The Big Engine That Couldn’t: Why RoboCop‘s Hopeless ED-209 is One of the All-Time Great Movie Robots

I saw José Padilha‘s new remake of Paul Verhoeven‘s classic sci-fi satire RoboCop the other night. It reminded me of what it feels like when someone with a pleasantly melodic voice covers a song by Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan: It’s technically “better” in all the ways that don’t matter, and worse in all the ways that count.

I’ll be discussing the picture later this week in the first of a series of posts I’m going to be writing for my pal Linda Holmes over at NPR’s Monkey See about… remakes! But first, this little ditty for my man Alan Scherstuhl at the Village Voice, about how the brilliant animator and visual effects artist Phil Tippett created my favorite performance in the 1987 RoboCop: the dysfunctional robot ED-209.

UPDATE: A reader located and sent me a link to the Starlog magazine photo I reference in the piece. And that reader turned out to be Rolling Stone senior writer Brian Hiatt, whose stuff I’ve been reading for years. “Pretty neat,” as patrolman Alex Murphy might say.

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