As a critic based in Detroit, it is my civic duty to cover anything on RoboCop. RoboCop, feared by the criminals of old and new Detroit alike, is beloved by those of us in Detroit. Even though we’re still waiting on our statue (it’s in the works, don’t worry), RoboCop is like a lit beacon in our hearts.
Now, I actually did not grow up with RoboCop. I was more of a dinosaur and TMNT type of kid. I never really dove into robots or cyborgs. So, RoboCop was something I discovered later on in life and actually after That 70s Show. So, seeing Kurtwood Smith playing a gun-toting, swearing, maniacal crime lord of a dystopian Detroit was a bit jarring, to say the least. But I was a fan. The effects were incredible, the story was poignant, and the writing was satirical and clever.
End of story.
Or not so much, according to SCREAMBOX’s slick new documentary, ROBODOC: THE CREATION OF ROBOCOP. This four-part series, co-directed by Chris Griffiths and Eastwood Allen, gathers the cast and crew in outstanding interviews, matched with storyboards, an intimate look behind the scenes, and each concept and process.
Honestly, as just a fan of the movie, I was utterly floored with the attention to detail ROBODOC takes, like an archaeologist sifting through each layer of the movie, uncovering more and more. Each interview is fascinating and provides a deeper perspective into the minutia of the film.
Everything is detailed from the sound design, the music, the effects, the acting, the bodywork of RoboCop, the director’s maniacal but genius vision, and the struggles of the cast. Each actor shares their own stories, concepts, and experiences. The writers, producers, and editors all share their own spins on the story, how it got off the ground, and the challenges they faced. The special effects team, including the RoboTeam, shared their own tales as well. All angles were covered.
I have pages of notes and facts to the point that I could not keep up and just watched in awe. I can’t even begin to sift through my own notes, let alone understand how Griffiths and Allen managed to wrangle this all together. Using present-day interviews, and archival interviews and footage, they weave in and out of RoboCop’s narrative. As much as I now realize how much RoboCop is a masterpiece, ROBODOC: THE CREATION OF ROBOCOP is just as much a masterpiece in its own right. It takes you from the bare concept sparked while on the set of Blade Runner, to the gathering of cast and crew, the shooting, the editing, the marketing, and what an impact RoboCop has made in our culture.
Even if you know a lot of trivia about RoboCop, I think you will still be surprised at the level of depth ROBODOC dives into. You have such heavy-weight actors included like Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Paul McCrane and so others. The legendary Phil Tippet (Mad God) and his team give interviews of their time making the larger-than-life ED-209. They go scene by scene, picking apart lines, sounds, concepts, and disasters, including my favorite bit of trivia that RoboCop is actually not filmed at all in Detroit.
ROBODOC: THE CREATION OF ROBOCOP is the bodywork training of Peter Weller as RoboCop (influenced by Nikolay Cherkasov in the 1944 film, Ivan the Terrible). We learn more of the background and influence of director Paul Verhoeven, while also learning they didn’t like RoboCop’s butt, that the cops are all named after serial killers, and also expanding on the attention to feminism within the movie (even teaching Nancy Allen to run more masculine). But the fact that blew me away the most, I’d have to say, is that everything is practical. And I mean everything. The thermal imaging? Guys painted in spray paint to look like thermal imaging. The grid on the RoboVision screen? Hand-made. Not a computer. Honestly, after watching ROBODOC, RoboCop has been elevated in my mind as a flipping work of pure artistry.
If you binge ROBODOC: THE CREATION OF ROBOCOP, it feels like a long documentary, clocking over four hours in total. Split into four parts, though, it’s worth every second. Except maybe the opening; that intro sequence was a bit too long at two minutes. But other than that, I cannot recommend this documentary enough. You’ll be amazed, you’ll laugh, you’ll wince, and you’ll cheer. And if you’re like me, you’ll stop halfway through to watch RoboCop, and then watch it again after the documentary.
ROBODOC: Part interviews. Part story. All fantastic.
The first episode in the four-part SCREAMBOX Original series ROBODOC: THE CREATION OF ROBOCOP releases on August 29, 2023, on SCREAMBOX.