Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Headscratchers: RoboCop (1987)
  • What idiot decided to load ED-209 with live ammo for a demonstration in a crowded conference room? Even if you're not expecting anything to go wrong, you still shouldn't have that kind of thing just lying around. (Then again, what would ED have done to poor Kinney in lieu of shooting him?)
    • ...probably the same idiot who programmed it to shoot to kill?
      • Why shouldn't it shoot to kill? Being a walking gun platform, any less would be a failure of it's primary design.
      • I believe the troper prior to this one meant shoot to kill at the demonstration.
      • Well, that's easy enough to explain: ED-209 was supposed to be ready to deploy. They were using the same software that it would be deployed to the streets and battlefields with, not some special demonstration software. If it had worked the guy wouldn't have been in any real danger. Of course he also wouldn't have been in any real danger if, as the OP noted, it hadn't been loaded with live rounds.
      • Well, consider that actual live rounds of that caliber would have left no recognizable remains, blown all of the glass out of the room, and done significant collateral damage to whatever was next door. My take is that they were stage rounds of some sort, but with enough of a punch to beat the poor fellow to death. A blank in a small-caliber pistol is pretty dangerous at close range.
    • It just goes to show you how much they care about the lives of their fellow employees. It's not even a concern on their minds.
    • Fridge Brilliance, this was a deliberate move to make the program look bad.
      • By whom and why?
      • Maybe the guy who spearheaded the RoboCop project did it.
      • Bob Morton (the guy you reffered to) didn't seem to have much power in the company. I mean, he didn't even have access to the VIP restroom. Plus he seemed genuinely shocked about the ED-209 incident. Nothing in the film really suggests that he may had a had on it.
    • I see this question all the time. I never thought much of it because it was clear that what we see in the boardroom scene is only the beginning of a longer presentation for ED-209. I assume there would have been a part where they would all be led into a shooting gallery (or the shooting gallery would be brought into the room) to demonstrate ED-209's accuracy and prowess; for this, he would have needed live ammunition. Obviously no one expected the thing to malfunction, since it had likely been tested hundreds of times prior; the chances of a guy being murdered were likely considered less than zilch.
      • Eh, seems unlikely to me. The boardroom doors were barely big enough to admit ED-209 as it was (which, when you think about it, demonstrates how poorly-thought-out it was as an urban pacification weapon), and I doubt they'd have brought a shooting gallery into the room as it still would have messed up the walls with bullets going everywhere. If they were going to do that, they either would have had the meeting at the shooting gallery, or they would have reconvened there... and they could have either had a second ED-209 waiting there, or moved the first, and could have loaded it with live ammo while moving it or once they'd arrived at the gallery. So it still comes down to negligence.
    • The scene was a demonstration, not a test. They were about to let ED-209 onto city streets. If they didn't trust it enough to arm it, then they wouldn't have been demonstrating it.
    • Dick was shown to have very little regard for safety and was always getting ahead. He probably ordered it be armed for the demonstation. In the scene in the executives toilet, we see all the other executives on the company flee (one while not being finished yet, leaving a large stain on his pants), so it's safe to guess nobody wanted to question his order...
    • Then they do it AGAIN with Cain...
      • Cain was probably scheduled for deployment immediately after.
      • Also, Doctor Fax seems to have a bizarre and unhealthy infatuation with Cain (or at least with Cain as Robocop 2) perhaps out of narcissism, or at the very least was fully convinced that her hold over him with promised Nuke was absolute. It's likely she simply trusted him not to abuse his guns in the presentation, and Cain could give less than two shits with the double wammy of the Old Man waving a Nuke canister within reach and Robocop walking in.
      • Although Dr. Fax did make sure that Cain's weapons weren't armed when he was unveiled. It was her own stupidity to just wave the only remote that could stop him around like that.
    • As noted above, it's possible that it was already up and running and thus was meant to demonstrate a ready-to-deploy model. This gives a possible explanation for why they were dumb enough to demonstrate it with live ammo: If it was in a deployed state, it might be programmed to not perform its function without first submitting to maintenance and loading, so it would likely recognize if its weapons aren't loaded. Whether blanks would've solved that issue, given the distance and firepower involved...

  • An amusing bit of Fridge Logic (This is one of my favorite movies, I saw it a year after it was released when I was a kid, but it didn't hit me till a few months ago while driving home from work): How in the hell did Clarence survive being arrested? I'm not talking about being thrown through half a dozen plateglass windows, but how do you survive being a cop killer arraigned in Detroit, in a police station that had lost several cops to him in the last several months? It practically screams You're not getting out of there. Only hiding behind Dick Jones could have saved him.
    • "Just give me my fuckin' phone call..."
    • The fact that RoboCop, the arresting officer, taped himself committing an act of blatant police brutality might have had something to do with that. Clarence may have been a cop killer, but even the most incompetent attorney in the world could have gotten him off when that came to light.
      • I wouldn't be so sure about the outcome of that case. OCP owns the police and RoboCop specifically. I wouldn't be surprised if the company had a crack team of lawyers dedicated solely to handling cases of police brutality.
      • While true, this is a moot point. Clarence was acting on the orders of an OCP employee.
    • The temptation would be there, sure. But the Detroit police are by and large good honest decent people who leave justice up to the courts.

