watch.
Special Effects – Then and Now (18:20): The main cats on the effects crew chat matte paintings, unique techniques, and of course, the ED-209. Feels a bit long, so only for the bigger fans.
RoboCop: Creating a Legend (21:08) focuses strictly on the suit, though you may be expecting a featurette on the legacy of the movie. This is the in-depth look into the evolution of the suit that the disc needed. A must watch.