The Horror Of RoboCop

The Horror Of RoboCop

By

Peter Germany

*Spoiler Warning*

RoboCop is one of the defining movies of the 1980s. It’s gore-filled brutality tied in with its commentary on society make it one of the few movies that almost never holds back, and hits you hard in a way that few films do.

In my personal opinion it is a horror movie. The gore alone puts it into that category but the true horror is what our protagonist, Officer Alex Murphy/RoboCop, goes through during the course of the movie.

He is firstly gunned down on his first day in a new precinct with a gleeful brutality by Clarence Boddicker and his gang, with one final shot to his head. This doesn’t kill him straight away and he is air-lifted to hospital where he does die, only to wake up as a cyborg. He has no memory of what was before. Just what has been since he was turned on.

By this point we’ve seen the gore of officer Murphy’s murder, and that of an OCP executive, but this is where we start slipping into the true horror of the movie. There are two distinct moments. One where RoboCop catches one of his murderers robbing a gas station. This triggers memories that OCP thought they had erased. Then after a nightmare reliving elements of Murphy’s death he comes into contact with Officer Anne Lewis, who’d been his partner when he’d been killed. She told him his name. This adds to RoboCop’s confusion and he goes on a journey of discovery as he solves his own murder.

The final tipping point for him is when he goes to arrest Dick Jones, a OCP Executive, after he has arrested all of the Boddicker gang, including Clarence. This violates one of his Prime Directives and he all but shuts down. He then has a confrontation with an ED-209 android which is Jones’ project at OCP and flees to an underground carpark where he is set upon by S.W.A.T. and his fellow officers, despite his colleagues objections. For the second time he is gunned down, but this time it’s by the police, who are owned by OCP. He is saved by Lewis who get’s him to an abandoned industrial space.

There is a little bonding between him and Lewis, and he takes his helmet off for the first time, and asks about his wife and son, but refers to Murphy like he is someone else.

The police are on strike by this point and Boddicker and his gang have been sent to eliminate RoboCop by Dick Jones. Who has supplied weapons with a little more firepower than Boddicker has access to.

The sequence that follows is fantastic. It’s beautiful set up, played out, and concluded. I won’t talk too much about it here, go and watch the movie, but it’s one of my favourite sequences in cinema.

The movie ends with RoboCop going to OCP and confronting Dick Jones, while there is a board meeting going on. RoboCop reveals his evidence but states that his programming won’t allow him to act against an officer of the company. Jones, having seen the evidence that he himself gave to RoboCop takes the CEO (known only as ‘The Old Man’), hostage at gunpoint (I’ve no idea why there is a gun there after the death at the start of the movie). The Old Man sacks Jones, elbows him in the gut and RoboCop shoots him, leading him to fall out a window and plummet to his death.

The movie ends with The Old Man asking the officers name, and RoboCop replies with a smile and one word ‘Murphy’.

The Hero 

Peter Weller absolutely smashes it as both Alex Murphy and RoboCop. As Murphy he is charming, competent, capable, and seems like the type of police officer you want protecting you. Early on with Lewis he mentions his son and Weller has such an electricity in his eyes and smile that you can see how much he loves his son, and later in flashbacks you see just how much he loved his wife as well. Murphy is presented as a proper family man which Weller makes real.

His integrity and bravery is shown when he is captured by The Boddicker gang. There is no compromising, he knows he’s gonna die and he doesn’t crumple.

As RoboCop Weller takes everything that made Murphy likeable, and locks it away. There is no emotion, no charm, no passion. There’s a strange confidence to RoboCop, but I suspect that is just a ghost of who he had been before his brain was rewired. A little hint that a brain might be able to be rewired, but that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent act.

He doesn’t show any form of emotion until he confronts one of his murderers, Emil Antonowsky, as he’s robbing a gas station. The way Weller responds is spot on.  He discovers his own police record, which lists him as deceased, and the no reaction Weller gives is harrowing. He then goes to his old home that is empty and up for sale. He walks through, having more flashbacks, his emotional energy rising as he moves through this empty house until he gets to an automated realtor thats on a TV screen. Which he punches.

