After being murdered by a ruthless gang of criminals, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is resurrected as a crime-fighting cyborg named ‘Robocop’.
Albert Einstein once said that: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. It is a very true fact indeed that technology has become an unstoppable entity. It is ever-growing and constantly on the move. It has strived to make our lives easier, but has managed to gain the reputation as a slave master. We, as society, have become enslaved to the very idea of technology. It has taken us over and has rendered us vulnerable to its’ utopian ideals. Some of have said that it has stripped us of what many hold dear to them; our humanity.
‘Robocop’ is a film that does much more than entertain. It strives to understand the relationship man has with technology/machine. The fact that Robocop is a man controlled by technology is a statement unto itself. Even the title of the film is a hybrid of two opposing factors; man and machine. After being systematically slaughtered, it is only through the power of technology that Murphy is allowed to live once again. However, as a result, technology has rendered him a thoughtless and emotional free being. He is mundane and computer like in his speech, and his suit is highly symbolic of the cold/sterile and colorless world that technology represents.
‘Robocop’, on the surface, is about his role as a crime fighter, striving to uphold the law no matter the cost. But on a much deeper level, the film is about his personal conflict with the technology that now controls his body. Throughout the course of the film, Robocop attempts to retrieve some evidence of his once prevalent humanity. When he first became Robocop, all his memories and emotional content were erased, thus making him an invalid without the proper guidance of human beings. It is only through a relapse and his quest to regain his old self that the audience begins to realize that man cannot always control technology. It now has the ability to control us.
Robocop soon begins to act irrationally as he begins to have dreams, memories and thoughts (He is now beginning to retrieve some of the individual characteristics that made him human in the first place). The scientists governing him have no idea what has happened as they are no longer able to control him. In one telling scene near the end of the film, Robocop removes his mask and fights without it, revealing the face of Murphy. It is a very shocking sight since Murphy’s human face is fused with the mechanical properties of a machine. The very fact that he begins to speak, think and feel as a human once again during this sequence represents his quest to separate himself from the machine that is now in control of him.
Paul Verhoeven, in his second American film, presents an idea that technology can be understood as a major threat to our very own civilization. Many scenes, in which Robocop or Ed-209 (one of Robocop’s many adversaries) appear, strongly depict the failures that technology is capable of. In one particular scene, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is presenting the new and improved machine crime fighter, Ed-209. In a demonstration, one of the business men in attendance is told to point a gun at Ed. He does so and the machine tells him to drop it. The man relinquishes the weapon, but the machine continues to warn him. In the background, scientists scramble to fix the problem, but it is too late. Ed-209 opens fire and massacres the man to death with automatic weapons. It is an undeniable statement that technology which cannot be controlled by man is capable of decimating humanity to the point of extinction.
‘Robocop’ is very strongly-opinionated. On top of critiquing technology, it also has much to say about society, politics and commercialism. With that being said, the film is also a solid form of entertainment (It is a must-see for action buffs). It is very violent and unrelenting in its brutality, but it does manage to tell a cohesive story.
Looking back at it, ‘Robocop’ is a very undermining film. There is a lot more going on than mere action-filled sequences. It is a highly subversive piece of work, and manages to illicit many reactions as a result.
*Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons. ~R. Buckminster Fuller