You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Movies’ tag.
Shifting focus here on the Dreck Fiction. In the beginning, the first real things I ever wrote were about the movies of John Singleton–about as far from speculative fiction as you can imagine. Basically I was just using this blog to talk about things that appealed to me, and that’s pretty much over now because I’ve run out of things. I’m still gonna make movie reviews, but they’ll be slower.
Everybody needs their niche, and there isn’t one between talking about science-fiction and non science-fiction movies. I mean, there’s the Genrebusters, a web site you should visit frequently, though the updates are sporadic, and they balance all sorts of genre cinema, but in terms of Dreck Fiction, there’s nothing linking Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix to a movie like Poetic Justice. Itty blogs like this really oughtta specialize, because they aren’t an investment for the reader.
Blog 101 stuff–I know. I’m like a hormone-addled teenager, figuring himself out. There’s gonna be a new review, and then I’m gonna talk about Ghost in the Shell ad infinitum before concentrating on a recent preoccupation of mine.
See you later.
And how could you not? As much as I know I’ll enjoy the film when it hits theatres in October, I know it won’t last long or be well-recieved or good. It’s just not a movie that needed to be made, but I look forward to it anyway as a fan of the John Carpenter original, a fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and a guy who saw and enjoyed somwhat the Howard Hawks original original. The Who Goes There? story template is great, and even without that key casting I’d still look forward to it, even if it is seemingly just another in the line of horror remakes following the Wes Craven reboots of recent times and Friday the 13th and all that.
Horror is such a shitty genre nowadays that remakes don’t faze me. If original material turns out to be garbage like The Strangers, then I welcome familiar faces and ideas. I’ve come to peace with the fact that The Mist is the product of a brilliant filmmaker who probably won’t continue to dabble in horror (unless it’s Stephen King), and that M. Night Shyamalan is making some terrible, terrible choices years after his incredible Signs. Maybe it’s just fine by me because horror isn’t one of the genres I look for. I like horror/comedy, but I haven’t seen too many of those I’ve disliked. From Return of the Living Dead to Slither, the horror/comedy has been good throughout the ages, but I didn’t even like a horror classic like The Exorcist so how am I supposed to like its inevitable remake?
It’s a difficult genre, and I guess that’s why these filmmakers do it. Nothing is sacred, as people are bound to say, but I really don’t care about that. They’re not actively working to ‘ruin’ the original film, and the constant theory against the naysayers is that maybe attention will be brought to the old one with the release of the new one. Who knows? And that’s right – on some level John Carpenter’s The Thing was a remake, and it’s a classic, as is The Fly remake. Who’s to say that this new one won’t be? Aside from history and the formula it seems to be following…
In fact there are other things that concern me about this new movie. A long time ago I got into some farcical argument with a ’30 year old woman’ on YouTube.com, and it was on the video for The Thing 1982 trailer. Maybe you can still find it, I don’t know – I’m HeroOfCanton99, like Jayne and 1999 combined, the year I wanted people to think I was born in. Basically this lady’s stance was that she was uncomfortable with a girl being cast in the movie, because some seriously horrific things tend to happen to people in The Thing. I said “Damn it, I’m agreeing with you, you freaking moron,” but she didn’t really realize and continued to argue out loud to herself. It was surreal. Wonder what’ll happen when she finds out about the women in Gears of War “Curb Stomp Downed Enemies” 3?
I don’t feel entirely comfortable with it because I’m aware of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s history – three horror flicks, one where she gets killed, probably gruesomely. She’s assumedly not afraid of it, but I am. I don’t want to see that. I wouldn’t want to see it if it was anybody else, not just Mary Elizabeth Winstead, though that certainly doesn’t help. In The Thing, it’s not the character deaths that are actually gruesome: people die when they burn by flamethrowers. The terror comes out of the creature’s mutations, where faces split open and heads tear off slowly and painstakingly while tongues lash around and it’s the most horrible thing you’ve ever seen done to a human body. So awesome. God just typing that makes me want to watch the movie again. Really ingenious horror, and really cool sci-fi – the perfect blend captured here in this totally underrated flick.
If Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s head falls off and turns into a spider I might just vomit, but I’ve made a speculation as to what happens in this new movie:
The Swedish guy at the beginning of The Thing was a guy, not a girl. That means that she either dies in the helicopter explosion, dies earlier, or escapes to the mainland. I think that she’ll escape and leave the male hero to chase the dog and magically become non-foreign. Maybe that’ll pave the way for sequels… which is an odd thought. Hm, if they made a Thing remake trilogy, that would mark one of the strangest movie series ever.