  • ED-209 was supposedly designed for "urban pacification". I can see it possibly being deployed in urban war zones alongside regular infantry, but as a replacement for a police force? Police officers are also supposed to arrest people and bring them in for questioning. All ED-209 could do is shoot and blow things up. It couldn't even use stairs. Plus, would anybody really want to move somewhere with killer deathbots patrolling the streets?
    • ED-209 being big, stupid, and inefficient was the whole point, as I understand it.
    • As Jones succinctly put it, "Who cares if the damn thing works". Pacifying Old Detroit was just to drum up publicity. The real money was in getting the military to buy, and they were interested.
    • ED-209 wasn't meant to clean up the streets in the traditional sense. Old Detroit had to be cleared for the construction of Delta City. The idea was to blow away a few criminals to demonstrate that OCP isn't kidding around, and everyone will be running out scared.
    • The robot was quite clearly designed for military purposes, not for law enforcement. OCP wanted to put the damn thing on the streets to kill two birds with one stone, giving it a live test run to prove the unit's worth to any potential buyer, and to clean the streets by any means necessary in order to facilitate the building of the new Detroit.
    • Besides, I can see some applications for ED even in the police force, like the "drug bust" Murphy performs. ED would've done the same thing even swifter, and he wouldn't have that pesky disadvantage of trying to take anybody alive and having them spill the beans.
    • Considering how much of a burnt out hell hole much of destroit is, using it as a proving ground for the ED-209 prior to being deployed to the battlefield doesn't actually seem like a bad idea. If you're routinely losing police every day to gang activity, a walking tank isn't the overkill it might seem.
  • Why doesn't RoboCop show the evidence of Dick Jones's wrongdoing to the cops and have them arrest Dick?
    • He was the cops. Granted, he should have let someone know what he was doing before heading out, and left a copy of the evidence somewhere, but he did have the authority to walk into Jones' office and arrest him. Of course, how well the charges would have stuck is another question. Recording or not, all RoboCop really had for evidence was the unsubstantiated testimony of a drug dealer who had murdered a cop and was trying to keep the officer taking him down from summarily lynching him. A good attorney could convince a jury that Boddicker was making that testimony up to protect himself - especially if Boddicker suffered an accident before he could reveal any physical evidence linking him to Jones before it comes to trial (Which the local police wouldn't try to hard to prevent given that he had murdered a cop).
      • That's what I meant. However I'm pretty sure he had video of Dick Jones confessing after confronting him with his evidence.
      • Yep, the video has Dick making a direct confession. Of course video can always be manipulated.
      • I imagine that unless Robocop went straight to the board and the Old Man directly - who goes on to ask him to display evidence - that Directive Four might well have started up again and shut Murphy down if he tried to show anyone else the video. It's also important to note that every police officer in the city is gunning for him as a defective product as per Dick's orders. By going straight to the Old Man, Murphy is able to display the evidence, but is still unable to physically act against Jones until he no longer belongs to OCP. So I think it's the Old Man asking for proof that initially bypasses Directive Four.
      • Indeed, he played that video in front of the OCP board
    • Another thing to bear in mind is, the cops were on strike by that point. There was no one left to show the evidence to.

  • Why was the gun that Jones brought in for the ED-209 demonstration still there when Robo tried to arrest Jones four months later?
    • What makes you think it was the same gun? Same model, perhaps, but it's not like they just left the gun lying on the floor. Jones just had the same model gun as his own gun.
      • The gun in the demonstration was taken from a case. The gun Jones used to hold the Old Man hostage as taken from an identical case that was lying on a side table.
      • The case doesn't look like a demonstration case. It looks like an expensive custom case for an expensive gun. I just assumed that it belongs to the Old Man, and he keeps it in the board room as a symbolic gesture of his power, as well as means of self-defense in the case some nutcase managed to get through his security.
      • Plus, so what if it's the same gun from the demo? People forget stuff all the time. It was laying there like it was supposed to be there, so everyone left it be. No one probably removed it in the immediate aftermath because they were more focused on ED-209 being a failu-, er, the horrible tragedy of an employee's death.

  • Why on Earth would someone design an urban pacification military bot that is not only incapable of walking on stairs, but is actually surprised by the fact that stairs even EXIST?
    • It's not that they meant to design it that way, it's that They Just Didn't Care. Dick Jones says outright that the plan was to establish a lucrative military contract, spare parts and all. "Who cares if it worked or not?"
    • I always figured it was designed to take the role of a light armoured vehicle, hence was never meant to navigate stairs.
    • And why would they make it squeal in anguish when it falls down?
      • Rule of Funny.
      • In practical terms, it's probably not a "squeal of anguish", it's probably an alarm tone to let its minders know that it's fallen into a position where it can't right itself. The fact that the alarm tone sounds like a squeal of anguish is the Rule of Funny part.

