What Was The First Released Film To Use CGI?

What was the first released film to use CGI? That was a question I asked a while back and got some ‘interesting’ answers. 1993’s Jurassic Park was one of the answers. A good call as it did feature some early CGI work, but not the first. Someone mentioned the owl in the intro to Labyrinth from 1986 too. Yup, that was CGI, not the first though. The stained glass window scene in Young Sherlock Holmes from 1985 is another one often mentioned, and still not the first.

YOUNG SHERLOCK

So then, what was the first released film to use CGI? Well, before I get to that (and other notable flicks), I just want to get my feelings on CGI down. Today, people seem to be quick to dismiss CGI work as being ‘easy’ or ‘lazy’ when compared to practical effects. ‘It looks fake’ is one comment I see popping up a lot in regards to CGI. Well yeah, it does look fake… because it’s fake. Practical effects are fake too, that is why they are called effects. CGI is far from easy or lazy and, more often than not, actually takes up a great many more man hours to produce than practical effects work.

Yes, some CGI can look pretty poor. Some practical effects can look dire too. That is because it is not the medium of the effects being used that is the issue. It is the time, money and talent that work on it. You can have really great CGI work, just as you can have really great practical effects. You can also have some truly awful CGI and practical effects work. It all depends on what went on behind the scenes. Some of my favourite effects work is practical. The werewolf transformation in An American Werewolf in London is one example, there’s a reason Rick Baker won an Oscar for it. Just as CGI work is also some of my favourites. I still think the T-1000 effects from Terminator 2: Judgment Day is impressive now.

T2 T-1000

In short, I’m not one of those ‘CGI sucks’ people. I don’t think that one is ‘better’ than the other and it all depends on what the effects are being used for. I don’t think there is such a thing as an overuse of CGI in a film, depending on what the film is, CGI is often the only viable option. Just going back to Jurassic Park for a second. I don’t expect the film-makers to invent time travel and go back to when dinosaurs ruled the Earth to capture real footage. So, in cases like that, CGI is a must. Yes, they use practical effects too and there had been examples of such effects in previous films with dinosaurs. Still, as much as I adore and respect Ray Harryhausen, growing up watching his work. Jurassic Park’s CGI looked better than anything he ever did on a practical level.

JURASSIC PARK

Anyway, I’m going off on a bit of a tangent now. I’m here to look at the history of CGI in films. So then, where did it all start and what was the first film to use CGI? We know it wasn’t the 90s, many people think the first film to use CGI came from the 80s. Possible, there were some great examples of CGI in 80s flicks. Tron, Flight of the Navigator? How about the 70s? Sounds a bit far-fetched to younger readers who didn’t even know that computers existed in the 70s. But yeah, there was CGI in films in the 70s. The awesome and classic Westworld from 1973 used CGI. For those not in the know or have only seen the recent TV show. Westworld was a film about a futuristic theme park going wrong when the attractions kill the visitors. Think Jurassic Park but with androids. Well, they were both written by Michael Crichton.

WESTWORLD

So yeah, CGI existed in the 70s. Westworld used computers to depict the vision of Yul Brynner’s gunslinging android. If you do a Google search for ‘first CGI in film’, then Westworld is the answer you will get. Many places have written articles similar to this one and credit Westworld as being the first too. Here’s one from Empire, one from Insider and YouTube is full of people making videos stating that 1973’s Westworld was the first film to use CGI. So, there you go, CGI in film dates back to the early 70s, many sites and even Google are happy to tell you that too. Except for one tiny problem, they’re all wrong. CGI in film dates back before 1973 and before Westworld was released. I’m not talking about a few days or weeks before Westworld either.

What if I told you that the first film to use CGI was pre-70s? What if I told you it was pre-60s? Yup, you’ll have to go back to the 1950s to find the first film that used CGI. 1958, in fact. The Alfred Hitchcock directed Vertigo used CGI first. John Whitney was the man who came up with the effect too. He used a World War II targeting computer (yes younger readers, computers existed back then) to create the film’s opening titles. Working with Saul Bass, the opening featured various spirals and they were all created using that WW II targeting computer.

There you go folks, the first use of CGI in a film. One could get pedantic and say that the CGI is not ‘in’ the film but just used for the title sequence. Still, the first film to use CGI was 1958’s Vertigo. Kind-of-CGI dates back even further though. There were few proto-computer animated short films that used oscilloscopes to create visuals. Titles like Around is Around (1951) Eneri (1953) and Abstronic (1954, which I couldn’t find a good video for) all used an oscilloscope. I think these three earlier examples really boil down to if one thinks that a short animation is a ‘film’ or even if an oscilloscope is a computer. Those last three may be debatable but one can not deny that Vertigo was the first to use CGI in a feature film.

What was the first fully CGI animated film? Pixar’s Toy Story, right? Again, debatable. If we were to say the first fully CGI animated ‘feature’ film, then Toy Story seems to be the rightful claimant. However, there were animated CGI short films way before Pixar even got into the game. As far as I can tell, Catalog (1961) seems to be the first fully CGI animated (short) film. It looks more like a basic screensaver by today’s standards but back in 1961, this was groundbreaking and made of very early and simple computers.

60s COMPUTER

I don’t know if this counts but also from 1961 was Rendering of a Planned Highway. Again, not a feature film. This was actually a computer generated animation to show what a proposed new highway in Sweden would look like and was created by the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. It was the world’s first fully digitally created ‘real’ environment. So impressive was it, at the time, that it was even broadcast on Swedish national TV on the 9th of November 1961. So ‘technically’ it was publicly released.

There’s actually a slew of released CGI created short films in the 60s. I’m not going to name them all here, but here are a few. Hypercube (1965) was the first stereoscopic 3D computer animation. Computer Ballet (1965) had the first ever CGI human animation. Mr. Computer Image (1968) had the first voiced CGI character. Even the 70s, before Westworld, had some impressive CGI shorts. Computer Animated Hand (1972) was the first film to feature polygonal 3D animation and shading. As a side note, the creator of this animation, Edwin Catmull, went on to co-found Pixar. So technically, this was the first ever Pixar film. Then we get into 1973 and Westworld.

VERTIGO

Of course, those examples were all short films. Still, my initial question was: What was the first released film to use CGI? I never said feature film. In terms of CGI in released films, there were a lot before Westworld was released through the 60s and 70s. Around 25 or so short animated CGI films before Westworld reached the cinemas, in fact. In terms of feature films, then Hitchcock’s Vertigo definitely predates Westworld though and Google need correcting.

Movie Sequels We Never Got: Timothy Dalton’s Third James Bond Film

The James Bond movie franchise is 60 years old this year. I have already done a little celebration looking at films within the Bond franchise that celebrated their own anniversaries this year. Including the Timothy Dalton led, The Living Daylights, which is 35 this year. All of which, brings me to the point of this article.  Timothy Dalton (the best James Bond actor ever) only made two films in the Bond franchise. But, a third (and even more) film(s) was on the cards. Obviously, we never did get a third Dalton starring James Bond flick, but why?

Now, you may have heard that Timothy Dalton’s third Bond outing was going to be an adaption of Ian Fleming’s short Bond story, The Property of a Lady. I’ve seen a few articles and videos covering this very story. Well… it wasn’t. The Property of a Lady was never even considered as being a Bond film, as far as I can tell. This just seems to be an internet rumour that has spread recently. But before I do get into all of that, I do want to cover why Timothy Dalton only made the two Bond films.

