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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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8. It Featured An Atypical Lead
Action heroes at the time were nearly invincible, outrageously muscular super-men, and in "RoboCop," a movie about a man who is literally turned into a machine, we were given a vulnerable, deeply human lead character. Some of this had to do with the casting of Peter Weller, who up until this point was known for the marginal cult oddity "Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension," and was of a willowy, diminutive stature that could more easily be encased in a clunky robot costume. It also allowed for an action star that people who don't bench press small cars could identify with. But more than that, in the depiction of a conflicted man in crisis, Weller's performance mirrored the daily struggle of the American male in a far more realistic way than virtually any other action star of the period. (The year after "RoboCop's" release, John McTiernan's "Die Hard" would turn a shoeless sitcom star into an even-more-relatable everyman hero.) Take, for instance, "Commando," released by 20th Century Fox two years before Orion unleashed "Robocop," which opens with a sequence where Schwarzenegger is doing fatherly things with his daughter (played by an insanely young Alyssa Milano), including feeding a wild deer, before, moments later, a bunch of bad guys show up and Schwarzenegger dispatches them all. That was what counted as being a "sensitive" action hero in the late eighties.

9. It's Formally Ambitious
The news broadcasts and commercials that periodically interrupt the proper narrative of "RoboCop" weren't just bitingly hilarious interjections of social satire, they were somewhat groundbreaking in the way that they were presented. Most movies at the time would show someone watching a film, or turning on a television, and then we would fade into that television or movie, establishing that it was something that one of the characters inside the movie was viewing. With "RoboCop," Verhoeven and his editor Frank J. Urioste would just cut to the commercial or the news program, like the movie itself was also part of the same stream-of-consciousness satellite feed. This kind of editorial style has been adopted countless times since "RoboCop's" release, but at the time it must have been slightly startling. Elsewhere, Verhoeven's European sensibilities make the movie feel like a colossal achievement in action movie formalism. There are long, unbroken shots, and weird editorial tics scattered throughout, in addition to a number of trippy point-of-view sequences that very literally put you inside the glitch-ridden mind of Murphy/RoboCop. 

10. It Spawned Its Own Universe
Every Hollywood franchise in existence is no longer happy with simply having a series of films, instead, they are interested in creating a vast, expansive, interconnected "universe" in which several films, spin-offs, cartoons, and merchandising properties, feed and redistribute the main brand. In a sense, "RoboCop" accomplished this way back when, which is even more hilarious considering how consumerism is one of the movie's very biggest targets. The movie spawned two sequels: 1990s guilty pleasure smorgasbord "RoboCop 2" (which Weller returned for but Verhoeven wisely sat out) and 1993's "RoboCop 3," a half-baked sequel that Weller too abandoned (Nancy Allen, for some reason, returned) and which sat on the shelf for a number of years while studio Orion went through bankruptcy proceedings. There were a pair of live action series, as well, 1994's "RoboCop: The Series" and 2001 miniseries "RoboCop: Prime Directive," as well as the animated spin-offs "Robocop: The Animated Series" (which aired in 1988) and "RoboCop: Alpha Command," which aired a decade later. In addition, there were comic books, novels, theme park rides and video games, one of which anticipated the team-up phenomenon by pitting RoboCop against that other robotic Orion antihero The Terminator.

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.   

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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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