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10 Reasons Why The Original 'RoboCop' Can't Be Beaten By The Remake

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by Drew Taylor
February 13, 2014 1:01 PM
19 Comments
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4. It Had A Heart
Eighties action movies were known for a lot of things, but an overabundance of emotional depth was not one of them. There is, however, a quiet sensitivity to "RoboCop," and one that Neumeier admits on the commentary track, often comes across during the movie's less violent scenes. It's a movie where a literal unstoppable killing machine has crises of conscience, and feels bad about being a shitty husband and father. (On one of the disc's documentaries, Weller notes that, "The linear thought process is gone but the sense of humanity is there.") By comparison, similar action heroes of the period, portrayed by people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, seem positively robotic and the movies they starred in felt aloof and detached. "RoboCop," for all its sly winking, was also a deeply felt, highly emotional piece of popcorn entertainment. A rarity for the time and one of the reasons, all these years later, it's so special.

5. It Was Pornographically Violent…
Given the current state of big budget action movies, where PG-13 is desired above almost all else (and, indeed, the new "RoboCop" is somewhat toothlessly rated PG-13), it's almost inconceivable that so many huge action movies in the eighties and nineties received R-ratings and still managed to achieve a phenomenal level of success. But "RoboCop" took things even further—pushing the violence into over the top, very nearly pornographic levels. The MPAA initially awarded the movie an X-rating (these were the days before the NC-17), based solely on the gory violence, mostly concerned with the sequence where Murphy is murdered and another where an OmniCorp suit is blasted into itty-bitty pieces by the hulking ED 209 defense robot, which served to inadvertently defang one of the movie's very best jokes. Unlike most of the action movies at the time, the violence served to reinforce the movie's satiric underpinnings, both mocking and celebrating the genre that it was playing inside. On one of the new Blu-ray's documentaries, producer Jon Davidson described the movie as having "a liberal viewpoint but in the most violent way imaginable" and dubbing it "fascism for liberals." There is something cathartic about the violence in "RoboCop," particularly in the now unrated version, with the splatter of it all making the story even more impactful. 

6. ...And Yet Still Marketed Towards Children
What might be even more shocking than the violence in "RoboCop" was how the film was still marketed towards children, after narrowly avoiding an X rating. This is another thing that seems downright unfathomable in the current cinematic landscape (and even was something of a rarity back then). As early as 1988, television commercials ran for a toy line called "RoboCop: Ultra Police," that recreated scenarios and characters from the movie (including ED 209), but in the mold of Saturday morning cartoons. These toys were pretty edgy, though, with the toys firing caps (the commercials made a lot of these tiny explosive charges), and certainly didn't discourage children from watching the incredibly violent movie. A few years later, a similar deluge of toys would be aimed at children who weren't supposed to be seeing "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." A half decade after "T2," another Verhoeven joint, in some ways even more extreme than "RoboCop," would inspire a line of kid-friendly toys, in the shape of "Starship Troopers." 

7. It Blurred Binary Gender Divides
Another thing that the original "RoboCop" doesn't get nearly enough credit for (and is very much missing from the remake) is its nearly revolutionary attitude toward the gender divide. In an early sequence, Murphy walks into the locker room of the Detroit Police Station where he's just been stationed, with both male and female officers changing openly in front of one another. There's no sexualization of the scenario, and Murphy doesn't bat an eye. As Verhoeven says on the commentary track, "We tried to introduce gender neutrality into the locker room. But it went by so fast." (Verhoeven and Neumeier would return to the co-ed locker room idea in "Starship Troopers." And that time, Verhoeven was allowed to linger.) Even more powerful, in terms of its depiction of gender neutrality, is the character of Lewis, played by Nancy Allen. The character is introduced kicking a thug's ass, and since she's wearing a helmet, her gender isn't even revealed until the end of the sequence. She's slightly bulkier, with a short, androgynous haircut, and never, either before or after his transformation into a metallic crime fighter, is there any hint of sexual tension or implied romanticism. It's a "just the facts" ma'am relationship, through and through. In fact, some of the only implied sexuality in the movie (besides the somewhat sour attempted rape sequence) comes in the form of a near-liaison between Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer in the men's room, something that is highlighted on the movie's commentary track.

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19 Comments

  • jimmie t. murakami | February 27, 2014 6:19 PMReply

    The original Robocop is, quite simply, 'a masterwork'. Where-as the remake is just an OK action movie that will be forgotton very quickly.

  • ben | February 27, 2014 9:23 AMReply

    'A half decade after "T2," another Verhoeven joint'

    Well, no, but Paul Verhoeven's T2 would have been such a rad movie.