LIVING DAYLIGHTS POSTER

As mentioned, a third film was most definitely on the cards, there was even an outline of the story (which I will get to soon enough). Dalton was all set to be in the next film too. However, there were legal issues going on behind the scenes at the time and this prevented any more Bond films from being made for a while. It is a very lengthy story that I’m not going to cover here, but the info on the whole thing is easy enough to find. Anyway, at the time, Bond films were being released at a steady pace. The gap between The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill was 2 years, which was pretty much standard in the franchise and had been for a while. The gap between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye was 6 years. With the exception of the filmed but multiple Covid-delayed No Time to Die, that is the longest gap between James Bond films ever.

NO TIME TO DIE POSTER

Set to be released in 1991, another 2-year gap between films, Timothy Dalton’s third film was being worked on. Then, the previously mentioned legal issues arose and everything ground to a halt. So, why didn’t Dalton return as Bond once the legal issues were sorted? The truth is that he wanted to and the legendary Bond film producer, Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli wanted Dalton back too. Only Cubby wanted a bit too much, as Dalton recalled when talking to theweek.com:

“I think that I’d love to do one. Try and take the best of the two that I have done, and consolidate them into a third. And he [Cubby] said, quite rightly, ‘Look, Tim. You can’t do one. There’s no way, after a five-year gap between movies, that you can come back and just do one. You’d have to plan on four or five.’ And I thought, oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long. So I respectfully declined.”

So yeah, Cubby wanted Dalton to commit to multiple films. But after having to wait for several years while the legal issues were sorted, Timothy Dalton felt that he just couldn’t do that. If the legal issues hadn’t stopped production on the films, we most probably would’ve had two or three more Dalton-starring Bond films, at least. As for that third film that wasn’t? Pretty much all of the following information has come from either Charles Helfenstein’s The Making of The Living Daylights or Mark Edlitz’s The Lost Adventures of James Bond: Timothy Dalton’s Third and Fourth Bond Films books.

LICENSE TO KILL POSTER

Timothy Dalton’s last Bond film, Licence to Kill, ‘under performed’ at the box office. I didn’t flop. In fact, it made more than 4 times its budget back. However, it did make the least amount of money of all of the Bond films to date. Reviews of the film, at the time, probably didn’t help much. A lot of them called the film out as being too ‘serious’ and that perhaps, the franchise was getting a bit long in the tooth. That lack of ‘enthusiasm’ for the film panicked the Bond producers. They began to worry that they had made the films too gritty, too dark, too serious. In order to get the franchise back to its former (debatable) glory, they thought that they should make the next film more ‘light-hearted’.

A very early idea for Bond 17 (as it was called) was to even go for an out-and-out comedy, using the 1967 version of Casino Royale as a template, but with the ‘real’ James Bond. That idea was quickly thrown out though as it was just a panicked knee-jerk reaction to the reviews that called out Licence to Kill for being too ‘serious’. Whether that straight-up comedy idea was even taken on board in any meaningful way seems to be debated. However, it did lead to the idea of going back to the Roger Moore era of Bond and adding more jokes, one-liners and so on. The film even had a teaser poster shown at Cannes in 1990.

BOND 17 DALTON

James Bond writer/producer Michael G. Wilson and writer Alfonse Ruggiero, Jr., known for his work on TV shows such as Miami Vice and Wiseguy, teamed up to write a draft story for Bond 17. Sticking with the idea of penning a lighter, Roger Moore-like Bond film, they wrote a rough story that involved robots going out of control that wouldn’t have felt out of place if Michael Crichton had written it. There are a few places that go over exactly what was in this story draft. Sites like mi6-hq.com and 007.info have plenty of details on this version of Bond 17. I’m just going to give you the outline of what the script entailed here.

BOND 17 STORY OUTLINE

Opening in Scotland at a chemical weapons factory. A team, led by the Minister of Defence, Nigel Yupland, discover a lab that is run completely by AI robots. One of the robots breaks down and bursts into flames and the investigating team tries to escape. The fire spreads and the factory explodes. In England, the Prime Minister ensures that an investigation of the explosion goes ahead, working with Yupland.

Cutting to M’s office. Of course, James Bond is the one brought in to find out what happened at the chemical weapons factory in Scotland. It turns out that MI6 received a letter that threatened the destruction of the factory. So, not an accident at all. Meanwhile, MI6’s Hong Kong office has also received a similar letter saying that another factory in China would also be destroyed in three days.

In Nigel Yupland’s situation room. He, Bond and Q are going over some low-quality photos and surveillance footage of possible targets, all of them have had a break-in recently. Q promises to get the images cleaned up so they can look for clues, but says that it will take 8 hours. Cutting to Tokyo, the Kohoni Industries complex is broken into by a mysterious figure. They find a crate heading to Nanking, China and swap the microchip in one of the robotic devices before making their escape.

LAMBORGHINI

An alarm sounds and the intruder is chased through Tokyo. They manage to make their escape in a Lamborghini and make their way to the docks, still being chased. They drive the Lamborghini onto a ferry and escape. But the chasing security take down the car’s license plate. Now free from their pursuers, the mysterious figure takes off their mask and is revealed to be the well-known cat-burglar, Connie Webb.

Back in England and Q has cleaned up the security footage of the other break-ins. Bond and Yupland ID the burglar as Connie Webb, revealed as being an ex-CIA agent and highly skilled. So, Bond is sent to Tokyo to track down Webb and find out who she is working for, using a new microchip that Q has created as bait to lure Webb out of wherever she is hiding. Before going to Japan, Q takes Bond to his garage where the iconic Aston Martin DB5 is kept. Q tells Bond that the car is going to be dismantled by Nigel Yupland as it is no longer in use. But Q does not want to see that happen, so he arranges for the car to be sent to Japan for Bond to use on his mission.

DB5

In Tokyo at a ski resort, Bond meets up with an ageing veteran spy heading for retirement called Denholm Crisp. Crisp has arranged for Bond to stay at the ski resort… the same resort that Connie Webb is staying at. Bond spots Webb and follows her. She gets into her Lamborghini, with Bond tailing her in his DB5. Realising that she is being tailed Webb puts her foot down and a car chase ensues. Webb heads to a helipad and makes her escape in a helicopter. Bond gets on another copter and has the pilot chase Webb.

The pursuit leads to a snowy mountain and by the time Bond gets there, Webb has already tried to make her escape on skis. Bond jumps from his copter (wearing skis) and so begins a classic ski chase with lots of typical jumps and such. Webb tries to lure Bond into a snow cornice (overhanging snow). However, she gets too close and the snow falls on top of her, she is trapped. Bond hurries over and saves Webb from her snowy tomb. The next day and they pair meet up for dinner, all while retiring agent, Denholm Crisp, watches on. Bond does what he does with his Bond girls and they go back to Webb’s room at the ski resort.

SKI RESORT

Inside Webb’s room, Bond shows her Q’s new microchip (bait) and asks her if she knows anybody who could be interested in buying the technology. As she is holding the chip, there’s a knock on the door but it’s not room service. Bond gets up to answer it and he is knocked out. He wakes up cuffed to a chair and the Kohoni brothers (the owners of the Kohoni Industries complex that Webb broke into) are in front of him. Webb is interrogated about the robbery by one of the bothers and says that they will tazer Bond if she does not talk. She keeps quiet and Bond is given several 1000 volts of electricity, knocking him (still cuffed to the chair) to the floor. He’s hit with another blast of the tazer, only this time, he grabs the leg of one of the Kohoni brothers. The electricity passes through Bond and takes out one of his captors. Breaking free from the chair, Bond fights the other Kohoni brother before he and Webb escape through a window. Now on the streets and still being chased, Connie Webb makes it to her Lamborghini and escapes (with Q’s microchip), leaving Bond behind. He uses a nearby torchlight parade as cover to lose his pursuers.

Back with Webb and she makes contact with Otto Winkhart, the person she has been breaking into factories for. Webb tells Winkhart all about Q’s new microchip that she now has and he is very interested in getting hold of it. She agrees to sell it to Winkhart and the two meet up.

