“Welcome to Hell” is how his new colleagues greet policeman Murphy (Peter Weller), who has just transferred from a tranquil precinct to the infamous district of Detroit Metro South. Unfazed by their cautioning words, during his coffee break he practices handling his pistol like the police officer from a popular TV series to impress his son. “Role models can be very important to a boy,” he tells his colleague Lewis (Nancy Allen). But minutes later, this rookie is so badly riddled with bullets that the wonders of modern medicine can only patch him together into the (invulnerable) machine-man, RoboCop. Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the firm which operates the police department as a business venture, pays for his metamorphosis and sends the super cop back to his beat, where, naturally, he eventually runs into the same villains who earlier snuffed out his life. Under the direction of Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, 1992; Starship Trooper, 1997), what sounds like a hackneyed revenge story proves to be a cryptic action spectacular and an implicit media critique.
Robocop is set in the not-too-distant future. The American president gives his first press conference from outer space, the prisons are privatized, and Detroit, because of its uncontrollable crime rate, is now almost inhabitable. The film extravagantly and vividly displays the probable effects of privatizing state authority. Politics has long since relinquished its power: a member of the city council takes the mayor hostage, hides behind an American flag, and demands a bigger office and a better car, as well as recount of the vote – all at the taxpayer’s expense, as he emphasizes. The film concentrates less on the story surrounding RoboCop and his campaign against criminals than it does on the machinations within OCP and the developing relationship between the iron policeman and his partner Lewis. RoboCop’s extreme violence apparently confused several critics, for the release of his brilliantly ironic social satire produced a polemic reaction.
Detroit was an obvious choice for the setting of the film. As the center of the U.S. automotive industry, the city is a symbol for the industrial capitalism of the 20th century. OCP plan to convert it into “Delta City,” the prototypical metropolis of the 21st century. A citadel of the “Old economy” entering the apparently promising age of computers and biotechnology, Detroit, like the cyborg RoboCop, is also the point of junction between two antithetical concepts: a mixture of man and machine, and nano-technology. The world of RoboCop acts as a symbolic threshold: the days when individuals mattered are a thing of the past, for the present is characterized by an exclusive interest in product development and transfer. Humanity stands at a crossroads between old and new and computerized surveillance.
Yet the film is more than a cinematic social critique, for behind the glittering facade of his metal torso and in the middle of spectacular views of crumbling industrial factories, RoboCop experiences a human, classical drama: he does not know who he is, and is thus searching for both his origin and identity. Even after his death, when Murphy is assembled into RoboCop in a laboratory, we see the events as scanned video images, which help portray how the machine’s perceptions function. During the procedure the scientists whisper their secrets into the ear of the machine, showing that the technology is much more than purely mechanical tool. It serves as a surface upon which to project individual wishes and fantasies. Later, when the robot visits his old home, the various visual levels combine and intertwine, and we witness the revival of Murphy’s distant family memories. Like Frankenshein’s monster, which was also built out of body parts from the dead, RoboCop experiences pain and suffering at the hands of human beings, who reject him because of his otherness. He is therefore ultimately a tragic figure in this action film.
Multiple in-jokes add to the already highly self-ironic and self-referential plot. A gas station attendant is mockingly called a bookworm by a thief because he is reading a book about mathematics, a subject in which director Verhoeven holds a university degree. And later on, a news segment informs us that a laser from a missile defense system in outer space accidentally destroyed an area of Santa Barbara also killing two former U.S. presidents. This is clearly a reference to Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan, who were both residents of Santa Barbara at the time of the film’s production. The sequence is all the more poignant considering the fact that it was during Regan’s presidency that the “Star-Wars System” was developed. Along with the optically brilliant exterior, it is these seemingly trivial details that distinguish the film from the majority of its science fiction companions, turning it into a classic of the genre.
RoboCop 's first Directive, "Serve the Public Trust," was inspired by a fortune cookie.
The entrance to the OCP building in the movie is actually the front entrance of Dallas City Hall with extensive matte work (by Rocco Gioffre) above to make the building appear to be a giant skyscraper.
Stephanie Zimbalist was originally cast as Lewis, but had to give up the part when she was called back to film more episodes of "Remington Steele" (1982). Nancy Allen was then cast and Paul Verhoeven had her cut her hair shorter and shorter several times until it was short enough, as Verhoeven wanted to desexualize the character.
Realizing that the film was running behind schedule and over budget, director Paul Verhoeven and producer Jon Davison purposely didn't film one crucial scene: Officer Murphy's death. When production wrapped, they went back to Los Angeles and 'grimly' informed the execs that Murphy's death hadn't been filmed. So the execs gave them more money and they filmed the scene in a warehouse in Los Angeles.
The RoboCop suit was so hot and heavy that Peter Weller was losing 3 lbs a day from water loss. Eventually, an air conditioner was installed in the suit.
The RoboCop suit was designed by Rob Bottin and his team. It took a while for the production team to settle on a design, so that by the time the suit was completed it was three weeks late and arrived at the studio on the day that the first RoboCop scene was scheduled to be shot. It took 11 hours for Bottin's people to fit Peter Weller into the suit, and when it was done Weller found that all his mime exercises were now useless because he needed time to get used to the suit and to perform as a robot in it. Production was halted so that Weller and his mime coach, Moni Yakin, could learn how to move in the suit.
The hostage scene where a former city council member holds the mayor and his staff hostage was based on a real-life crisis where former San Francisco supervisor Dan White wanted his old job back.
Jonathan Kaplan was originally set to direct, but opted to do Project X (1987) instead.
Seven RoboCop suits were used throughout of the movie. Out of the seven, one of them had special safeguards and fireproof fiberglass to help the stuntman perform the gas station scene. Another two were used exclusively during the third act of the movie where Robocop gets damaged from the ED-209 and the Detroit Police Department. There was no 'one suit' as most people who would think, but actually more than one as each one is fragile and easily destroyed during filming.
Former President Richard Nixon was hired to promote the home video release for $25000, he donated the money to the American Boys Club.
The screenplay had been offered (and been rejected by) virtually every big director in Hollywood before Paul Verhoeven got hold of it. He threw it away after reading the first pages, convinced it was just a dumb action movie. However, his wife read it all the way through and convinced him that the story was layered with many satirical and allegorical elements, after which Verhoeven finally decided to direct the film.
RoboCop's three Prime Directives ("Serve the public trust; Protect the innocent; Uphold the law") are reminiscent of the Three Laws of Robotics as devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov and first published in his short story "Runaround".
Lewis: Murphy... I'm a mess...
RoboCop: They'll fix you. They fix everything.
RoboCop: Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening.
Lewis: I just asked him his name.
Morton: Let me make something clear to you. He doesn't have a name. He has a program. He's product.
Bob Morton: What are your Prime Directives?
RoboCop: Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law.
GOOFS AND BLUNDERS
The camera car is reflected in the driver's door of Clarence's car in the final chase.
The triggering cords for the blood packs are visible in the shootout at the drug factory.
All RoboCop POV shots at night show the shadow of the camera light.
A crew member is reflected in Robocop's car during his first night on duty.
Camera and crew are reflected in the TV during the first flashback of the resuscitation scene.
After the guy is shot by ED-209, when the "Old Man" says, "Dick, I'm VERY disappointed!" you can see a crew member crouching behind his office chair.
When Clarence Boddicker enters Bob Morton’s home and says "bitches leave", the camera crew is reflected in what appears to be a mirror.