Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Superhero Media: Robocop (1987)

What a bloody classic! Even more than thirty years later, no other attempt at the same concept has come even close, not even the official sequels or the remake. In the decaying and crime-ridden Detroit of the 1990s, the Metropolitan Police have been privatised by Omni Consumer Products, a corporation more interested in securing massive military contracts than fighting crime. Officer Murphy is one of many unlucky officers transferred to the worst precinct in the city, in the hope he will be killed and be able to be used by OCP for a secret project. It's not long before Murphy is tangling with Clarence Boddicker (a brilliant Kurtwood Smith, of all actors), the most dangerous man in Old Detroit, and soon comes off second-best to several shotguns. Murphy's brain survives, after a fashion, and OCP combines a lifetime of police experience and the latest in cutting-edge robotics to create the ultimate crime-fighting machine; Robocop. 

It's pretty easy to dismiss Robocop if you've never seen it, it looks like a dumb film, and the name doesn't help. If you know your film history however, one name attached to the film will get you excited, the film's director, Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven is a master of satire, with a particular eye for American Corporate Fascism, and Robocop is a masterwork of both. From the advertisements placed throughout the film, the juxtaposition of the working class and corporate elite and stupid ideas like gentrification fixing poverty, that, somehow, we're still living with today. Seriously, Regan and Thatcher really fucked the world up, and we're still paying for it. Stop voting conservative already. Anyway, operating outside of his programming, Robocop is soon hunting down every member of Clarence's gang that killed him, and the evil executives at OCP are looking to destroy him and get their other project ED-209 in the field so that they can sell it to the military. This all culminates in a bloodbath in an abandoned chemical factory and a brilliant villain death in the OCP boardroom. 

I've seen some recent criticism that Robocop is a little too forgiving of American Corpocracy and Police Militarisation, but I've always felt that that was simply another layer of Verhoeven's satire, getting the American audience to cheer for their own oppressors; it's certainly Verhoeven's style. That said, Robocop has become something of a cult hero in Detroit, with attempts to put up a statue of him in the poorer areas, but I guess if the only cultural contributions the city has made post-Motown are Robocop and Eminem, you're options are limited. I hope by the time this article gets through the backlog, I finally have a decent 28mm Robocop for Ultimate Alliance games, but, just in case, if you know of a good one, even a 3D print, please let me know. I do have a converted Star Wars miniature, but he's a tad on the small side, especially next to some of my repainted Heroclix. If you, somehow, have never seen the original Robocop, check it out as soon as you can, either the original or the Special Edition, the story doesn't change that much, it's mostly differing levels of violence.

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