MICROCHIP

Now with the chip, Otto Winkhart flies to Hong Kong to meet Sir Henry Lee Ching a man with his finger on the pulse of technology… and someone who wants Britain to withdraw from Hong Kong. This was written before the Handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Anyway, Ching was going to use Q’s microchip to create and spread a computer virus that would disable every military and commercial computerised machine in the world. Oh, and he has a ‘girlfriend’ that is a cyborg who would fight Bond at one point and even has a car chase, featuring a high-tech supercar.

In Sir Henry Lee Ching’s situation room, he has a map of the world and he highlights the Nanking power plant (where the crate that Webb swapped the chip was heading). He hits a button and what happened in Scotland in the opening happens in Nanking. Sir Henry Lee Ching, via Otto Winkhart, via Connie Webb, was behind the whole thing. Bond eventually turns up at Ching’s base of operations and the climax of the film occurs. Bond wins and saves the world once more.

TIMOTHY DALTON BOND 1

That is the basics of what the story being Bond 17 was, as written by Michael G. Wilson and Alfonse Ruggiero, Jr. It was a rough outline of a story and it is quite clear that the aim was to make a fully original Bond film and not adapt The Property of a Lady, as others insist on claiming. I mean, that short story is about Bond getting involved with Fabérgé eggs and an auction to unveil a KGB agent. Nothing to do with robots and a megalomaniac wanting to shut down the entire planet’s computer systems. As far as I can tell, The Property of a Lady never was going to be Timothy Dalton’s third James Bond film at all.

That rough story went through various rewrites in 1990… and that was when all the legal stuff that stopped production on any Bond film happened. Work on the next Bond film didn’t pick back up until May 1993 when it was officially announced that the 17th Bond film was in production. Even then, it was still untitled and only known as Bond 17. No The Property of a Lady title anywhere. Elements of the story for Bond 17 and its several rewrites became the basis for the Pierce Brosnan era though. The not-so-serious tone, villain using advanced technology to threaten the world, etc. Even bringing back the Aston Martin DB5 made it into GoldenEye. In fact, GoldenEye was being written through 1993 and 1994 with Timothy Dalton in mind. 94 was when Dalton officially announced that he would not be returning and Pierce Brosnan was the new James Bond.

GOLDENEYE

I looked, I’ve really, really looked and can not find any official mention that Timothy Dalton’s third Bond outing was going to be The Property of a Lady anywhere. The film was only ever referred to as Bond 17 and was written as a completely new story, not based on any of Ian Fleming’s previous Bond books or short stories. I don’t know where the rumour of Dalton’s third film being The Property of a Lady began. There’s not even a slight mention of this being the title of the film through the history of the film’s development. I’m genuinely curious how this all started because there are people making videos and writing articles explicitly saying that the film was going to be called The Property of a Lady and yet, there seems to be no basis for that information at all. I think it was just something that was casually mentioned on the Internet and it soon spread like wildfire.

Dead Or Alive: A Robocop Retrospective – Part Two

Well, this certainly turned out to be a longer article than I anticipated, to the point where I had to split this into two parts (part one here). First up RoboCop as a live-action TV show…. oh dear…

RoboCop

No, this wasn’t a remake of the original film but a live-action TV series. Originally airing in 1993-94, this show only lasted for 1 season and 23 episodes. ‘Technically’ 23 episodes, I should say. The pilot was basically a feature-length episode that was later split into two parts but counted as 1 episode. I have to admit to being a little confused as to where this sits in the timeline. It seems to be a direct follow-up to (or at least based on) the first film and it also seems to ignore the sequels… but its tone and style are much more in line with the kid-friendly RoboCop 3 film. There is no over-the-top violence that those first couple of films were known for, there’s no swearing or even the slightest sniff of any adult-themed content. According to robocop.fandom.com, this show takes place 5 years after the events of the first film.

ROBOCOP SERIES SCREEN 2

Plus most of the characters of the original film have had name changes. Murphy/RoboCop is still here but Lewis is now Lisa Madigan, as an example. Sgt. Reed is Sgt. Parks, even Murphy’s wife and kid were renamed, I believe the name changes were a rights thing. The producers got the rights to the RoboCop character to make this TV show (and other elements of the character) but not the rights to other characters from the films. I really do not know how that works out, how can you get the rights to use RoboCop… but none of the other characters? To make things even more mysterious, this show uses footage from the first film. The flashbacks that show Murphy’s ‘death’ include Clarence Boddicker and his gang, with all of the original actors too. There are clips from Murphy being taken into hospital and more taken directly from the first film. So they secured the rights to use footage, the Murphy/RoboCop character and so on, but none of the other character names? I mean, they reshot scenes of Murphy’s death to replace Anne Lewis with Lisa Madigan as his partner. So this is a direct sequel to the first film then… but everyone changed their name (and face)? Honestly, this makes no sense.

What is rather interesting about this kid-friendly show is that the pilot was written by RoboCop’s creators, Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner (or at least adapted from one of their film sequel scripts). They actually okayed this, they willingly put their names on it. So it must be worthy of the original film… right? Originally, the producers even tried to get Peter Weller to return and reprise the main role. However, he showed zero interest, so they cast Richard Eden as Murphy/RoboCop instead. You know what? Eden is actually a pretty decent RoboCop. But this show suffers the same issues that RoboCop 3 had. The actor was decent enough, he just had shit scripts to work with. Which does bring me to the meat of this show.

ROBOCOP SERIES SCREEN 1

Again, this TV show decided to be more kid-friendly, à la RoboCop 3. Episodes featured villains that RoboCop would take out using non-lethal means. Plus all of the bad guys felt very 1960s Batman TV show. I mean, one of the main villains was called ‘Pudface’, so that will give you an idea of the quality here. In fact, the whole show has that 60s Batman kind of a flavour to it. The leaders of OCP are played up for laughs, instead of being the cutthroat corporate bastards that they were in the first film and so on. RoboCop even gets a really annoying kid sidekick called Gadget… because of course he does. This really is more like a live-action version of the previously covered animated show, over the movie it was based on. By now and after the release and failure that was RoboCop 3, the franchise was a bit of a laughing stock anyway, so there really wasn’t a great deal of expectation for this TV show. In that regard, this is a very typical 90s kids/early teens cop show.

RoboCop (the TV show) is a very, very ‘meh’ effort. But, to be honest, I never really expected much from it at this point in the franchise. The episodes are a bit cheesy and the villains do feel very pantomime for the most part. RoboCop feels more like a kid-friendly superhero here than a bad-ass cybernetic cop from the first film. This is the kind of show that would be on before a film, early Saturday evening. So you’d put the TV on ready to watch the said film, only it hadn’t started yet and this was on. But you just couldn’t be arsed to change the channel, so you’d just watch this while waiting for the film to start.

RoboCop: Alpha Commando

And so here we are, the second animated version of RoboCop. Again, I have no idea where this is supposed to sit in the timeline. Lasting for just 1 season but a whopping 40 episodes, airing between 1998 and 1999. I don’t know if this is a sequel to the previous animated show or a stand-alone thing. Many of the writers on this also worked on the other animated show, so there is that connection at least. It does have an awesome theme tune with some of the greatest lyrics you will ever hear though… honest.

