Part man. Part machine. All cop.
Serve the public trust RoboCop
Protect the innocent
Uphold the law
is a Cyber Punk
franchise set Twenty Minutes into the Future
in the Crapsack World
version of Detroit
, where the police force has been privatized
and handed over to Omni Consumer Products
It all got its start with the film RoboCop (1987)
, directed by Paul Verhoeven
. With the Detroit police force becoming more and more overwhelmed handling a near warzone of crime and corruption, OCP puts into plans to create a cyborg super-cop from the body of Officer Alex Murphy, who was violently gunned down in the line of duty. Now heavily armored
, an impossibly steady hand
and a computerized brain, RoboCop is a nearly unstoppable police officer. But he is ultimately a corporate public-relations creation and the soul of Murphy remains restless.
What was originally thought to be a B-Movie flick became a smash hit as a gritty, ultra-violent, darkly humorous
film which featured a great deal of social commentary and political satire on such subjects as capitalism, privatization, the environment and public apathy. It also has a rich undertone similar to the Golem of Jewish folklore, an ensouled artificial creation who is a mere shadow of a man. The film worked as pure summer entertainment as well, with taut action sequences, impressive production design, and memorable characters. Its smash success spawned a series of sequels and spin-offs while providing a huge shot in the arm for the Super Hero
film genre that the box-office failure of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
almost sunk in the same year.
The first sequel, RoboCop 2
(1990), was even more violent and edgy
than the first, going so far as to include a child as one of the primary villains. Relying too heavily on raw violence and shock value while having less of the satirical humor that defined its predecessor, the sequel was not as popular as the original film. Frank Miller
wrote the original screenplay; although the script was heavily altered to fit a movie format, his influence in the themes of the film can be identified, including scenes in which a focus group attempts to make RoboCop more family-friendly (rendering him unable to do his job). Miller later turned his original vision of the film into a comic book series (Frank Miller's RoboCop
(1993) substituted the adult violence for something more tame, since the film was rated PG-13. Too mild in the action and edging into kiddie-film territory, this film bombed both financially and critically.
Despite the very adult material, the character of RoboCop
has the general makings of a classic Superhero Origin
story, and as such, the character has appeared in at least four different incarnations on TV. In all of them, to one degree or another, the ultraviolence and corporate/political satire is stripped away in favor of superheroics and corny humor:
- RoboCop: The Animated Series: Animated Adaptation, 1988. Produced by Marvel Comics for a syndicated cartoon block (notable for the fact that the funding for the 13th episode was used instead to make the 1989 X-Men pilot). Very much like the above. Also introduced a toyetic group of sidekicks called the Ultra Police. At least some of the stories were good.
- RoboCop: The Series: Live action, 1994. Gave Robo a holographic woman partner, a kid sidekick, and a variety of gadgets. On the other hand, it was occasionally hysterical. "I can't believe it! He's a Milken Scholar!"
- RoboCop: Alpha Commando: Animated, 1998. Which was less than well received. Filled the world with smartass AIs.
- RoboCop: Prime Directives: Live-Action, Miniseries, 2000. Focused more on the franchise's dark and satirical elements as opposed to the more family friendly 1994 series. Received an ambivalent response.
A Continuity Reboot
has been released in 2014, directed by Josť Padilha of The Elite Squad
carries the same basic premise, with Joel Kinnaman
as Officer Alex Murphy, brutally crippled by a car bomb. Omni-Corp secures permission from his wife to transform him into RoboCop, a new marketing tool to help Americans feel more comfortable with the military robots being used overseas. Omni-Corp feels confident that they have Murphy under their control, but he has other plans. Supporting roles are played by Samuel L. Jackson
, Michael Keaton
, Gary Oldman
, and Jackie Earle Haley
. A mock website for the company
was created for OmniCorp
While the origin story
of a murdered cop resurrected as a cyborg dates back
to 8th Man
, RoboCop's design was loosely based on the Toku Metal Heroes
series (Space Sheriff Gavan
) which Verhoven apparently enjoyed watching on his hotel room TV while in Japan. The reference came full circle in 1989, when Toei released Kidou Keiji Jiban
, also a cyborg police officer who operated under a set of directives.
One more thing: there was also a series of videogames produced for home consoles and the arcade, mostly adhering to what is now referred to as the "run and gun" format. note
In addition, there was also a crossover comic with another famous film franchise: RoboCop Versus The Terminator
Place the tropes in the list, or there will be... Trouble.
open/close all folders
- Mighty Glacier: RoboCop is slow, but can take most of the things thrown at his way.
- Miranda Rights: When arresting Clarence, Murphy informs him that he has the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and that anything he says may be used against him.
- In the sequel he reads Miranda to a corpse.