He arrests another member of the Boddicker gang before going after Clarence and the remaining members while they’re negotiating a drug deal, in a cocaine factory. This is a scene of epic proportions. Apparently Peter Weller was listening to Red Rain by Peter Gabriel as he was shooting the scene and it’s bloody beautiful! The scene ends with Clarence Boddicker being strangled by RoboCop after he’s been through through a lot of glass windows and is pretty beat up. This is the big moment where we see conflict in RoboCop. This is the man who took the first and last shots as Alex Murhpy was gunned down. It’s only when Boddicker says that RoboCop is in fact a cop that he stops strangling him.

The scene where RoboCop has taken his helmet off to reveal Alex Murphy is a little hard to watch as Murphy processes what he actually is. Along with the information of his wife and son moving away Weller plays the grief he’s feeling very subtly, there’s a resignation to him, but afterwards we see more of the human than the machine.

That final scene where Murphy smiles, I think is a perfect ending to the film and one that is the pay off of this character that Weller gave us.

The Villains

An element this film needed was that of Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence Boddicker. In my opinion this is one of the greatest villains in cinema. When you focus on him you see that he is not just a violent psychopath, there’s a brain behind the brutality. He’s sharp and has a sophistication that is hidden beneath his brutality. There is a glee that Smith puts into Boddicker that shows how much he’s enjoying being able to play such a vile human being. I’m not familiar with Smith’s acting career but I get the impression he hadn’t had this sort of role that often. The little research I’ve done (thank you IMDB trivia) basically said Smith tended to play intellectual roles but was cast as Boddicker because director Paul Verhoeven felt he looked like Heinrich Himmlier when wearing glasses, that made him look more intelligent as well (a stereotype I loathe), but I don’t think the specs were needed as Smith’s portrayal shows Boddicker as being an incredibly smart person. I’d imagine the characters IQ is quite high.

Even though he is clearly an intelligent person he’s got no morals. He’s a character I love because Smith gave him charm and charisma when this is a murderer, a rapist, and has a long line of other convictions we only get a glimpse of when RoboCop is investigating. Boddicker literally doesn’t care about any one or thing except himself. He shows no remorse when the members of his gang are killed. He’s equally confident in dealing with drug manufacturers or senior executives of major corporations, and you get the feeling he’d kill either if they weren’t going to help him get to his goals. Even when Bob Morton is offering him money to not kill him, he doesn’t even consider it (Boddicker using his tongue to grip the grenade’s pin makes my skin crawl!). He knows Dick Jones is like him in that he’ll do anything to get what he wants, but if he thought Morton could as easily match or exceed Jones’ usefulness then I think he’d have let him live.

Apparently one of Smith’s first scenes was when he was dragged into the police station after being arrested, and it was his idea to spit a mouthful of blood onto a form and curse. This to me is beautiful, because even when he’s in a building full of cops, has been arrested for killing a cop (which RoboCop says) Boddicker still doesn’t fear where he is.

Another little note I saw on IMDB was that when Boddicker goes to see Jones after RoboCop has been gunned down the second time is the secretary he flirts with is Kurtwood Smith’s wife, Joan Pirkle. I love little nods like this.

The other villain of the piece is the beautiful arsehole that is Dick Jones. Ronny Cox plays Jones with a ruthlessness that is a sight to behold. Without Jones, Boddicker wouldn’t have reached the levels of power he has. It’s a relationship where I don’t think either of them really like the other but they know to get what they want, they need the other. Jones couldn’t have regained favour at OCP if he hadn’t had Bob Morton killed off. He wouldn’t have been able to do that without someone like Boddicker, but I suspect he would have found another way to get Morton out of the picture, maybe like Kenny at the start of the movie. It could have taken longer though and I don’t get the impression that Jones has much patience. I think Jones would abandon Boddicker as well if he thought it wasn’t profitable any more, although I suspect that Boddicker wouldn’t take it laying down.