You already know the score by now. Lots of lasers, bad puns and non-lethal means to stop the villains… who are typical 90s animation bad guys. Nothing like its source material and an even more kid-friendly version of the ultra-violent film. Very much a standard 90s kids cartoon with plenty of ‘tude’… RoboCop even has inline skates and calls women ‘babes’! Really, this has even less to do with the source material than anything else before it, that’s including RoboCop 3. The only returning character, other than Robo himself, is Sgt Reed (so it’s connected to the film series then?). Lewis even isn’t in this and there is no explanation why either (so it’s not connected to the film series then?). The art style is also a load of shit. I mean, look what they did to RoboCop…

ROBOCOP ALPHA COMMANDO

RoboCop: Alpha Commando is strange, to say the least. Save for the main character and Sgt Reed, this has nothing to do with any RoboCop lore before it. Seriously, this could very easily have had a different title character and still been the exact same show. Even the other animated show connected to the first film and had Clarence Boddicker and his gang, it had other returning characters and while it was massively toned down, it was still connected to the first film. This show though… nothing. The other animated RoboCop show wasn’t great, but it was somewhat watchable and at least recognisable as being a spin-off of the film. That other one even had kid-friendly messages about racism and such, it even addressed Murphy’s humanity. This one has RoboCop falling into a janitor’s closet and having a bucket end up on his head. RoboCop: Alpha Commando is more like an updated version of Inspector Gadget than a Robocop-based show. This feels more like a parody of RoboCop than something that is supposed to be an official addition to the character. Of the two animated shows, I’d suggest you avoid this one and give the first one a chance instead. That first one wasn’t great, but it wasn’t this either.

RoboCop: Prime Directives

So now we have a TV mini-series, released in 2001 and was somewhat of a return to form, to be honest. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way saying that RoboCop: Prime Directives is on par with the first or even the second film. But it is a massive step up in quality from what came after those first two films. This was actually four feature-length episodes: Dark Justice, Meltdown, Resurrection, and Crash and Burn. Now, I’m not going to go over all four episodes individually but just go over Prime Directives as a whole.

First up, this takes place 10 years after the events of the first film and works as a direct sequel to the original that ignores events from the sequels. This is also another one of those ‘strange rights’ things as the production company of this didn’t have the rights to use footage from the film… even though the 1993-94 live-action show did, when that re-wrote the characters to be all new and unconnected to the first film. They also couldn’t use ED-209 as that character has its own copyright too. RoboCop rights really are a bit weird. Well okay, there is some footage from the first film in one of the episodes but it’s been slightly altered and not shown how it was originally screened. I don’t know if that was done to get around copyright.

ROBOCOP PRIME DIRECTIVES 2

Anyway, even though this is a direct sequel to the first film, the only returning character is RoboCop. After some digging around, it appears that Lewis did exist in this universe but she died before the events of this mini-series are shown. How she died is not known and it (supposedly) isn’t connected to her death in RoboCop 3 at all, she’s just dead in this timeline. Other character disappearances are not addressed. It’s been 10 years since the first film, people move on I guess?

The basic plot of RoboCop: Prime Directives revolves around RoboCop being obsolete and how a new RoboCop is created. Yeah, it does sound a bit like the plot of RoboCop 2 but it’s also very different and very much does its own thing with the idea. The four episodes can really be split into two acts the first two episodes focus on the older and newer RoboCop as they battle it out, only to later decide to team up and take on the big bad of the series. The last two episodes follow the two RoboCops as they do what they do and clean up the streets and take out Dr Kaydick, who is threatening to destroy all known life with his ‘bio-tech’.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and say that RoboCop: Prime Directives is a well-written piece (or four pieces) of TV but compared to anything post-RoboCop 2, this is fucking Shakespeare. In terms of tone, it kind of hits the middle ground between the violence of the first two films and the kid-friendliness of the first live-action TV show. Some of the bad guys that RoboCop goes up against can be a bit ‘pantomime’ but at the same time, the character kicks some arse. In the opening 10 minutes of the first episode, RoboCop shoots someone in the head… with a bullet too and not some kind of non-lethal device, then another person gets blown up when a bomb strapped to his chest is shot with a mini-gun. This is a violent TV show, not as graphic as the original film and you don’t see blood spraying everywhere, though there is blood in the series, it is used sparingly.

ROBOCOP PRIME DIRECTIVES

The way it is filmed is darker and grittier too, miles away from how the other TV show looked and felt. Along with the violence, there is swearing. Like the violence, it’s not terribly graphic but there is some swearing. You won’t hear anyone screaming “fuck me, fuck, me, fuck me” over and over, but you will hear the odd ‘shit’, ‘son of a bitch’, ‘bastard’ and so on. Speaking of bastards, that is how the OCP executives are portrayed too. Not the comic foils they were in the other TV show but more hard-nosed and ruthless. Plus the satire of American culture is back It has a lot of what the first two films featured… just not as well implemented. Page Fletcher plays Murphy/RoboCop and he’s pretty good in the role. He’s no Peter Weller but he ain’t too bad at all. Fletcher plays the character similarly but his movements are faster and more urgent.

Overall, RoboCop: Prime Directives is actually pretty decent. Okay so it’s not original film great, but it is certainly far better than anything from RoboCop 3 onwards. If I had a gripe, then that would be that with the four episodes being over 90 minutes each, they can drag on a little bit. An edit to bring the total runtime down to 4 hours would be great as there are some scenes that seem overly long for no reason and other scenes that seem very redundant. Plus, there are times when you can tell that the budget for this that wasn’t great. I can’t blame the show for not being big-budget, it’s a TV show of a franchise that was all but dead at the time.

ROBOCOP PRIME DIRECTIVES 3

The show even delves into Murphy’s history a bit more before becoming RoboCop. There are a few continuity errors given that this is supposed to be a direct sequel and it’s a shame they didn’t (or couldn’t) use other characters other than RoboCop as this really could’ve been lifted higher with the addition of Lewis, etc. Generally speaking, RoboCop: Prime Directives is watchable, even pretty damn good in places. After going through the entire RoboCop franchise for this article, it’s nice to end on something that’s not too bad and proof that given a better budget and more care, a RoboCop TV show could work. Oh yeah, it’s not quite the end yet, is it?

RoboCop

I guess it had to happen at some point, the dreaded remake. Now, I’m not somebody who has anything  against remakes, generally speaking. Remakes can be good and I honestly welcome the idea of seeing a different take on a story and characters that I enjoy. Still, I am fully aware that remakes can be and usually are fucking terrible. Even so, I did go into this version with an open mind and on paper, it really had a lot of promise. There are some great actors in this, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. ‘mother fucking’ Jackson. The trailer looked good too, not great but good.

ROBOCOP REMAKE2

So this one is a full-on remake of the original. Through the franchise, we have had film sequels, animated TV shows and live-action TV shows that have both worked as direct sequels and alternate timelines. But this was the first and proper full remake. Released in 2014 with Joel Kinnaman playing the title role. Originally, the RoboCop remake was due to come out in 2010 with Darren Aronofsky on board to direct… which could’ve been amazing as Aronofsky is a wonderful director. However ‘creative differences’ had Aronofsky leave the project and the film was delayed. So why did Darren Aronofsky leave? Because he wanted to make a hard adult-themed film in line with the original, whereas the studio wanted something more ‘bankable’… or PG-13 (mainly because the studio were having financial difficulties at the time). So Aronofsky was out and after a delay or seven, José Padilha was brought in as director instead, while Aronofsky went on to make Black Swan.

Anyway, as mentioned, what we got was a ‘safe’ PG-13 take on the notoriously violent RoboCop. Okay, so this wasn’t as toned down as some of the other projects, like the third film, the animated shows and the live-action attempts… but this still felt very diluted. And it wasn’t just the lack of violence either as this version completely missed out on the subtle humour and satire that the first film was famed for. Overall, RoboCop (2014) is very dull. In terms of being a remake and judging it as a remake, it’s okay at best. In terms of being part of the RoboCop franchise, it is piss poor and a wasted effort.

