Articles & Notes — June 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

Parsing the inhuman characters of “RoboCop” trilogy

A couple of days ago, for some reason I’ve decided to re-watch the infamous “RoboCop” trilogy. In fact, I caught myself thinking that I’ve only seen the original Paul Verhoeven film, and never bothered watching part 2 and 3.

What triggered me to watch the sequels was one clip that I stumbled upon on YouTube – a standoff between Robocop and ED-209 in the first “RoboCop” film.

I was curious what were the other robots like in the sequels.

To make a long story short, the whole trilogy has three “inhuman” villains: ED-209 in the original, RoboCain in the sequel, and Otomo (the cyborg samurai) in “RoboCop 3”. Let’s take a more detailed look at the characters. But, of course, we will start off with “Robocop” himself.

RoboCop (Alex Murphy)
RoboCop is a cyborg, that police officer Alex Murphy got turned into after he was killed in the first “RoboCop” film. The “ultimate crime fighting machine” was made up from what was left of Murphy’s organic components: parts of his digestive tract, most of his brain, several organs and his left arm (later amputated).

As a result Murphy became the OCP Crime Prevention Unit 001, or RoboCop, as he is more widely known, a cyborg with computer and mechanically assisted reflexes, memory and law enforcement programming and a selection of dynamic software for plotting strategies and ballistic vectors in any situation.

While being presented as an “ultimate crime fighting machine”, RoboCop is in fact nothing special, in my opinion, and here are some reasons why. He’s slow, we never see him run in any of three films, he’s clumsy, and he really looks like a cartoon character (nothing menacing in other words).

In all of the trilogy films, RoboCop battles both humans and robots/cyborgs. If against humans, RoboCop prevails, it is different with the robot/cyborg characters. And if you’ve seen all three films you know how it went down:

RoboCop (1987) – RoboCop barely survives the confrontation. He simply gets lucky that ED-209 is unable to walk down the stairs on his “chicken legs”.

RoboCop 2 (1990) – RoboCop goes up against RoboCain, however he’s provided with help from police and noticeably from Lieutenant Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). On his own, RoboCop wouldn’t stand a chance against RoboCain.

RoboCop 3 (1991, released in 1993) – RoboCop has to face Otomo (the android samurai), and “the meeting” is less than impressive: the first encounter leaves RoboCop “crippled”, the second time its the humans (again) who help RoboCop not to screw up again.

To sum it up, while I do consider the original RoboCop (1987) a classic film, the character itself is not that impressive, not scary, and any thug/goon/crime figure with some brains could have outsmarted the “ultimate crime fighting machine”. Peter Weller played the title character in the first and second movies, while Robert John Burke put on the costume for the third film. Now, let’s move on to the villains.

ED-209 (appears in all films of the trilogy)
The Enforcement Droid Series 209, or ED-209, is a fictional robot in the “RoboCop” franchise. The ED-209 serves as a heavily-armed obstacle and foil for RoboCop, as well as a source of comic relief due to its lack of intelligence and tendency towards clumsy malfunctions.

Speaking of the comic relief – there is plenty. In the first film, ED nearly destroys RoboCop, but first it makes a mistake and shoots himself, and then simply falls down the stairs because of his “chicken legs”.

In the second film, ED appears in only one scene, where we see him trying to get his leg out of the sewer hatch. In “RoboCop 3” ED is featured in a scene where human resistance tries to break into an armory which is protected by ED. Thanks to a few computer tricks, ED “turns sides” and actually helps the people to get the weapons and escape. Yeah, he’s again made fun of in that scene.

In total – ED 209 is the most likeable robot villain of the franchise. He’s armed like an attack helicopter, but always gets in trouble because of his legs. He roars like a lion, but squeals like a pig when falls down. And above everything else – the confrontation between him and RoboCop in the original film – is the best scene in all three films.

RoboCain (RoboCop 2)
In the “RoboCop 2” film, Cain is the main antagonist – to put it briefly, a drug dealer. Living in Detroit, Cain developed the highly addictive narcotic he calls “Nuke”. Cain (played by Tom Noonan) is a sociopath, a drug addict himself, with some religious tendencies.

Towards the end of the film, Cain is almost killed by RoboCop, however later OCP uses some of his brain tissue for the “Robocop 2” project.

To be honest, “RoboCop 2” project failed on almost every level. Just as in case with ED-209, RoboCain (RoboCop 2) is shown in stop-motion animation and because of the ugly design, the animation doesn’t work very well, in comparison to ED-209.

The only interesting thing about RoboCain was that the robot uses his own “Nuke” drugs for re-charging (yeah, a drug addict robot). Despite being seemingly indestructible, RoboCain is not funny, not charismatic like ED-209, and is just plain boring. The living Cain by Tom Noonan was more exciting to watch.

Otomo (RoboCop 3)
The Otomo ninja (played by Bruce Asato Locke) is an android, manufactured by the Japanese Kanemitsu Corporation, according to the film.

These ninja androids are sent to help contain the resistance of the anti-OCP militia forces in Detroit, and also destroy RoboCop if such opportunity arises.

Otomo is named after Japanese writer and comic book artist, Katsuhiro Otomo.

Otomo is also the first inhuman/part-human villain of the trilogy to appear as “normal” and not in stop-motion animation, as in case with ED-209 and RoboCain.

Otomo also has some cool effects applied to him when he gets smacked in the face. Check out a few pictures below (effects made by Alvarez Wax Productions).

I would’ve never pictured RoboCop going up against an android ninja, but that’s exactly what it is. And the first fight between the Otomo and RoboCop is really cheesy – RoboCop is practically manhandled by Otomo, he gets his fingers and a hand chopped off, and somehow he manages to blow Otomo away with a gun.

In the end of the film, RoboCop faces two Otomo ninjas at the same time, and before they really get a chance to double-team the hero, he, again, is assisted by humans, and the Otomos turn to each other, thanks to more computer tricks.

In other words, RoboCop is shown as an outdated piece of law enforcement that simply cannot compete to more advanced cyborgs/androids. I wonder what the remake of “RoboCop” would bring… I’d sure as hell would like to see ED-209 going up against the “ultimate crime fighting machine” one more time.

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