Thursday, February 18, 2010

Playing On Old Directives

Blame Mouthmaster Murf & the rest of The Anomalies because I've been on a late 80s kick since last weekend as I dug out my old copy of Paul Verhoeven's dystopian masterwork , Robocop. As much as I'd love to heap more praise upon this, a longtime favorite of mine, I'd rather just spend a few moments on just what kind of impact this very R-rated film had on a twelve-year-old me.

5. It exposed me to the true definition of forbidden fruit.

Confession: RoboCop was the first R-rated film I repetitiously sneaked in to see, and reigns supreme as the one film I've seen the most times in a theater. (Seven times!)My father took me the first time, and it was like something akin to that first score, just irresistible.

4. It reawakened my love of mecha.

Since I was very small, it was a little too clear that I had a grand love of all things cybernetic. From military-issue, to superhero, to hard-suit, I was always crazy for machines living alongside humankind. And Robo's particular stylings added a dimension most reminiscent of certain manga and video-games.

3. It offered me a grand mistrust of corporations.

Let's just face it. Murphy's fate at the hands of the folks of OCP is not only questionable, but downright tragic. Whether Dan O' Herilhy's Old Man was truly evil, or just a dreaming fool, undermined by cutthroats and opportunists is beside the point. The line at which these men stop at clawing for their own gain is nonexistent to the point that they would sacrifice semblance of order for a mere profit share. If there were any true villains in this film, there they were in their towers, hovering around the edges of the narrative as Detroit descends into hell.

2. It made me a fan of brashy, no-holds-barred cinema.

As much as I watched some pretty wild fare growing up, this was the film that opened my eyes to the possibility of using film to push the envelope in regards to not only subject matter, but of the content. Who else witnessed crowds of people shriek, and cringe at the violence meter in this film? It was unprecedented at the time, and still has impact today, despite being able to realize anything now with CG, proving it isn't so much what one says, but in how one says it. And RoboCop does so in a particularly aggressive, memorable fashion.

1. It enhanced my love of thoughtful science fiction.

Seriously. Outside of films like 2001, Terminator, and books like War Of The Worlds, Dune, and others, I was still very much a child of Star Wars/Star Trek, and could only really make noise about the more action-based elements of these. As brainy as I saw myself, I never at that time saw films carrying deeper ideas that I could instantly read into until this sly little piece of work came out. Even as the film storms its way in as a summertime popcorn-chomper, I very surprisingly also found it to be savagely funny in how it seemed to deliver a bruising sucker-punch to a decade drowning in excess, at the expense of the working class. I didn't need an adult to explain to me the concerns bubbling through the fire and smoke. Something was indeed coming through loud and clear upon witnessing Murphy's transformation from dutiful working man, into a blank-staring, sharp-shooting product.

And just happy to say that after nearly 25 years later, it's still an addiction that requires lapses every now and then.

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