The first Robocop film is one of my favorite films of the 80’s, and definitely of the series. During this era of films, they took special effects and applied it to films, but still maintained strong story elements.
Rather than report on the films themselves, I am going to report on Robocop the character as seen through the 3 films.
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Before looking at Robocop as a character, we must look at Alex Murphey. What is not fully explained in the film is that he was dilberately transferred to the new station because OCP, more specifically Bob Morton, wanted him to die to be Robocop. He was a family man, devout husband, Catholic, and a solid police officer. He would be the ideal choice.
Doing what he does best, being a badass, he of course dies when he bites off more than he can chew and goes in without backup. Though it is possible he could have died either way.
When he is brought in, they try to save him, but are unable to. They preserve his brain and face, and they put in a suit. They then erase his memories, but keep the thing that allowed him to be a good officer.
At first, he was just a machine. He did as he was programmed to do, and the elements that made his Alex Murphy, simply enabled him to be a good cop. But Alex was still in there.
He is dictated by 3 Directives; 1. serve the public trust; 2. protect the innocent; and 3. uphold the law. There is a 4th, but it is classified, that not even Robocop knows what it is.
This movie questions if it is truly possible to delete a person. Such as his gun twirl, that they likely didn’t program, that Murphy demonstrated that he did because of his son. This tick allowed Lewis to figure out that Murphy was Robocop. She even confronts him on it, and the hearing of the name Murphy causes Robocop to pause and take a step back. Like a chill went down his spine. Whatever effect it had of Robocop was quickly forgotten as he left.
Robocop remember his own death, but only on a subconscious level and can only access those memories through dreams. He also pauses when he is told by Emil that he killed him. This was after the great line that Murphy often said, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
By this point, Robocop is starting to become aware he use to be someone. It starts to become chaotic for him, as it is interfering with his perceptions of reality. This is shown walking into his old home and reliving the memories of Alex Murphy. While he hasn’t come to grips yet of what he is, he decides he wants to get justic on what happened to him.
It does appear that Murphy has some control of when he follows the 3 directives. When he is highly emotional (as much as he can be for a cyborg), he tends to ignore them. I wager the three directives were written in such a way it is up to him how they are carried out. In this respect, he shares commonality with Judge Dredd.
Of course, when he tracks down the Contagonist, he does have the desire to kill him, and close close, but his programming tells him that he is to uphold the law. Killing the man doesn’t do that. It can be argued his programming took over and stopped him, or that the message reminded his humanity he should stop. Either is plausible.
Now knowing the man behind the man, the Antagonist of the film, he goes to arrest him, and is hit by Directive 4, which prevents him from taking action against OCP senior executives. While the first 3 are up to his discression, the last one seems to be deeply imbedded.
What I don’t like about this scene is that it states upon violating Directive 4, that it leads to a complete shutdown. Yet, he’s still moving around, trying to escape ED-209. I guess that it shuts down his major systems, but there is an emergency protocol that allows his biological componenets to stay alive and allows him to move. Might wonder why didn’t Dick Jones affect that, and it may be as simple as that he wasn’t able to. Dick Jones is smart, but he’s not a programmer.
So Robocop gets away and is saved by Lewis (convinent). There he begins to deal with the issue that he was Murphy. He still refers to Murphy in the 3rd person, asking of his family.
He is able to defeat both villains of the film, refusing to arrest them as it seems he has a full grasp of who he is, and decides the world would be better without them in it. The last scene is great, when “The Old Man” asks his name, he simply says, “Murphy”.
This film is great, as it is about a character who struggles with what he was, what he is, and becomes almost a 3rd person. Kind of similar to Odetta Holmes, who had the alternate personality of Detta Walker, and through some miracle became a combination of the two as Susannah Dean from the Dark Tower series.
It demonstrates a person cannot truly be deleted, and some element of them remains. Due to his own death and the willpower Murphy possessed, he felt a great need to resolve his past.
Robocop 2 didn’t have too much characterization, but did explore more of being a cyborg in a evil megacorporation world. Beginning of the film deals with his need to connect with his family, having embraced his own humanity. But he severs ties with them as a way of helping his wife and child.
In Robocop 2, there is this need to replace Robocop, and this great need to have the police department fail, thus the city fail, and OCP takes over the city. Despite this need, they decide to reactivate Robocop, but appear to do so to be inefficient by giving him nearly 300 protocols, such as:
No. 233 – Restrain hostile feelings
No. 234 – Promote positive attitude
No. 235 – Suppress aggressiveness
No. 236 – Promote pro-social values
No. 242 – Avoid premature value judgments
No. 243 – Pool opinions before expressing yourself
No. 247 – Don’t run through puddles and splash pedestrians or other cars
No. 250 – Don’t walk across a ballroom floor swinging your arms
No. 262 – Avoid Orion meetings
No. 278 – Seek non-violent solutions.
Despite this, he forcibly removed these when under examination by playing patty cake with a power transformer. I noticed that when he did this, he had no directives, that none loaded up. I like to think that all his actions were his own, that he was not controlled by programming.
After this, there was no real character development for the character worth noting. Robocop 3 suffered in character development as well. While it is plaussible that seeing a young girl flip her hat reminds him of his son, Robocop seems intently invested in helping the people rather than serve the city. The story feels a bit forced.
Robocop 3 appears more of an extension of his evolution of who he is