That’s only a guess. Chances are she gets killed by a massive Thing monster, because I hear that we’ll see different forms of the creature, which is a good change of pace. Maybe one form will be Frankenstein’s monster, like the 1951 movie. HRRRNGGG…
Another issue I have is an idea resulting from a filmmaker’s passion for the original movie. When McG, a big fan of the Terminator movies, made a Terminator movie, he had a lot of visual call-outs to the earlier films, particularly the first. I didn’t mind; I thought it was cool because I share his sentiment that those two movies are totally sweet. But if the director of The Thing (I’m not going to try to spell his name) also does this visual homage deal and has similar things happen, for some reason I don’t see it as working, perhaps because of the proximity to this story to the 1982 one.
In other words, won’t it be silly if the crew of the 2011 had a blood test scene if only days later a different crew did? Eh it’s a nerdy complaint, but that’s why it’s an issue and not a problem, I guess. Also, will this movie take place in 1982? Or will it be like Casino Royale (2006) and take place in the future of the 60′s Bond films, despite its chronology as first in the series?
So that’s it. If Avatar and Machete were the most anticipated movies of years previous, well, that’s not a good track record, so The Thing better work out because I definitely look forward to it more than… Captain America? If they do things similar to the 1982 movie I don’t see much margin for error, but that’s probably what was said about The Phantom Menace. Well, that’s definitely what was said.
Like Ridley Scott, Mamoru Oshii is an unsung hero of science-fiction in film. He became a name among nerds in America in 1995 with the global release of Ghost in the Shell, a film that touted itself as the next Akira, as I suppose every anime movie does or should. It was based on a manga by Masamune Shirow, but having read quite a bit of the source material myself (ten pages?), I can tell you that the movie is definitively a product of Oshii.
We can also see this as true because another Shirow flick, Appleseed, is child’s fare intellectually compared to Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell. The man has a style, he has obnoxious signatures, but above all, he’s willing to use the medium of film to do what so few other science-fiction filmmakers dare to do – explore. Whether it’s ideas of personal or metaphysical philosophy or new and profound imagery, Oshii always has something fascinating to say, and an equally fascinating way to say it.
I think I’ll paraphrase a quote used to compliment The Fountain – something like it’s a film that’s as deeply felt as it is imagined. That’s a beautiful criticism, and for a cerebral, thoughtful science-fiction film, I can think of no higher accolade. Such an accolade can easily be applied to movies like Ghost in the Shell, Innocence, Avalon, Patlabor 2 (though I really didn’t like that one), and even Jin-Roh, though he didn’t direct that one (it’ll still be covered here). Sure, his movies lack the emotional depth of The Fountain, but they make up for it in science-fiction themes generally unique to the director.
His visuals are matched by their ideas, and in this was he’s a director who fills out what I believe to be the height of science-fiction film. If the greatest, most important sci-fi flick is Blade Runner, this is because it makes us think, maybe it scares us into thinking but I like to think it moves us to do it as well, and dazzles us with visuals that spark our imaginations.
That is what I ask of sci-fi filmmakers to do, because I personally find that to be the best, most engaging experience I can have watching a movie. The images and thoughts of Oshii linger in my head long after the Major’s joined the Sea of Information, long after Ash has joined the Sea of Information, long after Batou has… walked off with a dog.
I also got some of his older stuff in the mail, two of which I haven’t even seen. Hopefully they’re good, because that’s what we’re starting with…
Major spoilers for American History X
One of the most startling criticisms of American History X is that the writing tends to favor the white supremacy arguments, and speeches made by Derek Vinyard and company are the ones that make the most sense. The conclusion to be drawn here is that the movie, in its attempt to counter racism, becomes racist.
I think it’s helpful to view the racism as a theme in American History X as a vessel of the truly significant theme: ideology. What’s important about the Neo-Nazism is not how it applies to race relations as depicted in the film, but that it is so strong. We witness Derek committing atrocities in the name of this mentality – assaulting a grocery store that had been taken over by a Korean and a group of illegal immigrants – and so it must be that his speeches are equally strong. It would be incorrect for us to take anything from these speeches but ‘he is so sick that he’s actually made sense of this.’
The change that Derek undergoes is so powerful because it is these strong ideologies that betray him and leave him entirely shaken. The black-and-white flashbacks to the first timeline show a Derek that is aggresive, strong, intelligent, and charismatic. Ethan Suplee’s character Seth and Derek’s girlfrield Stacy are both in love with him, but as the second timeline’s party sequence shows, they only love the Nazi within him. Once that Nazi was removed, he became the new Derek, released from prison, and an enemy of the cause.