ROBOCOP REMAKE1

There are things that I do like about this version. There are some great performances all through the cast. The likes of Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. ‘mother fucking’ Jackson are really enjoyable here, even if their characters aren’t very interesting, their acting is worth it. Then there is Joel Kinnaman playing Murphy/RoboCop, he’s actually really good too. Some of the updated tools that RoboCop has do make a lot of sense, like being able to connect to (basically) wi-fi and search for police suspects. But then there are parts that make zeros sense, like RoboCop having non-lethal means to take out the bad guys. That’s something from the toy range and RoboCop 3 when they wanted to make the character more kid-friendly and PG-13. RoboCop, as a character, isn’t, nor should he ever be, kid-friendly.

The plot is devoid of any depth. Just going back to the first film, on the surface, it is just a film about a cyborg going out for revenge. But it is also a film with a lot of layers to it when you really explore it. There is a reason it is still talked about and revered 35 years later. Here, there is nothing but a bog-standard action flick to sell to the masses with little to no depth. There is no battle with Murphy’s humanity because they changed the character from not knowing who he is, to knowing exactly who he is. Worth a watch… as in singular. This really is a shame too because a more satirical and deeper Robocop remake that was aimed at adults could’ve been awesome.

Other Appearances

That is all of the main big and small screen appearances of RoboCop, but the character has popped up elsewhere in some very strange instances too. So here, I’m just going to sum up a few other notable times that RoboCop has ‘entrained’ us over the years. Outside of the usual novels and comic books attached to the franchise, RoboCop has appeared in some very strange places since the first film was released. From meeting an ex-president of the United States to selling noodles and insurance. Here are all of the curious appearances of RoboCop that I could find.

RoboCop met Richard Nixon. Yup, this actually happened. Just think about that for a second. RoboCop, who is known for upholding the law (it is one of his directives) meeting one of the most famously crooked politicians/ex-presidents in American history. You may think that sounds stupid (it does), you may think it never happened and that I’m just making it up, but…

ROBOCOP AND NIXON

… it happened alright. So then, the big question is ‘what the fuck?’. Well, after some digging around I found out that this picture was taken in 1987 by Chuck Pulin. For those that don’t know, Pulin was famed for his shots of rock stars in the 60s and 70s. It was a charity event and the meeting of RoboCop and Nixon was done to help promote the VHS release of the first film. It was published in the December, 1987 edtion of Billboard Magazine and the caption under the photo read:

Richard M. Nixon is escorted by RoboCop at a national board meeting of the Boys Club of America. The RoboCop character was on hand to call attention to Orion Home Video’s RoboCop RubOut promotion. Sweepstakes tickets, packaged with each “RoboCop” cassette, offer a number of instant prizes for retailers as well as $25,000 in donations to the Boys Club. The sweepstakes is part of a $3 million promotional effort launched by Orion in conjunction with the action-adventure film’s video release. The cassette will be available in video stores beginning Jan. 28 for a suggested list price of $89.98.

As you can tell from the photo, that’s not the ‘real’ RoboCop (as in, that’s not Peter Weller). The suit looks like something that a drunk cosplayer would knock up in 10 minutes. It’s fucking terrible and proof that they were bastardising the character long before RoboCop 3 existed. Still, RoboCop meeting Richard Nixon is pretty ‘out there’… and that’s not even the strangest thing RoboCop has ever done.

RoboCop teamed up with some Marvel heroes. Long before the MCU was even thought of, RoboCop was already kicking arse with some of Marvel’s biggest superheroes. Okay, so he didn’t so much kick-arse as he just pulled a lever. Still, you really want to see RoboCop teaming up with Captain America, don’t you? Well, it all happened at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in 1987. But why? Well at the time, Marvel had secured the rights to use RoboCop for their comics. A series of RoboCop comics were released in the 90s but before those, there was a comic book adoption of the film released in 1987 from Marvel. So anyway, for a while, Marvel had the RoboCop rights… so they put him in a Thanksgiving Day parade with Marvel heroes, logic? It is a very quick ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ appearance but here it is and it all happened using the theme from Back to the Future because?

So then, after teaming up with some of Marvel’s finest, where can RoboCop go from there? Saving Pee-wee Herman, obviously. Oh yeah, before Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) was caught playing with his pee-wee in a porno cinema, he was attacked by ED-209 for RoboCop to come and save him. No, this isn’t some deluded fever dream I had, this really happened at the 1988 Oscars. Just as Pee-wee is about to present an Oscar, ED-209 bursts into the theatre and begins shooting at Pee-wee as he starts to fly… yes fly. RoboCop turns up and shoots ED-209 with his left hand… even though he’s right-handed (the things you spot where you’re a big RoboCop fan) with some very questionable effects work. And then… hang on, why the bollocks am I describing this to you when you can watch it right here?

ROBOCOP WRESTLING 2

RoboCop even did a bit of professional wrestling… kind of. Capital Combat: Return of RoboCop was a one-off PPV event at some wrestling thing held in 1990. Look, I don’t watch wrestling, I have no idea what this is or what the ‘eff was going on. There was some kind of backstory thing and one of the wrestlers put another one in a cage. RoboCop turned up and ripped the cage door off its hinges (read: lightly pulled the fake and obviously unlocked cage door of a fake cage) and that was it. The best bit was when RoboCop accidentally opens the cage when he was clearly not supposed to… to then pull the door off its hinges even though it was open. Basically, RoboCop 2 was set for release and so this event was set up as a promotion for the film. Click this link to see the few seconds of RoboCop’s short wrestling career. He doesn’t even do any wrestling… in a wrestling event named after the character. They filmed a short promo for it too if you want to watch it.

So now, I have a few Asian ads that make little sense in their own right and feature RoboCop to make far less sense. I don’t have exact air dates for these, but I’m pretty sure they all came from the 90s. First up RoboCop killing bugs. There really is little to say here other than that there must be very little crime in Japan (I think it’s Japanese) if all RoboCop has to worry about is CGI bugs. Next up, RoboCop advertising GoldStar (now LG) TVs. I have no idea what was going on there but I’d definitely buy a TV from RoboCop. This next one could be the most bizarre ad yet… and that’s saying something. Do you want a TV ad where RoboCop comes out of a TV, eats some fried chicken and then steals a fridge? Of course you do, click here. I think this one is Korean and aside from the very, very shiny and chrome RoboCop, did you hear what was playing in the background? It’s not very loud but listen carefully with the volume turned up… that’s the Back to the Future III theme. After the 1987 Thanksgiving parade using the BttF theme, I have to ask why is RoboCop stealing BttF music?

ROBOCOP NOODLES

Then we have RoboCop advertising instant noodles… cos you know… Asian. There were actually a series of these ads, I don’t know how many there were in total, but here’s a video of two of them. I did find a site claiming that these ads were from the 80s. However, a copyright pops up at one point that clearly says “RoboCop 3 1992”. Though RoboCop 3 was released in 1993, it was meant to be released in 92 but was delayed when Orion Pictures went through Bankruptcy. So I assume that these ads were originally made to help promote the original 1992 release of the film? Oh yeah, I also found someone selling the RoboCop eclectic toothbrush that was made to help promote the noodles, as shown in the last ad.

This last ad (so far, before a slight break), also from the 90s, didn’t feature the official RoboCop, nor was it Asian. But I just really had to include it here because it’s so fucking stupid. I mean, fake and rose-pink ‘RoboCop’ going to buy a new exhaust (I am English) for his car? Then a ninja appears for no reason and fake RoboCop does nothing other than praise the price of his car part. Two thumbs up for its utter nonsense.