The Score

The sound of the film is very militaristic, and there’s a sense of urgency to it. It fits the tone of the movie and I don’t think it’ll be quite the same if the production had gone a different way with it.

Ann Lewis

Nancy Allen nails the character of Ann Lewis. She played the role with a strong masculine element to it (apparently she wore mens underwear while playing the character, I think the chewing of the gum added to it too), but never is Lewis ridiculed for this. Nor is there any sexualisation of the character or an attempt to make her some sort of love interest to Murphy/RoboCop. If they had done that it would have destroyed a strong portion of Murphy’s character as he was dedicated to his wife.

Lewis is an incredibly competent officer and holds her own against these nasty male villains for the most part. Allen also has a way of taking control in her scenes. With such powerful performances from Peter Weller and Kurtwood Smith in particular some actors got a little lost, thats not a critique of them. Weller and Smith really embodied their characters, and Allen holds her own against them. I think casting her was a stroke of genius because she does have the acting chops to not get lost in the background.

I like the heart she brings to the film as well. There’s a couple of scenes where we need a little softness, and Allen brings that. And then kicks arse in the next scene! It’s great!

“I’d buy that for a dollar!”

The little transitional scenes of the news reports, TV show, and adverts should be out of place, but they add to the feel of society falling the film has.

Bob Morton

Just a quick note on Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton. I felt for him when he died, although he should have tried to get out the house as opposed to trying to get the grenade, but I did feel for him. Yeah, he had his arsehole moments but overall he seemed like a semi-decent human being, especially for a senior corporate executive. But he had strength, drive, and wasn’t scared to rock the boat. 

RoboCop, on GameBoy

I had this, and it was hard! I don’t think I got very far in it. I vaguely remember persisting but I think I got to a part and couldn’t get past it. One thing that really annoyed me was when you were dealing with the man holding the woman hostage you couldn’t shoot him through the woman’s skirt like RoboCop does in the movie. Very disappointed by that!

Let’s get Bloody!

One of the most talked about elements of RoboCop is the violence and gore. Yes, it is incredibly graphic, but who cares? What in this movie is sugar coated? The only real moment it holds back is with the attempted rape, but even that isn’t easy to watch. I like to think the scumbag who got his crotch shot to nothing had a very painful life from there on.

The world we live in is one of pain, we can pretend it’s not, but it is. All over this planet we are committing vile acts against one another, animals, and the planet itself. So why not see it? We’re exposed to media which tells us a ‘happily ever after’ is attainable for all, which in my opinion can be incredibly detrimental. Life isn’t a bed of roses. Just look at some true crime documentaries. We are a brutal species but we don’t want to be reminded of what we are capable of.

In the gore though we see the villains, who have caused so much pain with their depravity getting their own brutal deaths. One of the most memorable ones is after Emil Antonowsky has driven into the vat of toxic waste and is stumbled about and bumps into the suave Leon Nash, played by Ray Wise, and then stumbles into the path of a speeding car drive by Boddicker. Just a little side note, Ray Wise hadn’t seen Paul McCrane (Antonowsky) in the makeup, so when Nash runs into Antonowsky, his reaction is real.

Nash’s demise is an explosive one as he’s screaming gleefully after dropping tonnes of scrap metal on RoboCop. Boddicker get a spike to his throat and has a little stumble as he beautifully dies, and Dick Jones is shot out a window. The people at the route of the violence, get violet deaths. Unfortunately this doesn’t reflect the real world very often. (I’m not encouraging violence, its just rare that some of the most horrific people get punished for their acts).

This is a brutal film, and if you don’t like heavy violence and gore, then give it a miss. If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust for their opinion. It’s not for everyone and just because life is like that, doesn’t mean you have to watch it. It’s our choice at the end of the day.

Death and Resurrection 

One of my favourite sequences is Murphy being taken off the helicopter, treated, dies, and is then reborn as RoboCop. Most of it is done from his point of view, which is quite chilling because you’re looking up as these people, total strangers, are trying to save your life. What makes this part of the sequence even more harrowing is the people treating Murphy aren’t actors. They’re real life doctors and nurses. This makes the scene incredibly raw and adds a realism to it that is brutal in its coldness. They work through what they would do in that circumstance with an efficiency, professionalism, honestly, and a coldness that I don’t think actors would be able to capture.

