Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On 17.7.12 by KieronMoore in , , , , ,    No comments
This piece was written as part of a Film Journalism workshop at university and intended as a submission for The Big Picture, but, since they've not got back to me, I'm posting it here.

Introduced by its sinister corporate creator Dick Jones as “the future of law enforcement” and “the hot military product for the next decade”, the ED-209 enforcement droid violently brings to the fore the satirical edge of Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Its presentation early in the film ends with the dull Omni Consumer Products boardroom and its model of a newer, blander Detroit bathed in a vibrant splattering of blood and poor Mr Kinney a little worse for wear, as well as allowing the film’s cyborg hero to be backed as a hopefully more reliable alternative. But, as Jones insists, it was “only a glitch”. This key scene is a defining moment in highlighting the distinct character of Verhoeven’s darkly hilarious swipe at American big business. 

And ED-209’s later appearances don’t disappoint. It’s hard to forget the excellent set piece action scene in which ED pursues an injured RoboCop through the OCP executive suite, blasting the building to pieces and ending with the kind of laugh out loud staircase incident that we haven’t seen since before the Daleks learned to fly. It’s hard not to sympathise with the cold, mindless killer as it lies squealing like an upturned baby tortoise. 

If there’s any creature it resembles, however, it’s a killer whale. A steel killer whale outfitted with gatling guns. ED is a few steps up from the kind of robot seen defusing bombs in The Hurt Locker and it’s hard to believe that the US armed forces will be employing it any time soon. Yet there’s something about its simultaneously sleek and clunky design, complete with impractically placed front exhaust, that fits with the business aspirations of Jones, intent on creating a marketable murderer. If Microsoft made war machines, this would be it. The sound design also gives it a distinctly rough edge; incorporating the unprocessed growl of a cheesed off black leopard as well as the distorted voice of executive producer Jon Davison, who expected his recording to only be used for the film’s early screenings. 

A full scale, articulated ED-209 was painstakingly built for the film’s production, as well as an 8-inch model. It’s obvious on screen when the model, animated using stop motion, is being used, but somehow that tangibility just adds to the charm. 

The ED-209 returned to provide comic antagonism in the duo of inferior sequels. The franchise is set for the inevitable reboot in 2013; could the ED-209 return? If so, it will doubtlessly be via the magic of CGI, which will have to be very magical indeed to live up to the murderously lovable original.


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