ROBOCOP RIDE

From 1993 was RoboCop: The Ride. Not based on any of the films, but it was released to coincide with the release of RoboCop 3. This was one of those ‘sit down in a chair with loads of other people and get thrown about while looking at a big screen’ type of rides… or a motion ride, as they are called. This one popped up in several places like the Granada Studios Tour in Manchester. It also appeared in Texas, California and a few other places. The basic plot of the ride was you tagged along with RoboCop, as a new recruit, patrolling Detroit. The mayor is kidnapped and you have to save him. It was a mix of live-action and CGI sections. There’s a good video that takes a deeper look at the ride right here. But footage of the entire ride does not seem to exist. Now for an all-star cameo featuring a T-Rex (presumably from Jurassic Park), Darth Vader, Ferengi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a Cardassian soldier from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, G.I. Joe and yes, RoboCop. From the 1995 film, The Indian in the Cupboard, this little snippet is a cornucopia of popular character cameos at the time.

ROBOCOP KFC

Alright, let’s have a few more RoboCop TV ads before I end this retrospective. Once more, there were a series of these ads, how many in total? I have no idea. But what is RoboCop pushing onto punters now… KFC, obviously. We already know he loves his fried chicken following that Korean ad previously. But now, he’s taking on the king of fried chicken with the Colonel himself. Here’s a link to a collection of the KFC ads. This KFC ad campaign seems to come from 2019, that’s pretty recent. What I love is that they blended both the famed Colonel Sanders and RoboCop to make Colonel RoboCop, as if the Colonel died and was bright back as a cyborg. Even better… that’s Peter Weller. The original RoboCop actor back playing the character that made him famous. Now, I’m pretty sure that’s not Weller in the suit, he would’ve been around 72 at the time. But it has been confirmed as being Peter Weller’s voice.

The last RoboCop ad (so far) was as recent as 2020. It was for Direct Line insurance. Playing RoboCop this time was Derek Mears, a name that you may not recognise, even though he’s played some of cinema’s biggest characters. Mears played Jason Voorhees in the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th, he played a Predator in Predators from 2010 and he was also the title character from the 2019 Swamp Thing TV show.

ROBOCOP STATUE

For the final RoboCop appearance, I just want to quickly look at a statue. A more than 11-foot tall, 2.5-ton bronze statue of RoboCop was made and it took 11 years too. Here is a video of its reveal and an article looking at its making. Basically, the statue was made because Philadelphia had a Rocky statute and someone on Twitter asked why doesn’t Detroit have one for RoboCop. Over a decade later and RoboCop finally had a massive statue made. Originally set to be placed outside of the Michigan Science Center, Detroit in 2021… it never was. As of writing, the statue is in storage with it set to be publicly placed and unveiled elsewhere in Detroit this summer.


And that is ‘yer lot for Robocop on the big and small screen… and some wonderfully bizarre appearances. There was been a lot of talk of a direct sequel to the first film coming out. Called Robocop Returns, the film is said to have a completed script that has been penned by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, who co-wrote the original film together. Neill Blomkamp was originally attached to direct but he left the project in 2019. Abe Forsythe then came on board as director… and then the whole covid thing happened and it has been very quiet on the Robocop Returns front since then. News on the film is non-existent (or top secret) and I have no idea if the project is moving ahead or not, as of writing this article.

ROBOCOP CAR

I hope it does though, the idea of a new sequel that ignores most of the franchise to create a new timeline is something that worked with Halloween. I’d love to see a new Robocop flick and seeing as the remake was utter arse-gravy, the franchise needs to get back to its roots. It would be great to see Peter Weller return in the lead role too… but perhaps not in the famed suit itself. Weller is (as of writing) 75-years-old. I really don’t think he’d be up to playing the character again, at least not physically. But there have been some great leaps forward in digital technology these days. They could get a younger actor in the suit and have Peter Weller’s face digitally added, with Weller providing the voice too. I mean, he did come back to advertise KFC. That is, of course, if Robocop Returns ever does go ahead.

Well, now I have covered everything about Robocop in terms of TV and film, time to take a look at some games.

(Not A) Movie Review: Minions: The Rise Of Gru

I read a review of this film from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw where he basically dumped on the entire film. Looking into Mr Bradshaw’s scrawlings, he just seems like a middle-aged, balding bloke who likes to dump on anything remotely enjoyable. Hey, I’m a middle-aged balding bloke too. However, I know that I’m not really the target audience for a picture like this. So I wanted to get a more reasonable view. I took my (almost) 5-year-old daughter, Sienna, to see this and my (not) review is based on my experiencing the film through her eyes. Just to offer a little bit of balance.

So then, Sienna is a massive Minions fan. She’s seen all of the films from the first Despicable Me through to (now) this one. When I told her we were going to watch the new film, her eyes lit up and she was counting down the days. When the big day came, she wore her yellow Minions t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans so she could look like a Minion. She was as excited as a kid going to see a new film based on her favourite characters.

Getting out of the car at the cinema, she held my hand tight with a big smile on her face, as we crossed from the car park, over to the path and walked towards the cinema… still with a huge smile on her face. A big Minion cut-out was there to greet us as we walked inside. We headed to the concessions stand and I had pre-ordered a little surprise. Some popcorn topped with Smarties and a drink in a Minions cup with a googly eye.

RISE OF GRU CUP

Yup, that’s the one. The look on her face when she saw the cup was magical. The girl who served me saw Sienna’s Minion t-shirt and said she looked cool. Still holding my hand, we walked to the screen after scanning our pre-ordered tickets, we found our seats. Row G for Gru (Sienna’s idea)… and that row was right in the middle for optimum viewing too.

After a few moments, the lights dimmed as the trailers began. DC League of Super-Pets, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and some other soon-to-be-released films. I can’t tell you what they were because I was too busy looking at Sienna who was transfixed on the screen. An amazing moment and wonderful memory for me to treasure, no doubt Sienna would’ve forgotten all about the trailers 5 minutes later though.

RISE OF GRU SCREEN 1

After the trailers, the dimmed lights went out completely and Minions: The Rise of Gru began. The Universal logo appeared and the familiar fan-fare music played. Sienna took her eyes off the screen just long enough for her to look at me and say “Daddy, it’s Minions”, before turning her attention fully back to the big screen. The usual Minions interacting with the Illumination logo came up and Sienna was laughing before the film had even started proper.

The next 90 minutes flew by and aside from occasionally glancing over to grab some Smarties topped popcorn or to have a sip from her Minions cup, she never took her eyes off the screen. Laughing at the Minions and little Gru all through the film. I hardly watched the film as I was too busy enjoying Sienna’s enjoyment of it so much. The smile never left her face and the laughs kept coming until the credits rolled.

RISE OF GRU SCREEN 2

See, this is why you don’t send middle-aged, balding blokes to review films that are aimed at children… take a child instead. Yeah, these flicks can be watched by adults and they can be thoroughly entertaining too. But the main audience is kids and my kid loved it. She’s not the kind of child that would just sit through anything either. If she’s bored, Sienna will tell you that she’s bored and won’t want to watch. With Minions: The Rise of Gru, Sienna was totally enthralled from start to end. To the point where, when the credits started, I got up to leave and Sienna said “not now Daddy, there’s more Minions”, telling me that there had to be an extra scene because all the films had something during the credits. She was right too.

As for the few moments of the film I did watch, when not looking at and getting lost in Sienna’s total and utter joy, I really liked it. Set in 1976, it has an awesome soundtrack, doing kung-fu training to Funky Town and the Minions singing You Can’t Always Get What You Want from The Stones was brilliant. The plot blistered along and never dragged once. It’s funny, charming and has quite a few nods to the first Despicable Me film… which I have seen many times thanks to Sienna.

RISE OF GRU SCREEN 3

“The Rise of Gru review – feeble origin story hopefully lays franchise to rest”, is how Peter Bradshaw decided to open his review for The Guardian. Bollocks to that, as long as these films make my daughter and millions of other children around the world happy, as long as the cast and crew want to make them… keep them coming I say. Sharing my daughter’s joy with this film is a memory I’ll cherish forever, thanks to everyone invloved in making this film. Well worth the 2 year delay just to see Sienna laugh and smile as she did.