After the medics ‘call it’ we get blackness, and then we get views from RoboCop, a few little snippets, including a party and a part where they mention his memory being erased. Then we get RoboCop’s introduction to people in suits. That’s when we get the first taste of what he looks like in the form of a tv screen showing him. Then he goes to Detroit.

The reason why I find this sequence so beautiful is it’s a great portrayal of death and resurrection, but it’s also a mind fuck in that later events show that Alex Murphy probably remembers dying, and being reborn. Can you imagine what that is like? I guess people who have died and been brought back have an insight into it, but to come back to life as not someone else, but something else. That’s one that is going to mess with the brain and just goes to show how strong mentally Alex Murphy is.

“What’s your name, son?”

RoboCop came just a few years after The Terminator, but it wasn’t trying to mimic it. The only real similarities is that they’re both cyborgs. I think there’s parts of Judge Dredd in RoboCop but RoboCop is still it’s own thing. Yes, it takes from other elements, but what doesn’t? We get a unique movie where all of the separate pieces come together to create a tight, well built, beautifully performed, directed movie.

We’re presented a world where a corporation is so powerful it doesn’t think it can buy a city, it’s going to. The Old Man’s legacy is Delta City that is to be built on Detroit. He doesn’t care who and what is bulldozed to achieve this. This is a little too on the nose in regards to corporations feeling they can do what they want. We might not have one as blatant about it as OCP but I don’t think any of us are surprised when corporations get away with, well, murder (allegedly) in some cases.

RoboCop also gives us good and bad, and a little of the in-between. We get the real world turned up to eleven and then put into a location where we don’t ever expect it to happen. There are places in the world where crime is as bold as in RoboCop but we like to think it’s not where we are.

For me the message of this film is; with enough will the person can push through whatever they’re put through. Alex Murphy is literally killed, brought back to life, has who he was gutted and put back into the world rebuilt. But the part of RoboCop that is Alex Murphy was never going to be buried.

Terminator:Dark Fate

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a few years you’ll know my opinion of the various Terminator films we’ve had to date. Just briefly though; the first two movies are two of my all time favourite movies, with Terminator 2: Judgement Day being my favourite all time movie. The third film, Rise of the Machines is just about okay. I liked the idea they had but thought it was poorly executed. Terminator:Salvation is a much better film than people give it credit for. It had its faults but I think director McG had a vision, but it feels like he didn’t get his way with much of it. I don’t really want to talk about Genysis.

To Dark Fate though. I was more than a little anxious about this movie. I was comforted that James Cameron was involved, and that Linda Hamilton was coming back to reprise her iconic Sarah Connor role. I liked that Tim Miller was directing it, but I was still anxious. Genysis has left me with a bad taste in my throat and I was scared that my favourite movie of all time was going to be pissed on again. I liked that Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna were both in this movie. I liked Luna’s time on Agents Of Shield, and the two films I’ve seen Davis in (The Martian and Blade Runner 2049) I’ve liked what I’ve seen. I think both of them were good fits for the film and brought their characters to life. Luna’s REV-9 was just badass. He gave the machine an attitude that we’ve not seen from them in these films before. Davis had a desperation to her that worked well with what she was capable of doing. Natalia Reyes was good as Dani. She had a fight to her that worked and developed well as the film progressed.

Linda Hamilton brought her A-game with her like she always does in these movies. Her story starts hard and she is as much of a badass as she was in the first movie. Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s okay. I’m not really sold on his backstory in Dark Fate, but you know what, I can live with it.

We’re heading into spoiler territory now, so here’s your SPOILER WARNING!!!

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A random picture of Dizzy to prevent accidental Spoilers.

The big spoiler, John Connor getting shot dead in the first few minutes of the movie. I mean how it was all done was stunning to take us back to a moment that could have only been weeks after Judgement Day, but it was still a major slap in the face that changed the entire timeline. But I think to rejuvenate this universe it was needed. It’s not like Genysis where they pissed all over the first two movies. What they did here was much more respectful to what had come before.

Is this my Terminator universe? No, but you know what I can get on board with it. I liked the nods to the first two movies, Sarah Connor’s actions from her past do catch up with her at one point which gave me a smile, and I hope they make more. It is, in a way a retelling of the original film, although I’d guessed that Dani was the saviour of the human race and not an unborn child a while before it was revealed.

They’ve set up a new universe here, I’ll watch more if they make them (bring back Luna though. I’d like to see Davis again in the role but she’s the Kyle Reese of this movie), but the original two Terminator films are still above and beyond for me.

Alien:Covenant

This film has been on my mind a fair bit since its release. I had mixed feelings going into it due to Prometheus. Prometheus is a movie I think is very beautiful to look at and has some decent bits in, but overall is a bit of a mess. It feels like it’s trying to tell two stories by two different camps from the production standpoint. In one camp you’ve got the urge to make an prequel film for the Alien franchise, and the other camp want to make a film about creationism. Add in some daft elements in the script (run off to one side!) and we’ve got a film which is hard to love, also the technology is massively advanced compared to the other films. I know the Prometheus is an advanced space craft but they could have easily made the tech look like that of the previous films (Sorry, this is something that really bugs me!).

The problem of what film is being made carries on into Alien:Covenant. On one side we’ve got a story about colonists wanting to find a new world to settle on, then on the other side we have the urge to look at this creationist storyline. I’ve watched this movie maybe half a dozen times now and I really believe there is a good movie in here, if you take away that creationist element, and some of the dumb-ass choices the characters make. There’s a bit early on about a funeral that shows there is friction between the characters, but it feels ham-fisted. The funeral is forbidden due to repairs needing to be done, but the repairs could wait and the funeral is brief. It feels like it’s there just to create conflict.

If they took away the David storyline, the plot device of wondering off to another planet and just had a story about colonists arriving at a new planet to then find it was once inhabited by an alien race that died out. Then they find an egg and chaos ensues. Why couldn’t we have had that movie? Up until David shows up we’ve got the makings of a really good atmospheric horror movie and then it slips into a psycho-robot-with-delusions-of-being-a-god movie.

When I think about the original Alien movies they were pretty straightforward. Horror and action pretty much, what you saw was what you got. They never really felt like there was a grander story happening that needed to be addressed. They were just what they were. There was social commentary there, but it was subtle. You didn’t feel like you were being hit over the head with it. Maybe that’s what they need to get back to. Imagine the type of social commentary we could of had in this film if it had been about landing on a planet for colonisation only to discover these horrific aliens that had maybe already wiped out an alien species that had been on the planet before.

Where this series goes in the future, I don’t know. There’s rumours that this new generation of Ridley Scott Alien movies is a trilogy and there’s a third part coming, but this movie didn’t do especially well. So I’ve got to wonder if Fox will give it one more go, drop the franchise for the time being, or go in an entirely different route altogether.

Time will tell, but I know how I’d like it to go.

Beyond Skyline

Okay, if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years now you’ll have seen the odd post/rant I’ve written about the movie Skyline, directed by The Brothers Strause. Without going into another full blown post about Skyline my biggest complaint was not enough attention was on the live action sequences and too much was spent on the CGI, which granted was very beautiful. It just didn’t fulfil an amazing potential I thought.

Beyond Skyline was not Skyline, it took that potential and made a movie I enjoyed a lot. The CGI looks beautiful, the plot line kept my attention and the actors held the screen well, and more importantly I cared about what happened to them. Frank Grillo and Bojana Novakovic were both very good, and I enjoyed Iko Uwais as well. It was fun seeing Callan Mulvey playing a role which wasn’t a mercenary as well.

I liked how the story went from the events in Skyline and took it further and looked at what was going on in a lot more depth and moves across the globe a little and we see how the invasion is being looked at by another culture. We saw a lot more of the aliens and their little world as well. I really liked the final confrontation at the end of the movie. Not only is there some great CGI action, but some of the fighting the characters do on the ground level is beautiful! The Choreography is very well done.