The ultimate lesson taken out of American History X is that deeply ingrained philosophy and teachings can lead to narrow-mindedness, which is very dangerous. In this way, the Neo-Nazism in the movie which is such an important subject, could almost be swapped out for any other extremist ideal, and that bothers me as a fan of science-fiction, where the science-fiction elements are often not integral to the themes. That naturally leads me to the question: why were they selected? Sometimes there is a reason, as in the case of The Forever War, but I prefer the scenario where the SF is absolutely essential to the novel, as in the case of something like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? That movie is about two things, and they’re both androids. It examines the android as a detached human being, and in this way, discusses at length the android as fictional creation.
In American History X, other than the fact that Neo-Nazism is an extension of Nazism, and this brings in discussion of hate from the past (more on that later), I still haven’t quite come to the most satisfying conclusion as to why it’s Neo-Nazism other than it would be interesting to see. And it is interesting – the things that these people do are interesting and often compelling. But a very similar movie could have been done with even Muslim extremists. If the heart and soul of the movie is a redemption story that so perfectly conveys the message, the skin is the Neo-Nazism.
I don’t believe that this is negatively impactful on the final picture, because American History X is extremelypowerful. The use of slow-motion and over-the-top scoring in tandem is used to heighten small moments, like the shower scene of Timeline: Present, or Timeline: Past’s scene where Derek’s mother looks back on the house after boyfriend Murray leaves her, and is very effective. Stand-alone sequences like the Rodney King discussion and the party-crashing are very memorable, and of course, are all held together by a famously good performance by Edward Norton. The redemption arc, which in itself is interesting as an inversion of the classic revenge tale, hinged on the power of Norton, and he came through.
Perhaps the most important thing that the Neo-Nazism as subject provides for the movie is creating a sense of disgust in our perception of the character of Derek, and the fact that he ends up sympathetic by the end pays a testament to the strength of the screenplay. Somehow this character executes a black person and we know that he does this specifically because he is black, and later on we are rooting for him. The redemption story is very well constructed; a rare instance where a nonlinear timeline was put to great use. Here, the timeline jumping from past to present compares constantly the character at the two ends of the redemption, and foreshadows that the past is not so easily forgotten, and may come back to haunt us – a parallel to the ending of the movie.
The redemption story is almost a revision of the revenge story, where the revenge story finds a hero and turns him into a monster, which is a time honored tale reaching as far back as Shakespeare and finding a particular home with our modern Chan-Wook Park, but I find this redemption story as a template more profound: we start with a villainous, easy-to-hate character who throughout the events of the movie, becomes a hero.
Of course, the lesson of the movie comes full circle by the end of the movie, where the redemption story, while doing good for our hero, isn’t enough. Danny is shot for his actions earlier, and with these young gangster types, as we learn from Singleton pictures, kids with guns are opportunists and don’t get pushed far to be considered pushed. Ultimately, the evils of the past have serious ramifications – but only if we continue to let them. Neo-Nazism may just be important because it is a continuation of Nazism, and American History X teaches us (the title of couse referring to such unconventional teachings, a la Higher Learning) that strong ideologies that existed yesterday, like Nazism, brought into today that we let invade our minds can not be treated – it has to be prevented.
Well a year ago I started this blog with the hopes to launch a podcast, actually, but since that was a rather embarassing failure, the blog continued while the podcast was left to the memories of dedicated listeners everywhere. The blog, while not quite there yet, at least got 3,000 views total by the 9th of May 2011, which was three days from one year since its birth. That’s probably not good, but it’s a big number compared to, say, 12.
I need to celebrate myself, so I guess I’ll do that by telling you guys a story.
There is this person at my high school who is an effective English teacher and a genuinely good person – a wholesome character, except for one major thing: she doesn’t read science-fiction. Worse yet, she confuses Harry Potter with science-fiction. I think that was one of the pivotal moments in my career as a lifenerd, where I realized that I needed to spread the gospel of Not All Speculative Fiction is Dreckulative Fiction. That’s what makes the title of this blog… ironic.
So that was my story. From that point on I figured to turn this crappy podcast site into a medium for my gospel, and talk about the things that I needed to talk about. I started off with some crappy reviews, and I don’t think it was until the second part of the John Singleton retrospective (Higher Learning) that I started to actually take the writing seriously. So indeed it was from that point that I decided to point the site towards both cool movies to recommend, and the canon of science-fiction. I’m still waiting on that last part, but I just can’t bring myself to complete the Prelude to Blade Runner posts because honestly – I have no idea what the Blade Runner posts are going to be.