Dead Or Alive: A Robocop Retrospective – Part One

The awesomely violent and rather multilayered Robocop turns 35-years-old this month. Originally released on the 17th of July way back in 1987, happy 35th birthday to Robocop. Seeing as this is one of my favourite films, I guess I have to write something. So, I’m going to be looking at some Robocop video games in another article. But here, I’m going to explore Robocop on the big and small screen, everything and yes, I’ll even cover the TV shows too… along with some rather surprising appearances at the end. Starting off, chronologically, with the first film.

RoboCop

Part man. Part machine. All cop. RoboCop was one of the first films I ever saw on our own VHS player. I was about 13-years-old at the time and I remember being really shocked at the swearing in the film. Younger me had heard swearing but just not that much and that frequent. That fella robbing the store in the film and screaming ‘fuck me, fuck me, fuck me’ over and over almost made me want to cover my ears… almost.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, co-written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, Robocop possibly began life as a possible Judge Dredd film. You can see a Judge Dredd influence in the final film but the story goes that writer Neumeier began penning the story as a Judge Dredd film but could not secure the rights, so he then changed it to an original character instead. I say ‘possibly began’ as a Judge Dredd film because I can’t seem to find any concrete evidence that outright states this, just user-submitted ‘trivia’. Still, Edward Neumeier is a self-confessed Judge Dredd fan. Also, there was the early test sculpt of the RoboCop suit…

ROBOCOP DREDD

… yes, that one. Very clearly Judge Dredd influenced but still not proof the film itself was originally a Judge Dredd one. I’m leaving this tit-bit as inconclusive.

But anyway, getting back to the film. Director Paul Verhoeven first thoughts of the film were that it was utterly stupid. Apparently, he only read the first few pages of the script and then threw it in the bin. The idea of a robot/human police officer hybrid was something that Verhoeven just could not get past and he failed to see a film worth directing. His wife, Martine, took the script from the bin and read it herself. She then convinced Verhoeven to read the script properly as it had a lot more depth to it than he first realised. As Paul Verhoeven recalled himself:

“She read it in a completely different way: she felt there were elements that weren’t so far away from me, like [Murphy] losing his past, and the philosophy of losing your memory. … Even my films in Holland, if they were about a war, none of them were action movies. I was more interested in the philosophical underpinnings of the script. I saw RoboCop a bit like a futuristic Jesus.”

That really is the key with RoboCop, it does have a lot of layers and a lot of depth. Yet, you can misunderstand it as just being a stupid sci-fi action flick. Just going back to 13-year-old me watching the film on VHS. That was how I saw it. RoboCop was just a ‘naughty’ film with a lot of swearing that looked cool. But when I watched it as an adult, the film seemed so different… but still with a lot of swearing in it and that it looked cool. The layers on RoboCop really are impressive. You’ve got your satire of American culture and Reaganomics. Those funny little TV ads within the film take on a very different meaning when you realise what they are poking fun at.

ROBOCOP TV AD

Then you have the central character of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) himself. The fact he loses everything, including his memories, and is just used as a ‘product’ by a massive corporation. His humanity is thrown aside so some slimy corporate executive could climb the ladder. Which does bring me to the Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) character and ‘father’ of RoboCop. He’s a slimy snake in the grass for sure… but the way Ferrer played him made him a very likeable guy. He was a bad guy with a heart and one that did actually care for his creation. Speaking of bad guys…

Man, I adore Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and he is one of cinema’s greatest villains. The slightly nasally voice, the ‘Heinrich Himmler’ glasses, the one-liners. He’s a complete dick and has zero redeeming characteristics… but you can’t help but love him. A good film needs a great villain for it to work and RoboCop has one of the best. Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen) was used as the connection between RoboCop and Alex Murphy. The ‘Murphy, it’s you‘ scene really is one of my favourites in the flick. The way that RoboCop does that literal little step backwards and becomes Murphy for just a second or two, before snapping back into RoboCop and continuing on. It’s the really subtle acting that sells it. Acting that must’ve been tough for Peter Weller when we the audience can’t see his face. For an actor to convey emotion and reaction… without having the luxury of using their face is damn tricky.

ROBOCOP MURPHY ITS YOU

Which does bring me to the main man himself and the one who gets the big job of carrying the weight of the film on his shoulders. How Weller pulled off playing the titular character is incredible. I’ve read stories of just how damn uncomfortable it was to act in the RoboCop suit. Apparently, it took 11 hours to get Peter Weller into the suit the first time. They got better over the course of the film shoot but it still took a good few hours. Then he couldn’t go to the toilet easily, or at all. It was so damn hot that Weller would lose around 3 lbs a day via sweating. Yet, even with all of that, he still put in an amazing performance and one with so many layers and facets. Look, I’m more than 1,400 words into this retrospective, I’ve only briefly looked at the first film and I need to move on. I could most probably write a huge and in-depth article just on RoboCop alone, just not now.

Still, I really do love this film. Paul Verhoeven’s directing is sublime and RoboCop is a film that I have grown up with. From 13-year-old me watching this on VHS and being shocked at the swearing to 46-year-old me peeling back the layers and enjoying this film for its depth and (sometimes not) subtle digs as 80s Americana and culture. In the middle of all of that, you have this story of lost humanity and one of the best acting performances you’ll ever see in an 80s sci-fi flick.

RoboCop

What do you do when you have an overtly violent and very adult-themed film? You make a kid’s cartoon out of it, of course. Honestly, this was a bit of a trend in the 80s and 90s, taking an obviously adult-focused film and turning it into kid’s entertainment. Be it a cartoon, TV show or even kid’s toys, there are loads of examples of this happening back then. I mean, in the 80s, you could buy officially licenced Freddy Krueger pyjamas for kids to wear… just think about that for a second.

FREDDY PJS

This animated show only lasted for one season and 12 episodes. Originally airing in 1988, a year after the film was released. I mean, they didn’t even wait for the film franchise to begin and get stale before they turned into a kid’s show. RoboCop (animation) was released when the film was getting its home release. The film had been an unexpected hit and work on a sequel was already underway by then but why wait for a proper sequel when you can make a kid-friendly cartoon ‘sequel’ instead? RoboCop (animation) does follow the events of the film quite a lot but it also changes things up a fair bit. For example, Murphy is still killed by Clarence Boddicker and his gang to become RoboCop. But Clarence Boddicker and his gang are actually still alive in the cartoon. Lewis is in this too as are a few of the film’s characters. No Bob Morton though (well I guess he did die in the film) and Dr. Tyler is his creator. Now, Dr. Tyler was in the film but as a very minor character. Look, I could sit here all day and point out the differences between this cartoon and the film it is based on but I need to look at if the show was any good or not.

ROBOCOP ANIMATED 88

I never watched this show back then. In fact, I only watched it recently just for this retrospective. It’s kind of like a kid-friendly retelling of the first film that (obviously) replaces the violence of its source material with morals and lessons for children. Guns don’t fire bullets, they shoot lasers… ‘cos kids love lasers. It’s that kind of thing, very typical Saturday morning cartoon fare. None of the film’s actors reprise their roles but it’s not like you’re going to miss them here anyway. The voice cast are actually pretty decent, for a kids cartoon. When watching RoboCop (animation) for this retrospective, I tried to put myself in the shoes of teenage me and work out if I would’ve watched it back when it originally aired. I reckon I would’ve. A bit of Teenage Mutant Ninja (or ‘Hero’ as they were called here in the UK) Turtles, some Spider-Man, a portion of Rude Dog and the Dweebs and a helping of RoboCop on a Saturday morning. Yeah, I think I would’ve gotten into this.