This is the first film where I’ve seen Iko Uwais and I liked him a lot. He held the screen well and when acting opposite an actor of Frank Grillo’s calibre you need that.

The whole cast was pretty solid I thought, no one felt out of place and none of them felt ‘Meh’ for lack of a better phrase. I thought they felt genuine, we don’t know what we’ll be capable of until we’re pushed out of our comfort zones.

There was a couple of moments where I found my eyebrow raising a little but nothing drastic that took me out of the film any more than a passing second.

I was a little anxious that this was Liam O’Donnell’s directing debut, but I liked where he took the story (he wrote it as well). Some of the visuals were stunning and he got a great balance between the live action and the CGI. They complimented each other very well. Overall I liked his direction and I really hope they do more of these. I will definitely be looking out for what O’Donnell does in the future.

Overall, Beyond Skyline is a film that’s well worth watching. I’m glad I’ve brought it on Blu-Ray as I think I will be re-watching it more than a few times.

Diving In With No Idea

A couple of times recently Tracie (My Girlfriend) has talked about the movie Shutter Island, and how much she wants to talk to me about it. Now I haven’t seen this one and Tracie dosent want to ruin it by giving anything away so she wants me to watch it. It’s based on a book though, now for me that means I want to read the book first, so I’ve got it 🙂 I need to read it quickly though because I think Tracie would really like to have this chat about this movie.
The only thing that I know of this story is the title, and that Leonardo DiCaprio is in the movie. That’s it, I know nothing else and that’s how I’m going to read the book. I’m not going to read the blurb, I’m not going to google it, nothing. All I know is that people seemed to like the movie.

I like the idea of going in blind, in this day and age we think we know everything when we rarely do, but as I’ve said, I know nothing about this book, author, movie or the director of the movie. It feels a little liberating not having preconceptions 🙂

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Movie Review: World War Z

***Minor Spoilers***

Hey guys I just thought I’d share a few quick thoughts on World War Z. It was good, but don’t go into it expecting to see a movie with lots of blood and guts and any real reference to the book. As I watched it I noticed a couple of minor references to the book. It felt like they were after thoughts to be honest. If you’ve read I Am Legend by the late Richard Matheson and then seen the Will Smith movie of the same name you’ll know what I mean.
They is no Raj Singh, no Yonkers or the floating cities. There is a snippet with a doctor examining a young man like in the book but I can’t really recall many other references to the book. I’m sure if I listened to the book again and watched the film a couple of more times then I’d notice a few more references but I’ll have to wait for DVD.

Enough moaning about the lack of reference to the book. It is a film I enjoyed, it kept my attention on the screen. The story is okay, although I won’t sure about the way it was wrapped up. The visuals are good and the characters are okay, if cliched. Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt, he does what he does best. I’m not his biggest fan but he is a decent actor and does a steady job here.
The movie starts off quickly before the pace eases off a little and then levels out okay. Brad Pitt’s character has to find the source of the outbreak but instead finds something else.

Do I recommend seeing World War Z? Yes. Despite the lack of reference to The book by Max Brooks and a weak ending its an entertaining movie, great for if you want to chill out and not think too much about it.

A Flash Post

Hey guys and gals I’ve not done too much writing bits in the last few days. I have made a couple of notes on The Residents and I’m looking at Project Apollo at the moment finding the spaces where I want to add the various bits that need to be added. This means another read through, but hey it’s all part of the process.
The last few weeks have been unsettled to say the least and fatigue has been hitting me harder then normal. I don’t think I’m personally going to be making a huge amount of progress for another couple of weeks. I have some time off next month and I’m going to chill out as well as spending a day or two working on writing.

I watched the movie adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 which had John Hurt and Richard Burton in it. I really liked it. It felt like it stuck to the book quite well and seemed loyal to the message it was trying to put across.

I’m going to wrap it up hear and get some sleep. My dream is to have people enjoy what I write, I may not be where I want to be with it but I will be in time 🙂