Also, there’s a post on this site called “The Matrix Trilogy: Part I,” and that was a few months ago. I started writing the second, but never finished. I also… don’t see me finishing it. I got kind of caught up in the Appreciation posts, and the Directors posts…
At some point, I’ll get back to the canon, or rather, start the canon, and talk about the stuff I haven’t covered – The Terminator, the rest of The Matrix, Solaris, 2001, Blade Runner (hopefully), Ghost in the Shell… all the things that lend support to the site’s thesis that you’ll find at the very bottom of the page and I nearly lost track of.
So anyway, happy birthday, Dreck Fiction. A word of warning: it won’t be your last.
For those who read this site, there’s another to read instead – the Genrebusters.com, who have recently lifted their four or five year hiatus. Christ, that was a long wait, especially since I just found out about them right after they stopped putting out posts and recording podcasts. Well, they’re back posting, and everything’s totally cool. To celebrate their return, I figured I’d steal from them, and recycle a feature that I always liked from their site. The main guy wrote up reviews for each of his 100 favorite movies, and his culmination in Once Upon a Time in the West is what spurred me into renting that particular film, because it was such a high recommendation from a trusted source. And goddamn that movie is awesome.
Somewhere on the site there’s a secret Top 100 List of my own, but I’ll go in-depth with them ten at a time. I don’t have all that much to say about some of these movies, but I’m still young, and ten years from now, this whole list will be gutted. I haven’t even seen The Shawshank Redemption yet. And that reminds me – somewhere high on this list would usually be The Mist, but it actually slipped my mind. Wow. One of my favorite horror movies ever, and I just completely forgot it. So somewhere along the way I’ll have to make a note of where that would’ve been, and this will then become a Top 101 List.
So no this isn’t a Top 100 Greatest Movies Ever list, because nowhere will you find garbagio like Sunset Boulevard. This is a personal list, and hopefully it’ll serve the purpose of recommending in short some cool movies, or maybe making you look twice at some title you thought earlier was crap.
100. Slither, Dir. James Gunn
This movie freaking tanked, man. According to the profesh, and anyone with a sense of logic – it was that classic case of ‘too scary to be funny, too funny to be scary,’ that shied audiences from Grindhouse and I guess Snakes on a Plane. It’s true; the movie trailers for this one both freaked me out and made me laugh, but since back then I was a pussy (back then, that’s right), I didn’t want to see it. I think Grant Grant’s final form gave me the creeps because of the mouth. Even today, that’s a pretty wicked design. But don’t do what I did back in the day when I was a pussy, go check this one out, because it’s more than just another zombie movie. And in terms of genres, horror/comedy is my second favorite, and Slither is certainly a wonderful entry. Nathan Fillion is the man, man.
99. The Mummy, Dir. Stephen Sommers
Yeah this movie is garbage, and so is its sequel, and so is its spin-off, but I love all three. Well, I like The Scorpion King, but I really like The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. Both of them have a great sense of adventure akin to Raiders or Jurassic Park. The first one especially is pretty well paced, and the visual effects and creature designs always stuck with me when I was younger. Every set piece was different, but they were mostly all cool, and always had a cool new monster. A guilty pleasure, probably, but it’s only the first, as we’ll see very soon.
98. Doom, Dir. Andrzej Bartkowiak
While not a big fan of the original video-game – I was more of a Halo guy myself – this movie is a surprisingly high quality video-game adaptation, and if that wasn’t the most apologist way to begin a review, well just show me Ebert’s various Tron reviews, I guess. I’m a sucker for space marines, because I like it when big guys with big guns run down hallways and shoot aliens. And let me tell you – these guys are big, and they sure do run down hallways a lot. Screw the Spartans from 300 – if I want burly dudes doing manly things, it’s gotta be Doom, or DOOM, rather. This movie is so balls stupid, but a lot of fun. The creature effects were done in part by Stan Winston, so even though the notion of a genetically engineered demon is… idiotic… it’s a great visual action picture with sci-fi trappings that are sadly lost on America. Holdin’ out hope for Scott’s The Forever War…
97. Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Dir. Shinichiro Watanabe
I actually saw this before viewing the series, which is possibly the most well-known anime of all time, at least in America, as it is quite western, genre-mixing noir with sci-fi with… jazz, with spaghetti westerns with blaxploitation with crime drama – it’s basically the best show ever this side of Stand Alone Complex. If I wasn’t such a GITS fanboy I’d say on the whole it’s probably better, and the movie is a great little reward for all those fans jonesing for more adventures with Spike and Jet. This movie is actually downright philosophical, and makes for an interesting watch.