It is very obviously massively diluted from the film but as a kid’s cartoon, it is pretty good. Some episodes even deal with more ‘adult’ content, in a kid-friendly way. Things like racism, terrorism, the environment, various prejudices and so on. The kind of subjects that these types of cartoons like to force in now and then. To be fair, RoboCop even deals with the character’s humanity pretty well too. It is 12 episodes of a very typical but still a fairly entertaining show. If you want to introduce your kids to RoboCop and not worry about scarring them for life via the original film, this is a decent way to do it.

RoboCop 2

Released in 1990, this sequel saw a few of the original cast return like Peter Weller and Nancy Allen. But throw in plenty of new characters, including an ‘improved’ RoboCop 2 (title) to contend with as well as a city-wide drug problem and a Detroit running out of money. Behind the camera, director of the first film, Paul Verhoeven was gone. As too were the original writers with Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Sitting in the director’s chair was Irvin Kershner, with the film being written by Frank Miller and Walon Green.

ROBOCOP 2

There were several behind-the-scenes issues with RoboCop 2, mainly the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner began work on writing a very different and gritter sequel. But the aforementioned writer’s strike put an end to that script. So Frank Miller was brought on as writer instead and he penned a much darker script that involved corporate fascism and would explore the backstory of Alex Murphy more. Then, Walon Green was hired to rewrite Miller’s script and ‘lighten’ it, make it more fun and jokey. This new script also removed a lot of the backstory and ‘simplified’ everything. Then there was Orion Pictures themselves. With the first film, as it wasn’t expected to be a big hit, they left Paul Verhoeven to do whatever he wanted. With this sequel, the studio saw the potential of a franchise, and so they began to control everything much more tightly and perhaps played it too safe.

ROBOCOP 2 SCREEN

RoboCop 2 is a hard film to outright dislike but it is clearly a film that suffers from studio interference and horrible script rewrites. It is still ‘adult’… I guess. Yet, it had this undercurrent of trying to be broader and more appealing to a wider audience. RoboCop 2 is nowhere near as creative or deep as the first film, it’s very shallow and lacks heart. We do get to learn more about Alex Murphy and his (widowed) wife, yet it all feels very ‘off’, lacking in any real meaning. When speaking to avclub.com, Peter Weller said that:

“RoboCop 2 didn’t have a third act. I told the producers and Irv Kirshner up front, and Frank Miller. I told them all. I said, “Where’s the third act here, man? So I beat up a big monster. In the third act, you have to have your Dan O’Herlihy. Somebody’s got to be the third act.” “No, no, the monster’s going to be enough.” “Look, it’s not enough!” When you have a movie like the first RoboCop, where the bad guys are never the bad guys and it’s always the morality of the thing. You know, like the idea that progress in the name of progress can steal a man’s identity. Look, the first RoboCop’s got deregulated trickle-down social economic politics in it, way before Bush and Romney and the debates with Obama and Senator Clinton. It’s got a morality to it. If you don’t have that, man, you’ve got no flick, and I said that so much.”

He was right too, the lack of a real third act thing aside, there really isn’t much of a flick with RoboCop 2 at all. The whole film is just so lacking over the first one. The idea of morality, humanity and so on are just not here. It’s a very typical ‘oh look, we may have a franchise on our hands’ type of sequel. One where the studio were reluctant to take any chances and played it safe just to make a better-looking and bigger budget film but one with very little substance. RoboCop 2 is watchable, even enjoyable at times… but it is still a pretty poor sequel. One thing I will say about this film though is that it got it right about Detroit going bankrupt.

RoboCop 3

RoboCop 2 was a flawed but still a somewhat watchable sequel. RoboCop 3 was just fucking atrocious. Third film and third director with Fred Dekker at the helm. Dekker also co-wrote the screenplay with Frank Miller. Now, in Frank Miller’s defence, his original script was said to have been far better but once he handed it into the studio, it went through several edits and changes. To the point where Miller turned his back on Hollywood and refused to write another script until 2005’s Sin City. Miller turned his bastardised RoboCop scripts into well-received comic books later. Some of the first two film’s cast returned for this sequel… but not Peter Weller, he had good taste. Robert Burke stepped into the chrome suit this time around and he’s a bit terrible. But I think that has more to do with the awful script than the actor. RoboCop 3 was released in 1993 when Orion Pictures were going through bankruptcy.

ROBOCOP 3 SCREEN

There really is very little to like here. You have a film where RoboCop is now helping homeless people and going to get revenge because Lewis has been killed. To be fair, Nancy Allen as Lewis is about the only saving grace in the whole film… and they killed her off about a quarter of the way in. RoboCop gets an interchangeable hand-thing that feels like an idea from one of the kid’s toys. He uses a flamethrower, wears a jet-pack and takes on a ninja robot from Japan. Seriously, I’m convinced that the producers just looked at the RoboCop kids toy line that existed at the time and said ‘make a film like that’. RoboCop has gone from shooting potential rapists in the dick to babysitting an 11-year-old girl who makes ED-209 ‘as loyal as a puppy’.

You know how the first film had real depth. Yeah, it was in its most basic form, just a film about revenge. Still, it had some amazing writing, characters you cared about, satire, witty observations, good acting and more. RoboCop 2 lost a lot of that, yet it did still have some semblance that could be connected to what made the original great. This film, RoboCop 3 however, is just truly heinous. This one feels like a made-for-TV movie that was being used as a vehicle for a family-friendly TV show… which I will get to soon enough. The iconic violence is gone, the excessive swearing is gone and the social satire is gone to be replaced with cheap parody. What you have is a prime example of why the PG-13 rating should never have been invented.

Now, before anyone starts jumping up and down on my nuts for praising and liking the animated RoboCop show earlier for it being kid-friendly, whilst decrying RoboCop 3 for going kid-friendly… allow me to explain. First, I did qualify the animated show by wondering if I would’ve liked it as a teenager back then, not as an adult now. Plus, the animated show may have been the same characters on a technical level, but the show was a retelling of the first film and created its own continuity. Those ‘same’ characters existed in a different universe to the first film. With RoboCop 3, the characters are still supposed to be the same ones from the first two films and it is in continuity with the 1987 original. So RoboCop now being all ‘help a granny cross the road’ is stupid. The character hardly does anything in the film and spends most of it out of action and being repaired.

ROBOCOP 3 SCREEN 2

There’s always been something that bothered me about the film too. Well, there are a great many things that bother me about it, to be honest. But there is one specific thing that always annoyed me. When you see RoboCop moving and talking, the suit looked terrible. You could see the jawline flopping about when Robert Burke spoke. You could see the joins in the suit more than before and it just looked really ‘fake’. It really did just look like an actor in a suit. Whereas before, it looked and felt genuine, even if we did know it was just an actor in a suit. I later found out that the suit used was the same one from RoboCop 2. Now, there is nothing wrong with reusing older props in films but with the RoboCop suit, it was measured and built specifically for Peter Weller and his body. Robert Burke had a different build and his jawline was not as strong. One of the reasons Weller got the part in the first film was because Paul Verhoeven loved his strong jawline. So when Burke wore the suit, it didn’t fit, or it didn’t fit well enough. You can really see as much in the film too. I later learned that the suit was so uncomfortable on Robert Burke that it actually hurt him when he was acting in it and he’d be in that thing for several hours at a time. I genuinely feel sorry for Burke. He had a shit script to work with and spend hours in a suit that caused him pain… just to make a shit and utterly pointless sequel.


And this is just half of the ‘fun’ too. There is more questionable RoboCop content coming up in part two of this retrospective, including some of the most bizarre appearances of the character ever…

ROBOCOP 3 SCREEN 3