Once upon a time, Magnetic Monkey (MM) and Elephant Robot (ER) went to a theater and watched RoboCop. Then they talked about it. A lot, in fact. What follows is Part 5 of that conversation.
ER: Let’s talk more about the end of the movie. I think there was the possibility for a real dark ending to be had in this film, prior to the comedic Sam Jackson button. And that is - the task is over, whatever that ends up being, and I don't think it wanted to end with him killing the Michael Keaton character. I think it would have been more interesting if he hadn't. If instead that character had been arrested and put in a cell, in the way that Alex Murphy is now in a cell - the cell of his body.
ER: But I think there was some horror to be had at the end, with some realization "now that the chase is over, the fight is finished... here I am, a floating head." And I think that for a movie that wanted to be realistic, ultimately... he can't go back to his family.
And because they had built up the family as such a key part of the movie, I think the ending wanted to be more tragic. Where there's an acknowledgment of what's lost. He's horrifying to his son.
ER: He can't make love to his wife.
ER: And he has the entire criminal database always at the corners of his mind. So I think there was some kind of interesting and unresolvable hurdle to attempt at the end
of the movie. And they shied away from that for a PG-13, all is well, family is back together, the day is won.
MM: Totally agree.
ER: But there's that great scene at the end of the movie after he's just bad-assed out and killed...
ER: Everybody. And he sits down at the table with his family. And there's that moment where it's the appearance of the family being back together. But something has inexorably shifted, and there's a horror introduced now. Even something as short and simple as that would have been welcome to me at the end of RoboCop to acknowledge something is broken that's not going to be fixed.
MM: A Murphy family dinner would have been amazing.
It gets back to that question of identity. "What is it to be human? What is it to be a husband? What is it to be a father?" These are things that he's lost. And in human history, you know, if you lost an arm you lost an arm. Then we had hooks. And now we're adding robotic arms. And it raises the question of "what is it to touch someone?"
I feel like in the 21st century we have Kurzweil and Google basically trying to rebuild humanity inside machines that we built ourselves. I think it's a far more relevant story today.
RoboCop tackles questions like... mortality, and what's it worth to be alive? When do we die?
The idea of losing an arm, as an example, is a situation where you life has died to a very real extent. In the same way that when you have a child, your life as you knew it has died. And there's this very profound rebirth sequence that you go through. And the rebirth is made more painful when you're trying to hold onto the life that you've lost, instead of embracing the life that you have. And that loss, that grief... the robotics just preclude Murphy from dealing with it for a period of time.
His wife doesn't get to go into mourning after the car bomb. She's in this liminal state. She's almost Schrodinger's cat. She's neither alive nor dead. She's neither a widow nor a wife.
I don't think you have to deal with that, but I think RoboCop tried to be a family movie, in a weird way. And it was not going to get away with that. Or at least, the PG-13ness was trying to make it more palatable.
But I understand why they did that. Because they want to get their money back.
ER: Well, and it's interesting that what you have at the end of this movie is an unintentionally satiric
moment, where you have the dark side of the "typical nuclear American family," which is that Dad is sort of this iconic absent figure. He goes to work. He does his thing. We don't understand what that thing is. Then he comes home, and he's kind of a part of us? But really he's not. And without intentionally doing that, that's sort of what they did at the end of the movie, in that shot where we see them in the skywalk together. There's this great appearance of normalcy, that doesn't exist.
But the film wasn't intending that, but unintentionally that was communicated.
MM: I thought there was a nice moment in True Detective, Episode 7, where Woody Harrelson's character acknowledges to his ex-wife that their lives – her life, and the kids' lives – are better off without him in it. And he thanks her for that, and he appreciates it. And it's this moment that
sometimes you recognize that the horror of what you do precludes you from the life you would otherwise have led.
And there's something about RoboCop that...well, it's like a priest. They choose not to take a family out of dedication to their office. And RoboCop has basically sacrificed "the joys of the flesh," as it were, to be a more badass cop.
ER: RoboCop and the priesthood. I think that’s a good place to stop for today. Tune in tomorrow for our final installment of the epic RoboConvo!