- More Dakka
- The ED-209 series in general. Autocannon and anti-tank rockets on a police robot: seemingly excessive, until we get to know this future Detroit. note
- In RoboCop 2, Robo's Auto-9 relative to the standard-issue DPD service pistols.
- Nerd Glasses: Many of OCP's staff, as well as the gas station attendant RoboCop saves from a criminal in the first film.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: RoboCop is always on the receiving end of these, putting him out of commission for awhile in every movie.
- Numbered Sequels: You know, like model numbers.
- Obstructive Code of Conduct: The first three play it straight, the others are more of a Restraining Bolt. The first film's initially unknown fourth directive is a plot point.
- One-Man Army: Being impervious to small arms fire and wielding some incredible firepower of his own, RoboCop can just walk into a drug den and gun everyone down without breaking stride.
- One of Our Own: What the police eventually come to see Murphy as by RoboCop 2. Sgt. Reed practically says it word for word when he's brought in after he's more or less ripped apart by Cain and his gang.
Sgt. Reed: "He's one'a mine. I want him back on his feet.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Daniel O'Herlihy's character in the first two movies is only known as "the Old Man". Likewise, Rip Torn's character in the third movie is only referred to as "the CEO". This also extended to the various TV series—David Gardner's character in The Series and Tedde Moore's character in Prime Directives are, respectively, referred to only as "The OCP Chairman" and "The Old Woman".
- Orphaned Punchline: "I'd buy that for a dollar!" We only hear it in isolation, but the characters are familiar with the show: to them it's hilarious.
- Parody Commercial: Piles of them, throughout all of the movies. It's part of the commericalism satire.
- Pet Rat: Clarence to Dick Jones.
- Privately Owned Society: Everything from the police and hospitals to space exploration has been privatized, most of it being run by a Mega Corp..
- Protagonist Title: Robo-Cop!
- The Real Heroes: Implies with the cops depicted as brave working stiffs who have to manage a future urban war zone. As for the title character, Alex Murphy always regards himself as one of them and his comrades come to accept him as simply a tougher comrade who can safely take on the really dangerous stuff and draw their fire as his fellows maneuver for position.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The Old Man in the first movie, the only OCP bigwig with any sort of moral standard, especially if compared to young upstarts. In the sequels, he inexplicably becomes a typical corporate douchebag.
- Robo Cam: Numerous scenes are shown from RoboCop's POV, complete with scanlines, subtle pixelation, HUD messages and when Robo is hurt, interference. The HUD is justified, since RoboCop is technically still human and would need some information displayed to help him make decisions.
The animated television shows
The Animated Series:
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Both Murphy (prior to his death and rebirth) and Lewis were depicted as redheads.
- Animated Adaptation: What else does one do with R-rated movies?
- Call Back: For a kids' show, there's an unexpected nod to Murphy's death, with a flashback to the very end of the scene, Boddicker's "Fun's over" and the final shot to Murphy's head, rendered in animation.
- Merchandise-Driven: The series was obviously intended to tie in with the RoboCop and the Ultra Police action figure line released that year. Said "Ultra Police" show up in one episode, and the bad guys of the toy line were recurring villains on the show.
- Opening Narration: "He has become the ultimate supercop—RoboCop!"
- Psycho Electric Eel: In one episode of the show, a Mad Scientist gave one of his creations electric eel powers.
- Adaptation Name Change: In addition to Murphy's family getting their first names changed, so does Reed as in one episode, he refers to himself as "Joe".
- Adapted Out: OCP is nowhere to be seen in Alpha Commando.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The show had a few Body Horror moments, such as the scene in "Doppleganger" where the clones melt. Also, in "H-2-Uh-Oh", two of the characters had a literal moment of scenery nudity (namely because of a chemical that turned them into living puddles, and obviously their clothes can't be worn by living puddles). And this was all in what was supposed to be a kids program!
- Hyperspace Arsenal: RoboCop is a lot like Inspector Gadget in iterration.
- Mugged for Disguise: The episode "H-2-Uh-Oh" features a villainess who can turn herself into water. While infiltrating a military base, her powers wear off, and she reverts to her (completely unclothed) human form. She spots a guard exiting the ladies' room and tackles her back inside. Punching sounds are heard, and the villainess walks out of the restroom in her newly appropriated clothes.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Inverted — Diana almost always calls RoboCop "Murphy", and only once refers to him as "RoboCop".
- Title Theme Tune
- Tuckerization: The characters of Nancy Miller and Cornelius Neumeier were named after RoboCop creators Michael Miller and Edward Neumeier.
- X Meets Y: RoboCop meets Inspector Gadget in both premise (RoboCop going around the world, fighting an international criminal organization) and literally (Robo having a lot more gadgets built into him than normal, including some nonsensical ones for a cyborg designed to enforce the law to have).