Rather than talking about Robocop for three entries, I’ve changed the theme of this month to discuss how certain franchises and series get turned into either family or children’s franchises, which in the end may doom the franchise. We’ll startwith Robocop, then discuss the Rambo franchise and then end with Alien.
Robocop may not need any sort of introductions. Alex Murphy being turned into a law enforcing robot stuck with pop-culture for a good reason. It’s a damn good movie and its satire still hits hard. While there are some elements that certainly dates it, its designs and overall look are largely timeless, portraying an upcoming cyberpunk future with OCP wanting to usher Delta City on Old Detroid. This makes Robocop’s world very bleak, violent and corrupt, where no man can trust another, lest he be backstabbed. Low- and middle class citizens who have no place in OCP’s bright future are left to rot, and OCP owned law enforcement has to quell these people down despite the moral conflicts. Criminals revel in this world, abusing the corruption of the officials and taking every bit they can from those who just want to survive in this changing world. It is powerful stuff, and only handful of Robocop’s stories dwell deeper into the possibilities what sort of dichotomy this change ushers.
It is also a story and world that is very much an adult one. It can’t be naturally turned to a children’s franchise or something the whole family could enjoy. The over the top violence combined with the satire is something children don’t get, and removing violence leaves the satire largely punchless in this case.
Robocop himself it the main reason why the franchise began a downslope from its third movie onwards, and the main reasons for this is because Robocop is seen as a good guy robot who apprehends bad guys. My description of Robocop above is how the franchise is overall seen, but it would be more apt to say that Robocop is about a man who dies in the line of duty, is used to build a cybernetic being to function as a puppet to the villain, but regains his humanity in the end. Space Detective Gavan is an example of a franchise that build for children from the ground up, and there’s nothing wrong in that. Gavan excels very well in being that sort of show, and bringing it to the adult audience would be incredibly easy, just like with almost any other children’s franchise. However, it is very easy to fuck up this transition with a bad script, which happened to Kamen Rider the First, and arguably, to Man of Steel. It’s not necessarily a good idea, but many fans that have grown up with something like comics expect these comics to grow with them, which has essentially fucked up the comic industry.
It’s like a bunch of bloggers from Tumblr wrote this list
Turning an adult franchise to children’s or even family friendly franchise without a doubt will take something away, be it sexual imagery, violence or otherwise something that could shock the unprepared or kids in the audience. When you remove something that is essential to the tone to the work, you need to replace it with something else. Robocop 3 is a good example, alongside the two cartoon series, how the very idea of a robotic cop is not taken seriously as entertainment for adults in the larger scheme of things.
The movie tries to try to keep the spirit of the original work intact, with the third movie trying to keep OCP being a dominant evil entity, but even then they’re reduced to almost a bumbling fool status with Kanemitsu Corporation taking over them and sending Outomo, the android ninja, to take care of Robocop. Kid characters are often used to have the children something to relate to, but kids never give a damn about them. Just like with Batman and Robin, kids don’t want to relate to Robin as they can never become him. They can become Batman, which is why they look up to him. However, Hollywood idiots still force child characters as secondary main characters to create a relation that is experienced by a very small margin of the audience. In Robocop, there is nobody for kids to relate to. Murhpy is a gunned down cop and is not supposed to be a role model of any sorts and he can’t be made to be. This is unlike Gavan alias Retsu Ichijouji, who dons the armour of Gavan to fight crime and be an overall just guy. He is someone kids can look up to.
The first movie in the franchise was relatively successful and has become a classic. The second movie isn’t up there with the first one, and script suffers largely due to Frank Miller’s base script combined with exec meddling, and the third one was bumped top PG-13 for larger audiences and possible profits. Robocop 3 succeeded the most in Japan, unsurprisingly. After the horrible reception the third movie got, and lacklustre success of the cartoon, Robocop the Series tried to be a sort in-between the R-Rated original and children’s franchise. It didn’t really succeed. The main reason for this is that Robocop himself could not be violent and the action reflects that. He has cartoony non-lethal methods of incapacitating criminals instead of blowing their kneecaps or dangly sacks. Much like how Robocop 3 played OCP for comedy, most of the darker and more violent scenes in the Series is treated with humorous tone and played for laughs rather than using Verhoeven’s over the top violence to give it an accent. It has heart, but it just can’t achieve what the original movie had because of wasn’t not allowed aim to follow in its image. The Series’ script wasn’t anything worth mentioning really, and overall didn’t do much service to showcase the franchise.
Another problem The Series had can be heard in how Robocop is seen. Rock Shop has a heroic renderition, something that it wasn’t originally
The Prime Directives TV-series in the early 2000’s wasn’t a family friendly entry in the franchise, but it wasn’t over the top with the violence either. This series suffered from low-budget, mediocre acting at best and not the best script out there. The franchise finally had given the chance to aim for the same kind of take Verhoeven realized, but the vision wasn’t in there. So, a franchise that went from being a hard R-18 action movie with surprisingly spiritual heart went to be a children’s Saturday morning cartoon and superhero movie in relatively short time, and then tried returning to its roots with Prime Directive only to be ultimately to be dismissed.
The trailer for Prime Directives is kinda awful and tries to hide bad acting with a constant barrage of action.
The reboot movie from 2014 followed the same lines as the third movie and the Series, and its reception was not favourable. It retreads the same points the original did with worse results, especially how it handled the relationship between Murphy and Robocop. There no weight to anything in it, because it doesn’t do anything new. It’s more or less a forgettable PG-13 action movie that doesn’t stand out from the current comic book movies as it uses the same style, tone and looks. Outside few scenes, especially the one where Murphy is shown his current nature, it’s a very safe flick. You could say that just like J.J. Abrams’ Star Treks, the new Robocop was supercharged for the new generation and very few things have a feeling of weight, be it in physical objects or in themes. One of the problems in this is that the motion original Robocop was staccato and very deliberate in movement. The new 2014 version looks like a man in a suit.
Anyway, the 2014 Robocop didn’t get a standing applaud. SONY has been wondering whether or not to make a sequel, but it has the same problem as the original; Robocop’s story is essentially over. While you can expand on his further adventures, at least the 2014 reboot can go deeper into how cyborg Murphy could function as a husband and father, for better or worse.
Robocop seems to be successful when the violence and darker tones are intact. While Robocop is not a heroic robot like Gavan, the character and movies can discuss humanity and our relationship with machines and change, something a wholly family friendly show and a kids’ cartoon can’t do to the same extent. Not to say kids’ shows couldn’t do that, but Robocop can’t without stripping itself from the adult take and themes it set since its creation. Children can enjoy Power Rangers and the like just fine, but Robocop should have stayed as something only for adults.