Theology On Film – Robocop
In 1987, a director by the name of Paul Verhoeven, a now well known Dutch director, but who at the time was a relatively new face in American cinema, directed a film featuring a robotic policeman who would bring justice to a failing system. This film was “Robocop”.
In “Robocop” we are introduced to Peter Weller’s Alex J Murphy. Murphy is a new transfer to possibly the worst police station in Detroit. In this near future where everything looks advanced, despite still being scarily 1980s, humanity has become even more capitalistic and crime is at an all-time high. Murphy goes out on patrol with his new partner Officer Anne Lewis, played with a grating irritation by Nancy Allen, and on their first outing is butchered by a group of men lead by the evil Clarence Boddicker. Out of pure coincidence however, at this time the corporate company who runs the police force is experimenting with cyborg policemen and using Murphy’s body, they create the future of Law Enforcement, the title character, the Robocop. Murphy’s resurrected being goes out into the world to fight crime, stop his murderers, and rediscover himself.
When this film was first released, Verhoeven is well publicised as revealing his intentions to create this film as a form of modern reinterpretation of the story of Jesus Christ. Despite criticism, it is not too confusing to understand Verhoeven’s actions in achieving this.
The story of Jesus Christ is one of the most known stories in the world today, and as a result; it is often replicated in the world of fiction. Verhoeven’s personal attempt is nothing different.
Verhoeven’s cyborg creation is the resurrected hero who travels around the area saving the general public from the evils of the world and in effect saving humanity from itself. In the capitalist world in which Robocop exists, people are more obsessed with wealth and material goods than with anything else. This is shown precisely by the fact that during the regular news broadcasts, despite the tragic news going on elsewhere in the world, the broadcasters remain smiling and pause for commercial breaks. The breaks for extreme goods include a car which is promoted because “Big is back, because bigger is better than ever! 6000 SUX: An American Tradition” (Robocop, Verhoeven, 1987). This unworthy society is in effect, rescued by the mechanical cop who is forced to sacrifice his human form to achieve this. In effect, Verhoeven’s character of Murphy sacrifices himself for our sins, reminiscent of the Jesus character he was meant to be representing.
The death of the Murphy character is not just a replication of Jesus dying for humanity’s sins, but it is also a copy in the ways it is achieved. Firstly Murphy is the 33rd cop to be killed in the recent killing spree, a possible link to the fact that Jesus was supposedly 33 when the Romans executed him. Also crucial is the way the bad guys of the film, reminiscent of the Romans themselves, torture Murphy firstly by shooting his hand off, a copy of Jesus’ hand being nailed to the cross, and then by shooting him in the head representing the crown of thorns the Romans forced Jesus to wear. The final link between the two deaths is the way that when Murphy is “executed”, he is blown backwards in a way that his left arm and the remnants of his right arm are forced outwards at his side in a sort of crucifix shape.
Other than the resurrection of the hero and the way he saves humanity, are there any other links between Verhoeven’s classic movie and the story of the Son of God? Two links perhaps appear in the form of the bad guy and the misinterpretation of the hero.
The first of these two points is the real enemy of the movie, Dick Jones, the vice president of the security company who create Robocop. Jones presents himself for the first half of the movie as a man with an agenda, but who is ultimately in favour of Robocop. It is only upon the death of the hero’s creator, Bob Morton, played with style by a young Miguel Ferrer, that Jones himself describes Robocop as an “unholy monster” (Robocop, Verhoeven, 1987). It is at this point it becomes clear that Robocop is not only misunderstood, but that Jones does not help matters by playing the role of Judas, especially in the way that his motives for destroying Robocop are for the simple matter of money, again a replication of Judas. The misunderstanding of the lead mechanic character is compounded by Jones’s order to his security forces to destroy the machine. This attempts by the naïve troops to assassinate their eventual saviour is reminiscent of the way the Jewish people chose to have Jesus crucified rather than saved.
It is upon this point that major links between “Robocop” and the story of Christ begin to dry up. One major Internet website called “Holywood Jesus” discusses the links between Jesus and major Holywood movies. As well as the film under discussion, other films are considered, including “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” & “Superman”. On this website, as well as all previously mentioned considerations, one point considered is the relevance of Murphy’s first name, that being Alex. According to a site visitor called “Can Nakkas”, Alex is Greek for “no law” (BRUCE, D. 1997. Robocop. Holywood Jesus [Online], Available: http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/robo_cop.htm [Accessed 15 March 2004].) Nakkas then points out that this is a link to Jesus since Christ himself was sent to liberate humanity from the law. This link is tenacious to say the least and its accuracy can be questioned.
One final point worth mentioning about “Robocop” is that in it Paul Verhoeven created a film about a saviour who was resurrected so that he could save the dystopian world from itself and rescue humanity. This idea is not an original concept, but Verhoeven cleverly plays it out. However, some links between the two stories of the mechanical hero and the Son of God are slightly extreme to say the least and to see too much out of particular coincidences is perhaps a little ridiculous.
Despite criticisms and however “Robocop” might be seen, in it the director Paul Verhoeven has created a modern classic that he has failed to really improve on since. Since this movie, his list of movies has included films about Mars, “Total Recall”, films retelling the story of the Invisible Man, “Hollow Man”, and most obscure of all, a film about humanity’s fight against enormous bug creatures in “Starship Troopers”. Unlike these other attempts, in “Robocop” there is a movie for Verhoeven to be proud of and which is a film worthy of watching, Christian link or not.
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