  • OK, at the end RoboCop shows OCP a video of Jones' confession of killing Bob Morton. But why doesn't he also show the video of Clarence Boddicker screaming he's working for Dick Jones?
    • Robo probably erased it, or it was accidentally erased by a malfunction, caused by his fight with the SWAT at the OCP parking garage.
    • Also, Boddicker could be lying for all we know (but he eventually isn't), just to make Murphy stop beating the crap out of him.
    • What would be the point? He has a video of Jones directly confessing to first degree murder. A video of the hitman he hired to perform the murder making his own confession would be redundant.

  • Why was it so easy to negate the Fourth Directive at the end of the movie? A senior officer of a major corporation can't be officially terminated with a simple "You're fired!" Jones would have needed a lot of severance paperwork for it to count as the end of his employment.
    • He can't be in our world. In the screwed up world of Robocop he apparently can.
    • Additional: Jones doesn't need to be legally fired - Robocop only needs to believe that he is.
      • Whether or not Jones could be fired that easily, we're talking about program. A piece of code hardwired into his brain. It cannot work on things like belief or self-conviction, and you cannot tell it: "See? His boss has just de facto fired him. Now let me shoot him." I presume there would have to be a list of people in Robo's database that he cannot target, and Jones would have to be removed from it, before he could target him, and obviously they wouldn't give Robo himself this ability. So I agree, this is a gap in logic.
      • The Old Man has stated his intent to have Jones fired. The Old Man is essentially God of OCP. If he told Robocop that someone does or doesn't work for the company, his word is law, regardless of paperwork. Besides, it's shown to work, therefore it works, and the gap in logic is really of your own making.
      • If "it's shown to work" when by all means it shouldn't have worked, then it's a plot hole, plain and simple. I don't argue that Old Man couldn't fire Jones this simply - I argue that it couldn't have been enough to negate the Directive. It's a program. You cannot just tell it to stop working. There has to be some trigger, and it cannot be Robo's mere knowledge as to whether a certain person is an OCP executive or not, because he's not even supposed to know about the directive and clearly has no control over it. They would need to input the list of executives in his brain, and, consequently, remove a person from it externally, should the need arise.
      • The entire point of building Robocop was that he could make intelligent, rational decisions. While still constrained by his directives, he could interpret them as a normal human would, rather than being strictly bound to them.
      • With the first sure, but D4 was meant to constrain him and prevent him from making intelligent decisions (i.e. arrest the SOB). If not my way, how do you suppose it worked? They would input "Do not attack people who you think are executives of OCP, unless you can rationalise otherwise" into his brain and then treat him to a presentation of OCP staff? It seems needlessly complex compared to simply programming "Do not attack this list of people" directly into his brain.
      • Maybe the list of OCP execs was uploaded into his brain. As for why D4 was 'Do not attack OCP executives' and not simply 'Don't attack these people' - from what we've seen about OCP, it's not exactly big on trust. If the Old Man had anything to do with Robocop's programming, it makes goddamn sense he would input 'A person stops being an OCP employee the moment I say he/she does' instead of listing all papers that should be filled. Just in case an employee decides to go The Starscream on him.
      • Directive 4 was stated to be a secret contribution made by Jones himself to the programming; it doesn't prevent from shooting, just arresting. It originally didn't kick in until Robocop actually tries to handcuff Jones.
    • I'll give you severance!
    • Probably just crappy programming done on the cheap and without much forethought as to unintended consequences, just like everything else OCP does. A simple bit of code saying "If someone states OCP executive status then do not arrest. Invalidation of OCP Executive status only by other OCP executive of equal or more senior rank". Slap a bit of secrecy around it so no one else will find out about that key and they were good to go. Yes it is stupid and liable to fall apart, but that is part of the film's whole message.
      • To add, remember the point made above that the Old Man is basically God as far as OCP is concerned and his word is Law. So no doubt Robocop's programming operates on the basis the Old Man directly firing someone counts as an immediate termination their employment, regardless of whether or not they still have to fill out all the paperwork, so they are no longer covered by Directive Four.
    • It's possible that while Robocop can't change his files, he can make updates. He would add recordings and details to reports for the purposes of litigation. In the case of Directive 4, he updated the file that the guy had been fired pending completion of paperwork. Sort of like making a phone bill payment through the automated system. It tells you that it can take fifteen minutes to be updated in all systems, but your payment has officially been received and processed.

  • Has anyone figured out what the hell that show was about? Yes, the "I'd buy that for a dollar!" show everyone in the movie seems to love. I know the actual phrase is from the short story The Marching Morons, but aside from that, the show always seemed so bizarre and incoherent. Has there ever been any kind of canonical explanation about what it was supposed to be?
    • It's some kind of low-brow, Benny Hill-esque comedy thing.
RoboCopHeadscratchers/FilmRoboCop 2

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy