Since I have been recently referring to this movie so often, I figured that I might as well review the movie itself! This should also help those who have not seen the movie but who see me talking about “Rehabs” etc. all the time and wonder what I am talking about. I also feel that over the last month or so I have already said all that I can say on the issue of resisting deportation. I honestly don’t know what else needs to be said, except that RoboCop 3 has most of it covered.
RoboCop 3 is widely considered to be a bad movie by RoboCop fans, and on many levels I agree. Murphy is no longer played by Peter Weller; most of the action scenes - especially those involving Murphy himself – are downright silly; there are obvious storyline inconsistencies in relation to the first two RoboCop movies; there are countless unnecessary plot elements that would have been better off removed; and so on. At the very least it could certainly have been made much better than it was. But from a political perspective I have always liked it. Therefore, for the purposes of this review, I will completely ignore the bad stuff, and focus only on the themes that I consider to be both important and well-expressed. Like the entire series, it is set in what in the 1990s was considered to be the near future in terms of technology (in fact its videophones are less advanced than present-day smartphones), using a dystopian Detroit as a microcosm of society. Of course, back when I first saw the movie in the 90s I never expected to see the villains become real in the very country which produced the movie (back in those days I wasn’t even aware how bad it really was for the Palestinians at the hands of Israel). Even in my previous blog post referencing the movie, I was talking about France, not the US:
And I hardly need to again bring up Myanmar, Hungary, etc.. But, as of 2017, we cannot but face up to the reality that the villains have indeed become real in the US too:
ICE agents are now targeting places that used to be respected as sanctuaries of sorts, and have dropped guidelines urging a focus only on serious criminals.
The result: all undocumented migrants can be equally targeted.
One recent high-profile detention was of ‘Dreamer’ Daniela Vargas, 22, who was born in Argentina and came to the United States as a child.
When ICE agents came to her home to arrest her father and brother, both undocumented migrants, Vargas escaped by hiding in a closet.
The agents however got a second chance on Wednesday after Vargas spoke out against deportations at a press conference in Jackson, in the southern state of Mississippi.
“Disturbing that ICE may have followed her from an immigration news conference,” wrote Democratic Senator Ricard Durbin on Twitter,
According to Vargas’s attorneys, ICE agents plan to deport her without a hearing with an immigration judge.
“ICE has no shame,” said Yatziri Tovar, another ‘Dreamer’ who works for the pro-immigrant NGO Make the Road New York.
“This rogue agency has now detained another Dreamer … apparently, for exercising her First Amendment rights,” she said, a reference to the right under the US Constitution to freedom of expression.
Emboldened by Trump’s decree — which authorizes immigration agents to deport even undocumented people suspected of crimes they have not been charged with – authorities recently detained people seeking shelter on a cold winter day at a church in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside the US capital.
Also taken into custody for deportation: a woman who went to court in El Paso, Texas to file a complaint about domestic abuse.
In another recent case agents boarded an domestic flight that landed at New York’s JFK airport and checked every passenger’s identification documents.
Also arrested in recent weeks was Mexico-born Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23 year-old ‘Dreamer’ living in Seattle, in the northwestern state of Washington.
ICE agents detained Ramirez, who came to the United States at the age of seven, even though his DACA authorization was still valid.
Immigration agents swept into his home to pick up his father, and claimed that Ramirez confessed to belonging to a gang.
Ramirez, who has no criminal background, denies the charges.
So rewatching the movie once again in 2017, knowing that the villains have already become real, my hope is that the heroes can become real too.
The movie opens with a revoltingly unctuous campaign ad: “Imagine: an end of crime, an end of poverty. Imagine two million good jobs waiting to be filled. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes dreams come true. Delta City. For our children.”
Basically MAGA. Note the combination of futuristic architecture with the 50s-style patriarchal family – the rightist fantasy of archeofuturism.
This is followed by the news describing the existing Detroit as a “warzone” (where have we heard this before?!), with footage of overworked police officers dealing with stereotypical thugs.
Police vs “bad hombres” as Trump would call them…..
And then the solution is proudly presented: “As usual, OCP has an answer. Meet the Rehabs.”
Basically ICE. The ridiculous muscle-mold body armour worn by the agents is a clever poke at the rightist worship of masculinity.
Head villain Paul McDaggett says: “We’re here to help the people, to augment the police force and deal with the gang problem.” (Where have we heard this before?!) The news reporter asks: “What about reports you’re actually ousting people from their homes to make way for construction of Delta City?” (Note how McDaggett refers to “the people” whereas the reporter refers to ”people” – vast conceptual difference.) Then McDaggett calmly appeals to legality as justification: “I won’t deny we’re serving an eviction notice or two. … We’re cops, nothing more.” (We see rightists today doing this all the time, claiming that there is nothing wrong with deporting people so long as they are “illegal”, ignoring that who is “illegal” in a democracy is determined ultimately by majority rule - indeed these same rightists push for the passing of laws to make “illegal” more and more formerly “legal” people whom the majority dislikes. So saying someone is “illegal” in a democracy really means nothing more than saying someone is unpopular. And citing someone’s unpopularity as sufficient reason to treat them unfairly is the definition of bullying.)