  • BM | February 26, 2014 12:51 PMReply

    I LOVED the original (not so much the sequels). It, back then was like the creation of the transformers. They made the transformers look so real. It amazed me how well they were done. Same with the original Robocop. It was an amazing movie when it came out. You felt for him when he got screwed by Clarences gang and loved his kick assness. Peter Weller did a fantastic job.

    The new one didn't feel as good. I didn't feel for the character as much as in the original. It has only been two weeks since I saw it but, I feel as if the struggle between man and machine didn't have as much emotion as the original. I'm staying with the original as my favorite between the two. And who can forget the guy that was rammed into a vat of toxic waste lol!!!!

  • hey hey hey | February 25, 2014 12:37 AMReply

    Were we ever expecting the remake to ever replace Verhoeven's original? While the original is an indisputable classic, both have their flaws. I was pleasantly surprised that José's take, while a little bland, and certainly lacking in the red syrup department, still had a good head on its shoulders. Sure, It won't be remembered like the original, but had this been released as a standalone film, it wouldn't be copping nearly as much flack is it currently is.

  • James Weston | February 22, 2014 5:28 PMReply

    11. No Clarence Boddicker. The most underrated villain of all time. Kurtwood Smith's psychopathic villain stole the show. Not an easy task, considering the protagonist was a 7 foot tall cyborg.

  • Formerly From Tokyo | February 20, 2014 2:21 PMReply

    ".....and feels bad about being a shitty husband and father."

    What?

  • joe gillis | February 18, 2014 1:33 PMReply

    You have a typo. Buckaroo Bonzai is a "marginal cult oddity " Should be Buckaroo Bonzai is "One of the greatest films ever made"

  • Drew | February 16, 2014 9:57 AMReply

    Ah, the 80's.

    That mythical decade before the "nanny state" fear mongering took control of the Western world.

  • zinjo00 | February 17, 2014 7:11 PM

    The fear mongering never left the world. The Soviets were quickly replaced by well organized terrorism. There was a decade of relative calm and then 2001 happpened and civil liberties were sacrificed on the hallowed altar for national security....

  • B | February 13, 2014 10:41 PMReply

    Schwarzenegger (the whole damn cast really) in PREDATOR had some solid moments of sensitivity and emotional depth, particularly after the hostage raid, when the jungle just "came alive and took him".

  • Formerly From Tokyo | February 20, 2014 2:24 PM

    @ADAM - "Predator" is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I was the same about "Predators" - I actually like it and don't think it's a bad sequel.

    But I can't do the same for Robocop.

  • Donella | February 16, 2014 3:59 PM

    Rodriguez was respectful of the original series and wisely ignored the Predators vs. Aliens outliers. I liked Predators too and I was hoping there'd be a follow-up.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | February 15, 2014 9:41 PM

    Another franchise that shouldn't have been rebooted (although I found myself more impressed by "Predators" than I'd anticipated).

  • Dryer | February 13, 2014 4:55 PMReply

    On top of all that you mentioned it was also entertaining. That's why it was able to market it to kids, I being one of them. Like Man of Steel, this new film is so self involved with corporate and social exposition that it forgets what exactly people are paying to watch.

  • ricky | February 27, 2014 7:08 PM

    how many product placements were in the new robocop? i counted zero, and the text of the film itself is explicitly anti-corporate.

  • MJ | February 13, 2014 3:33 PMReply

    You got it right.

    Original Robocop's design is frightening to me. When I see that, I grow antsy. Reboot Robocop is too aesthetically pleasing --- when something is aeasthetic pleasing, it puts you as ease and you are less likely to fear it. What I dig about Original Robocop is that his design is jarring and while I care for the man, I am also in fear of his destructive capabilities. By removing the ultra-violent elements, you are screwing with the very nature of what made Robocop so legendary.

    Robocop being my favorite film of all time (watched while young and impressionable), you can see its lineage in films like Batman Begins. Taking an ultra realistic approach to a subject that technically should be outrageous. You buy it.

    At any rate, imagining the Reboot Robocop walking down the street toward me, I'd be fascinated by its sleekness. "How cool". Imagine Original Robocop coming at you --- your reaction will probably be, "What the f* is that!?!"

  • Ignacio Balbuena | February 13, 2014 1:55 PMReply

    The 2014 edition of "Robocop" is in theaters now. If you're seeing it, a fun game is to check off how many of these same achievements it can claim.

    I guess NONE.

  • Ignacio Balbuena | February 13, 2014 1:53 PMReply

    Among the fatherly things done by arnie; carrying a big ass LOG, yeah, that's sensitive, and everyman-ish.

  • Xian | February 13, 2014 1:35 PMReply

    Your picture for #4 seems to be from the inferior RoboCop sequel.

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