96. Pitch Black, Dir. David Twohy
I’m glad I didn’t have to put The Chronicles of Riddick on this list because as much as I love it, it really, really sucks. Pitch Black on the other hand, is a genuinely solid sci-fi thriller starring Vin Diesel, of all people. It’s got a good premise, cool action, cool monsters, and – much to my surprise – a strangely poigniant arc for our future-super-double-unkillable-badass Riddick, who turned out to be a terrible character. Let’s try to remember when he was still good…
95. Appleseed, Dir. Shinji Aramaki
I used to think that this movie was just straight garbage, but I enjoy the visuals way too much, and even if the story is just a bootleg Ghost in the Shell, there are worse things to be. The action scenes in this movie are spectacular, and they make me realize that as much as I love the 80′s action genre, it’ll never quite be the same as a bunch of crazily designed robots shooting up the place.
94. Chasing Amy, Dir. Kevin Smith
Never thought a romantic comedy starring Ben Affleck would be… good. Well, The Town was a romantic comedy, but no, that was crap, so never mind. Chasing Amy on the other hand is a great Kevin Smith movie about people sitting around talking about sex. God, nothing I can say makes it sound good, so you really have to just see it. Once again this was a movie that the Genrebusters recommended, citing the friendship between the two main dudes as one of the most organic and best written.
93. 12 Monkeys, Dir. Terry Gilliam
People who talk about Brad Pitt have a lot of good performances to draw from: Fight Club, Seven, 12 Monkeys… I didn’t like those first two, but 12 Monkeys is the first Terry Gilliam (and last) I’ve seen – I’m still waiting on Brazil and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, aside from Holy Grail, I think? It’s bizarre and feels like something by the Jeunet/Caro team, who had paid homage to Gilliam with their Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. It’s a high concept story based off of a short film called La Jetee, and if you’re looking for a totally wacked-out experience, look no further.
92. 2010: The Year we Make Contact, Dir. Peter Hyams
Hard science-fiction is hard to come by in film, which is why all of it that I’ve seen is further on this list – Silent Running, Sunshine, and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey. The oft trashed on sequel, which has kind of a Terminator 3, Godfather 3, Mad Max 3 complex – exactly how do you follow that up? Well, you take the straight approach. This isn’t a cerebral, philosophical journey into both our minds and the deepest reaches of the universe, it’s a space story without the lasers, and an interesting drama with slightly overwrought political overtones, but the message is positive and not too Avatarized, if you catch what I’m sailing out there.
91. Grindhouse: Planet Terror, Dir. Robert Rodriguez
This was originally The Rock. That it is now Planet Terror is a testament to the fact that all these movies up here are kind of… shaky. I like them all, but The Rock just doesn’t match up, and so instead of bumping the whole list, I’ll just take it off. It’s still with us in spirit, at #102. Planet Terror on the other hand is a Rodriguez through-and-through, chock full of guns, explosions, blood, zombies, goo, and Tom Savini being thrown into a car made out of tin foil. It’s great fun, and has an excellent cast and a damn good script.
Tune in next week for 90-81, easily the best of the 100. Well, probably not.
A look back on the various movies that recall why I like movies any. This week, it’s the classic action gorefest, Robocop…
Clarence Boddicker. A comical, villainous, integral, memorable, well-wrought character. Recall the days of old, back in the 80′s when every element of a film was equal, when movies like Back to the Future, First Blood, Die Hard, and of course, Robocop, didn’t lack in any technical department. Take a look at The Adjustment Bureau from recent times. The villain was not entirely villainous just based on the way the movie worked, but I’m hard pressed to locate any interesting character in that movie, never mind a good villain. So bad example. But for the most part, pulp movies aren’t always lent the best hand by its creators.
Every, and that is every, element in Robocop is treated equally, and with the great care of several wonderful minds working at their peaks. The characters are all solid, from the punk who gets acided and the charmingly sadistic villain Boddicker to the immoral Dick who gets fired and of course, the part-man, part-machine, all-cop himself. Even the 80′s effects work in its favor; like The Twilight Zone, Robocop ages brilliantly where most scifi movies, especially modern ones, do not (will not). Yes, the ED-209 might just be a funny curio, but the Robocop suit, akin to the Japanese robots or Halo-esque cyber armor we have today, really draws attention to the dehumanization Alex Murphy has endured in his transformation. He looks so impractical, like he’s being outdated with every mountainous step he takes: a true machine.
