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Robocop classic movie review: Does it still hold up?

Robocop Classic Movie Review

In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories.

Techaeris Rated 9.5/10

It’s been a minute since we have done a movie review on this site, and honestly, this is my first. I’ve never done movie reviews in the past because they are some of the most subjective products you can review. But given that I’ve had almost 35 years to digest Robocop, I thought I might have a word or two.

All joking aside. I posed a question on MeWe about older movies, and if our followers had some favorites, they thought stood the test of cinematic time. In other words, could a movie like Robocop be enjoyable today? Other films were thrown out on the table that I may get to soon, and Robocop was one of the top ones. Let’s dive into my thoughts on this 1987 Sci-Fi adventure.

After nearly 35-years it’s funny that I would have to say this but, there are spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

Robocop (1987)

Cast

  • Peter Weller: Alex J. Murphy/Robocop
  • Nancy Allen: Anne Lewis
  • Ronny Cox: Richard Dick Jones
  • Kurtwood Smith: Clarence J. Boddicker
  • Dan O’Herlihy: The Old Man
  • Robert DoQui: Sgt. Reed
  • Miguel Ferrer: Robert Morton
  • Ray Wise: Leon Nash
  • Felton Perry: Johnson
  • Paul McCrane: Emil Antonowsky
  • Del Zamora: Kaplan
  • Calvin Jung: Minh
  • Rick Lieberman: Walker

Robocop came at a time when Sci-Fi movies were huge and very popular. You had Aliens in 1986, The Terminator in 1984, Predator in 1987, Cocoon in 1985, Alien Nation in 1988, and of course Spaceballs in 1987. The ’80s was a fantastic time for movies, and when Robocop was released, I was a 13-year old comic book and sci-fi movie nerd.

TL;DR

Overall, I was not expecting to enjoy Robocop at all. I was ready to file this movie in my memory and leave it there. But nearly 35-years later, Robocop is still a fun ride with only a few minor annoyances that are easily overlooked.

The Story – A Brief Overview

The storyline in this movie isn’t particularly complex. We find Alex J. Murphy transferring from a police precinct we’re led to believe is on the “good side” of town. Into a police precinct that’s an absolute war zone in “Old Detroit.”

Murphy is assigned to officer Lewis as a partner, and in the first part of the movie, director Paul Verhoeven tries to develop the partner relationship between the two. This relational development doesn’t last long before Murphy is blasted by a few shotguns and handguns, losing an arm and getting a bullet to the head.

Robocop classic movie review: Does it still hold up?
Dick Jones and ED-209
Image Courtesy IMDb and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The movie is buffered between with small scenes showing life in the old Detroit precinct and plans being made by Omni Consumer Products (OCP), and the hijinks of the main band of criminals. This is where we’re introduced to ED-209, the creation of Dick Jones, and the future of law enforcement.

The tension between Dick Jones and Robert Morton, who is the lead manager on the Robocop project, is felt immediately and holds up throughout the film. Eventually, Murphy is brought in to attempt to save his life, even after having an arm blown off, multiple shotgun rounds pumped into his chest, legs, and arms, and a bullet to the head.

When the attempts to save Murphy the human are unsuccessful, Murphy’s body is used as the Robocop project prototype. The project melds together organic and cybernetic parts, creating a nearly indestructible cyborg cop. Of course, the problem becomes that the organic part of Robocop begins to remember its past life. This eventually leads the cyborg to become more human and exhibit feeling.

The rest of the story is not hard to figure out; Robocop, aka Murphy, cleans house and eliminates everyone involved in his murder, and he does it in a gruesome fashion.

The Making of Robocop is a fun featurette that shows how some of the movie magic was made.

Verdict: Does It Still Hold Up?

Going into Robocop nearly 35-years later, I was really expecting a very dated and tired movie. My attitude toward this film over the years has colored by my distaste for the stop-motion work done with ED-209. Of all the things that stuck with me, it was ED-209. After re-watching the film, I realized just how little of a role ED-209 played. I’m still disappointed in the stop-motion work put into that character; it could have been much better.

I found that this movie’s color grading was harsh and felt more like a 70’s movie than a late 80’s movie. I watched Robocop on Vudu in UHD resolution on a 4K TV. I’m not sure if this was the director’s intent or if it was the cameras and editing methods they used. It’s certainly not so bad that it’s unwatchable.

This is a typical 80’s movie when it comes to gruesome deaths, the scene where Emil gets doused in some sort of acid and then splattered by Clarance in the 6000 SUX was very unneeded but was a nod to movies like Toxic Avenger. These types of things lend to the hokey charm of movies like this.

Emil from Robocop
Emil after getting hit with some sort of acid, he’s then splattered all over Clarance’s 6000 SUX.

Peter Weller as Robocop was fantastic. I didn’t feel his Murphy persona was as polished, but that’s okay because Robocop was spot on. The story itself wasn’t overly complicated, and that is good; simple is almost always best.

The other actors were all fantastic as well, especially Kurtwood Smith as Clarance. At first glance, you’d assume Clarance to be a weak character, and in some ways, he is, but he turns out to be pretty evil and strong.

In my eyes, the cinematography and camera work all hold up. The special effects, aside from ED-209, are well done and still believable. There were a few continuity errors, like when the bad guys shot holes in Murphy and Lewis’s windshield, and in the next cut, the holes are gone. That kind of stuff still happens today.

Overall, I was not expecting to enjoy Robocop at all. I was ready to file this movie in my memory and leave it there. But nearly 35-years later, Robocop is still a fun ride with only a few minor annoyances that are easily overlooked.

Robocop

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Overall Score

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Peter Weller's performance as Robocop is fantastic
  • Kurtwood Smith as Clarence, everything you want a bad guy to be
  • Makeup and costumes still stand the test of time
  • Hokey nuggets like the 6000 SUX and the I'd buy that for a dollar guy

Needs work

  • Stop-motion of ED-209 is just bad
  • Film grading feels dated, feeling more like a 70's movie
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