Watching the TV as all this is going on is hacking whiz-kid and RoboCop fangirl Nikko, who clearly sees through McDaggett’s shameless bullshitting.
Nikko’s Original Nobility facial expression contrasts with those of the slave children in the Delta City ad.
Nikko’s parents (depicted as an interethnic couple to contrast with the monoethnic family in the Delta City ad; you can also see hippie-style cushions etc. on the sofa), however, predictably respond by telling her to stop watching TV and go to bed! She reluctantly obeys, but later in her room (which also has a poster of a cactus landscape to contrast with the gentrified greenery in the Delta City ad) asks her father about what she heard earlier, whereupon her father doubles down on the attempt to teach her to stick her head into the sand: “Don’t listen to what the TV said. This is your home, you hear me? You’re safe here.” This is when the Rehabs’ wrecking ball smashes into Nikko’s room…..
Message to leftists: you cannot fight rightists by pretending they do not exist.
Nikko’s parents along with many locals of Cadillac Heights are hauled onto a bus by the brutal Rehabs. (Nikko’s parents are not seen again; it is later revealed that they were killed by the Rehabs off-camera, “killed during escape from relocation” according to the database which classifies them as “suspected rebel sympathizers“ ie. guilty until proven innocent, as I have been pointing out is becoming increasingly common in real-life.) Fortunately, other locals led by Bertha resist the Rehabs: “Stay here! Fight for your homes!” This is what I have been trying to tell real-life ICE victims for the last month! Nikko is picked up by Bertha and hidden inside a refugee van which the very same night proceeds to rob a police armoury in order to acquire the additional firepower needed to defend Cadillac Heights from the Rehabs. (Police weapons were bought using local taxes in the first place, so if the police are not going to use these weapons to protect locals against the Rehabs, the locals have a positive duty to use these weapons themselves!) A refreshing frankness towards the necessity for retaliatory violence is one of my favourite things about the RoboCop trilogy as a whole, distinguishing it from stories which express sympathy for left-leaning views but promote the dangerously wrong notion that these views can triumph through purely pacifistic means.
Message to leftists: this is the correct way to fight rightists.
Alex Murphy is dispatched to pursue the refugee van following the weapon heist, but after Ann Lewis’ police car (also in pursuit of the van) overturns during the chase, Murphy chooses to go the aid of his partner and other colleagues against a Splatterpunk attack despite orders that he continue pursuit. Thus the van escapes.
The Splatterpunks are basically the Alt-Right who have been bullying people non-stop ever since Trump got elected: a notoriously cruel, sadistic gang that the Rehabs yet have not the slightest interest in ridding Detroit of, showing the dishonesty of their claim of wanting to ”deal with the gang problem”, much as Trump has officially redefined ”violent extremism” to exclude racist groups despite the US’s long history of racism.
OCP dislikes Murphy’s personality and orders Marie Lazarus to implant a chip to erase his “emotional baggage” (similar to how rightists always complain about leftists making decisions based on feelings). Lazarus of course does not do so; instead she studies Murphy’s memory videos (which includes shots of Nikko outside a sanctuary church, with the camera lingering on the crucifix above the door) and becomes sympathetic towards Cadillac Heights herself. This reflects what I have been saying about how there is room for individuals in almost any position within society to sabotage Trump in their own capacity, and it only takes a few such saboteurs linking up for the effect to start multiplying. (Sgt. Reed, who will later switch sides, is for now still repeating the OCP narrative: “Do not let the fact that these people are homeless sway you. They’re terrorists, pure and simple.” (Where have we heard this before?!))
1) Take traditionalism. 2) Take hammer. 3) Follow your conscience. (Notice Lazarus’ trademark rolled-up sleeves; she does this with every outfit she wears. This is my favourite costume design element in the movie, a small detail that greatly enhances Lazarus’ personality.)
Off-duty, Murphy and Lewis visit the sanctuary church, but McDaggett and a large force of Rehabs coincidentally arrive at the same time to raid it, leading to confrontation as Murphy and Lewis oppose the raid for what McDaggett calls “squatters” who “belong in the nearest rehabilitation centre”, some of whom are moreover “armed terrorists” (where have we heard all this before?!). This leads to Lewis being fatally shot by McDaggett, and Murphy physically obstructed from retaliation by his OCP-inbuilt Directive Four (“NEVER OPPOSE AN OCP OFFICER”), thus also sustaining debilitating injuries. Fortunately the refugees themselves open fire on the Rehabs and rescue Murphy, who promises Lewis before she dies on the church altar that he will avenge her. I really like the portrayal of Christianity here: it is pro-sanctuary (unlike today’s conservative churches), but praises vengeance (unlike today’s liberal churches), which is exactly how Christianity should be.