There’s something that’s just so charming about this movie. It starts off very unassumingly, and uses that as setup to wow you with truly unexpected moments. The last time I think I saw the movie in full was four years ago, introducing it to a friend who isn’t totally into movies, so to back me up was Podcast Co-Host. I knew it was gonna be no good when he asked, “why is ‘I’ll buy that for a dollar’ funny?” Logical, yes, logical, no. It’s funny just because it is – you can’t think about it, not even for a second. Because of that one joke, and because the rest of the movie is ultraviolent and humorous but only darkly so, he could never comprehend why Robocop is top 5 for me. (It’s #4)
Growing up, I recall five major movies of my childhood. Most importantly, Jurassic Park, but later on the two Terminator movies that mattered, The Matrix (I was probably eight or so when I saw it) and Robocop. For me, Robocop was the bragging movie. Hey guys, I saw Robocop, where a guy gets shot so many times he explodes in blood. But in that regard, it was also like a quirky Best Friend. Nobody understood him, but I’d defend him till the end. Indeed, getting people to watch a movie called Robocop was just as hard as it must have been to pitch in ’85 or ’86.
It does sound like a B rate superhero, maybe a Toxic Avenger (if that wasn’t supposed to be ironic itself), but that’s all part of it. The satire in Robocop is thick, but for once – not stupid. I’ll be the first to say that I am so done with satire. Writing satire tends to lend itself to an implicit attitude I just cannot handle. It’s implaceable though; I can’t stand A Modest Proposal, a staple in the form, but I couldn’t tell you why. I just hate it.
Robocop is a very unpretentious movie, despite tackling topics such as privitization, technological dystopia, justice vs. vengeance, the desensitizing media, and corporate corruption: “We practically are the military,” OCP higher up Dick Jones says to invoke Richard Nixon (according to the DVD commentary), directed at Clarence Boddicker, who visually reminds us of Hienrich Himmler. I’d compare this to a filmmaker who is considered to be very pretentious, Mamoru Oshii. His characters appreciate sitting around and talking Descartes, and while I find no personal fault in this, as these scenes are usually flanked by the most beautiful and thought-provoking SF in film, it’s basically the antithesis while remaining pretty sharp.
As John Scalzi noted in his Rough Guide to Sci-fi Movies, Robocop is “intelligent trash,” which is not a common thing. More recent examples might be Slither, Doomsday, possibly Escape from LA. It’s transcendent, I think, of your typical satire, because it isn’t cold and empty of human emotion. It uses the satire to create a dying world for the hero to emerge from – he’s surrounded by crime surrounded by corporations – Robocop, or Alex Murphy, is one of the great characters of SF film thanks in part to the satire that is integral to the movie. Here is a movie not about poking fun at America’s already poked holes, but using it’s quirkiness as a vessel to which the audience can appreciate pathos stemming from traditional sci-fi.
Alex Murphy is turned into a cyborg – part man, part machine, as opposed to an android, which is all machine – and becomes part of a greater machine that is the corrupt system where the police department he believed in has been taken over by OCP. This OCP is a no-nonsense business, where Dick Jones deals with deadly gangsters to get dirtywork done. Robocop begins to defy the system by slowly realizing his own humanity with the help of old partner Lois. When he discovers that he’s been shot by Clarence Boddicker, he turns his back on the justice that has become something new and unsettling, and turns to good old fashion revenge – very human. He’s victimized again by the system when his revenge plot uncovers the conspiracy that led to Bob’s cashing out. His struggle to reclaim his humanity is met with a great obstacle – a forceful villain that represents what the city has become, and what the city could become if good men like Murphy can’t overcome the machine around them.
The villain is the system, with the face of Dick Jones, the muscle of Clarence Boddicker (enough to shove enough of this factory so hard up your stupid ass you’ll shit snow for a year), and the familiarity but freshness of Neumeier/Miner/Verhoeven satire.
What is human? and all that stuff is typical Asimov stuff, and this is coming from a person whose only knowledge of Isaac Asimov is owning The Gods Themselves and Proyas’ I, Robot starring Will Smith. But the old SF ideas are enhanced by the clever satire, but they’re both in service of the character. This trinity of good stuff creates one whole of a movie that isn’t tarnished by two lackluster sequels and talks of a remake. It can’t be stopped.