Dead or Alive, You’re Coming With Me to the Future

We’ve been watching Robocop this evening and it has been rather great. For a movie made 23 years ago, it does a pretty remarkable job of “futuring” in its settling and world creation. It still holds together as a relatively believable vision. While it’s no Bladerunner, I find its portrayal of a possible future pretty wonderful, perhaps especially because of its sense of humour – which reminds me at times of Demolition Man, though far, far blacker.

Robocop does a lot with some charming touches. A bad guy smokes a yellow cigarette at one point, a nice little demonstration of the “strangeness” you might expect. Simpler efforts come in such minor effects as an elevator’s voice announcing the 95th floor as two characters step out, implying a particular kind of building without having to actually present it to us visually. Although Robocop himself appears to run DOS (how retro!), the portrayal of his visual field at he’s being programmed and being booted up, constantly loading and shutting down, is quite great.

As to humour, much of that resides in the realm of “the future” as well. It’s a great exchange between the head of the corporation and his underlying after ED 209 kills a board-member: “Dick, I’m very disappointed.” “I’m sure it’s only a glitch. A temporary set-back.” “You call that a glitch?!” – the oddly blasé reaction people have is part of the beauty. And who can deny the charm of ED 209 “dipping his toes” into the attempt to get down some stairs before plummeting down and throwing a tantrum, a presumably knowing nod to the difficulties of stair-walking robotics.

Like Robocop himself, Robocop‘s depiction of the future is one bad motherfucker – and funny, too.

1 April 2010
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