1987 Movie Review: ROBOCOP, 1987

 

Robocop (1987)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Classic Movie Review
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith
by Mike Peters

Synopsis:

After being murdered by a ruthless gang of criminals, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is resurrected as a crime-fighting cyborg named ‘Robocop’.

Review:

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.

The film, on the surface, is about his role as a crime fighter, striving to uphold the law no matter the cost. On a much deeper level however, the film is about his fight against 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. In the film, many scenes, in which Robocop or Ed-209 (Robocop’s nemesis) appear, strongly depicts 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 present, 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 eventually decimating mankind to the point of extinction.

The film is very strongly-opinionated. It not only critiques technology but, as well, 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. The film is very violent and unrelenting in it’s’ brutality but it does manage to tell a cohesive story while simultaneously critiquing many things. The next time one watches this film however, try to understand how undermining it truly is. There is a lot more going on then 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

 

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Interview with director Paul Verhoeven (promoting Golden Globe winning film “ELLE”

elle.jpgAs of this writing, “ELLE” was the winner of 2 Golden Globe Awards (Best Actress, Best Foreign Film), and the lead actress Isabelle Huppert was just nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. A must see film from a legendary director.

Paul Verhoeven is a director from my childhood. My friends and I used to love watching “Robocop” during out monthly slumber parties. Then “Total Recall” entered our world right at the time we all started getting interested in the supernatural and girls simultaneously. By the time “Basic Instinct” came along, I was a young teenager and let’s just say the movie made a deep impression on me. As I grew from a boy to a young adult, Verhoeven’s film grew with me.

So I have to say that I was a bit nervous meeting him in the staged interview hotel room at TIFF 2016. I had 15 minutes and when Paul walked in you could tell I was going to be around his 50th interview in the last few days and the hotel room backdrop is a very familiar site to him.

For my first question, I wanted to ask him something that was interesting and/or intriguing to him and perhaps a question he was never asked before, or at least not asked while he was promoting “ELLE”.

Matthew Toffolo: What movie have you watched the most times in your life?

Paul sat there motionless for more than a few seconds with his head looking at the ground. I thought I blew it right from the beginning. Then.

Paul Verhoeven: I’m thinking. I’m thinking.

Lawrence of Arabia. North by Northwest. Belle de Jour. Vertigo. Those are the films I keep going back to.

He smiled at me. I smiled at him. Then it was time to do the interview and let him move to the next one.

MT: You seem to balance your films between your European life and your Hollywood life. ELLE seems to strike a nice mixture of both. Was that your initial intention?

PV: Well in Europe, you have more power as a director. In Hollywood, you have more excess and money. Of course you like to have both, but that’s not the case. So yes, we were attempting to make a Hollywood type of film with ELLE using the European format.

MT: I heard your initial intention was to make this an English language film?

PV: Well it’s a French novel. The producer of ELLE, Saïd Ben Saïd, thought it could be an American movie. We went to an American screenwriter and wrote it as an USA movie, based in America. Then we found out that we couldn’t get the right funding. But the real problem was that we couldn’t find an American actress. None of them wanted to do it. From the A list down. They all turned the project down.

MT: Why do you think so many actresses turned down the film?

PV: It’s a different kind of movie. If this was a straight up “revenge” film, then I’m sure many would want the role. But this isn’t a revenge movie. It’s someone more. This is a film about a woman who refuses to be a victim. In fact, even after she discovers who the rapist is, she moves over that.

MT: Was Isabelle Huppert your first choice to play the lead when you decided to……?

PV: No. She was my first choice. She read the book and wanted to do the role. After the “American adventure” was over and I told the producer that we should make this movie in France, he immediately picked up the phone and called Isabelle and she accepted right away. So it was really her to chose me.

MT: There is no straight up genre in this film?

PV: No, there isn’t. This is a film about the discovery of this woman. Who she is. The book is a study of character and that’s the movie we wanted to make. All of her relationships in this movie, from her lover, best friend, her father, her rapist – the construction is about her and what’s around her. If I made this a straight up thriller, then it would deny what this story is all about.

MT: When did you novel read the novel?

PV: It was sent to me by the producer who asked if I wanted to make this into a film. I read it right away and told him “yes”.

MT: How long was it from the time you read the novel to the completed product?

PV: I read it at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 and we started shooting a year later. The only obstacle was our initial intention to turn this into an English film. That was the only delay. Until I decided it was supposed to be made in French, we got the production rolling in a matter of months.

MT: In the novel she’s a literary agent. In the film, she’s a video game developer. Why the change?

PV: I was trying to find a profession that was more visual. My daughter came up with that. I was talking to my family at the dinner table talking about the film and my youngest daughter, who is a painter, suggested this which of course lead to the themes of the film.

The publicist entered the room and said it was time to go. I really could have chatted with Paul for another hour – but what can you do.

“ELLE” is an exceptional film. One of the best of 2016. I hope you go see it!

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews: ELLE, Director Paul Verhoeven

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

elle.jpgELLE (France/Germany 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny

Review by Gilbert Seah

Paul Verhoeven is known for both his Dutch foreign films (SPETTERS, THE FOURTH MAN, SOLDIER OF ORANGE) and Hollywood blockbusters (TOTAL RECALL, ROBOCOP, SHOWGIRLS).

His first feature film in 10 years proves to be a critical success as already celebrated at Cannes. Based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian, and written by David Birke, the film trails the life of a businesswoman, Michèle (brilliantly portrayed by Isabelle Huppert), who is raped in her home by an unknown assailant and stalks him back.

Michèle rules her company like a tyrant but faces personal problems like her failed marriage to Richard (Charles Berling), her slacker son (Jonas Bloquet) and a lacklustre affair with Robert (Christian Berkel). But she has not come to terms with her father’s crime.

Her father is a serial killer who is still in prison without parole. Her mother is getting re-married to a young buck makes matters worse. Verhoeven plays his film slick and efficient, but the films slags a bit before picking up again. All of Michèle’s problems eventually come together in the solid narrative with a bang-on message. The rape scene is played several times, each time just as (but necessarily) gruesome. The film is Verhoeven at his twisted and perverted best.

Trailer: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=OVBEV1w7too

Happy Birthday: Paul Verhoeven

paulverhoeven.jpgHappy Birthday director Paul Verhoeven

Born: July 18, 1938 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands

Married to: Martine Verhoeven (7 April 1967 – present) (3 children)

Famous for his extremely violent, yet intelligent, science fiction films (RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Starship Troopers (1997) and Hollow Man (2000)).

 

Robocop
1987
dir. Verhoeven
starring
Peter Weller
Ronny Cox