A church is only a sanctuary for refugees when the people inside are willing to use firearms to make it so.
Murphy: “Officer down.” Lewis died as an officer of Jesus.
McDaggett lies to the media that Lewis, a “fine, fine public servant”, was supporting the Rehabs during the raid and that Murphy killed her for doing so, which yet manages in a twisted way to fit with the fact that Murphy has joined Cadillac Heights. OCP now places the blame on Lazarus for not implanting the chip into Murphy earlier. Nikko finds her at the police station where she is packing after being fired, and takes her to the refugee camp to repair Murphy. Lazarus takes the opportunity to delete Directive Four, thus enabling Murphy to directly fight OCP henceforth.
My favourite shot in the entire movie. A screencap does not do it justice; you have to see the moving shot (about 45 seconds long, with a warm BGM) for the full effect. Yes, that’s Nikko on the bottom left.
Murphy goes after McDaggett with the implicit approval of Reed (who obviously does not believe that Murphy killed Lewis and who has become increasingly anti-Rehab), but McDaggett raids the refugee camp with the help of a traitor, killing Bertha and capturing Lazarus, though Nikko escapes. Following this, McDaggett prepares to take over the remainder of Cadillac Heights and demands support from the police, which Reed refuses in the dialogue which I previously posted in a comment:
McDaggett: Sergeant. We’re taking Cadillac Heights. I’ll need fifty of your men armed and in full body armor in one hour. Mr. Johnson, you can tell the C.E.O. the demolition crews will have total access at 0600 hours tomorrow morning.
Sergeant Warren Reed: Hey, we don’t do that kind of work.
McDaggett: That was a direct order, sergeant.
Sergeant Warren Reed: Driving people out of their homes is no work for a cop.
Johnson: Now, sergeant… fifteen years on the force is quite an investment. Your job, your pension… Maybe instead of worrying about these squatter people, you might think about your OWN family. [Where have we heard this before?!]
Sergeant Warren Reed: I am.
[Takes off his badge and throws it on the floor]
Sergeant Warren Reed: I’m thinking I have to go home and face them.
McDaggett counters by recruiting the Splatterpunks as additional Rehabs in order to achieve the numbers required to take Cadillac Heights. Unlike the police officers, the Splatterpunks are outright enthusiastic about joining up, reflecting the type of people attracted to this kind of “law enforcement”. (Where have we seen this before?!)
Police officers worthy of their occupation would rather quit than victimize the innocent.
For the Alt-Right, in contrast, it’s about getting to wear that alpha male muscle-mold stab-proof body armour. Those who don’t wear it are all cucks, don’t you know? (Someone should paste Pepe the Frog’s head over the Splatterpunk’s head just to make the point clear.)
Reed and the rest of the Detroit police, meanwhile, join the Cadillac Heights defence and officially deputize the civilians to fight the Rehabs. This is what needs to happen in real-life neighbourhoods currently being raided by ICE. At the very minimum they need to promise locals that ICE agent deaths in a local neighbourhood will not be investigated by local police.
Coolest line in the movie goes to Sgt. Reed: “It’s time to show how real cops kick ass!”
As the climactic battle rages, Nikko hacks into an OCP transmission satellite, allowing the captured Lazarus to speak in an illegal broadcast exposing OCP’s agenda: “… Time is running out. OCP is the enemy. For God’s sake help us. Innocent people are dying.” This leads to chaos within OCP as its stock value plummets. A story that began with Nikko’s father telling Nikko to ignore McDaggett on TV ends with Nikko managing to put Lazarus on TV. A war that began with a wrecking ball into Nikko’s room ends with the OCP tower exploding. Poetic justice has been achieved, but only because enough people were willing to fight for it. Remove any one of the main heroes from the war, and OCP would have won. God does not punish evil except when we are first willing to punish evil ourselves for the sake of God. And yes, punishing evil often costs heroic lives. Lewis died. Bertha died. Many others on the good guys’ side died along the way to the ending. (Which is not to say that not fighting back keeps you safe; Nikko’s parents died too.) Those who would punish evil must first be psychologically convinced that the objective is worth the cost. If not enough people are convinced, the insufficient few who are convinced - generally those of highest quality - end up as martyrs for nothing. This is something we have a duty not to allow, any more than Murphy could allow Lewis to have died in vain, or for that matter any more than a Christian could allow Jesus to have died in vain. This is what it means to do something for the sake of God. This is what I consider to be the most important message of the movie.