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RoboCop by Ed Naha
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I'm not sure how prevalent film novelizations are these days , but I was always fascinated by them when growing up in the 80s and 90s because of the differences between them and the films they are meant to describe. These differences are usually due to the fact that the author adapting the film must do so from an early draft of the screenplay, which can become dated when production (and even post-production) decisions alter the shooting script significantly. Because of this, novelizations will often feature additional scenes, more characters, alternate dialogue, and possibly extra back-story, that either didn't get filmed or survive the final cut. The novelization of RoboCop shares these idiosyncrasies to such an extent that it feels like a different film not just in content, but also in scope and tone.

(For a great reference regarding the differences between the RoboCop script itself and the film, check out the wiki page at http://RoboCop.wikia.com/wiki/RoboCop_script)

From the start, the first three chapters of the book are new material for the filmgoer, documenting the death of Fredrickson and his fellow cops (referenced by the opening news and locker room scenes in the film) and giving a brief glimpse into Alex Murphy's family life (referenced only through flashbacks in the film). These chapters not only offer some additional back-story, but also hint at or setup some plot threads most likely dropped for pacing and simplicity. Lunar homesteading is introduced early on, so that later after Murphy's death his wife and child don't just leave the family house, they actually vacate the planet, leaving post-rebirth Murphy truly alone. It's also revealed that Clarence Boddicker and his gang are responsible for the death of Fredrickson and the others, and Emil's numbering of the police corpses with spray paint foreshadows the future revelation that Boddicker has been killing cops at the behest of Dick Jones in order to drum up support for his ED 209 project.

These and other differences between the novel and film aren't trivial, as many of them lend to a deeper understanding of the plot, and also effectively change the overall tone. There are a lot more children in the novel, for example, playing up the idea that this gritty, violent action film is marketing itself towards a younger audience. RoboCop's first act of peacekeeping at the convenience store, for example, includes young Danny, who is taken hostage by the robber, saved by RoboCop, and ends the scene by offering to pay for the candy bar he stole when first introduced. (I also found it interesting that the safe obscured by beer cans in the film is hidden behind a winking 3D portrait of Jesus in the novel, but that's just me.) The RoboCop playground visit seen briefly in the film's news footage gets its own chapter in the novel with addition kiddy interaction, and - my personal favorite - RoboCop's arrival at the police station is initially witnessed by a group of children "hurling cats back and forth." RoboCop is even friendly with young lawbreakers; while searching for Boddicker's crew, he happens upon some teenagers stripping a car, but assures them - after some extremely threatening interrogation - that he isn't interested in arresting them, only in tracking down Boddicker.

Which leads to the fact that RoboCop acts much more human after his self-realization as the slain Alex Murphy. This is partly because author Ed Naha is able to do something that the film can't: get directly into Murphy/RoboCop's head. We're not only privy to Murphy's dying thoughts (which ties into the death of his father, explored briefly in chapter one), but we spend two chapters witnessing Murphy's mental state as he life slowly fades away and his consciousness is transformed into RoboCop. We still follow the structure of the film's creation montage, but it is all from Murphy/RoboCop's point of view, showing us his loss of self and reprogramming. Then, when RoboCop discovers his origins, we are able to witness the slow return of Murphy's personality, including his rediscovery not only of humor, but dark humor, quipping to himself in ways he never does on screen. He becomes so much more human than in the film that by the time he has his final showdown with Boddicker, where in the film he kills Boddicker in self defense, the novel has RoboCop skip a few prime directives by refusing Boddicker's surrender and literally punching his head off instead of arresting him. Oh, and he gets a dog.

A brief note on RoboCop's prime directives: When Morton has RoboCop state his prime directives before his introduction, the film has RoboCop recite the first three, then shows the fourth classified one flash silently on his display. In the novel, however, RoboCop actually recites the fourth one, "Directive four is classified." Whether or not this is intentional, the lack of response from Morton indicates that he is more likely than not aware of the fourth directive, which means it is a corporate safeguard, whereas Dick Jones' reveal of the fourth directive in the film implies that it was placed there by him surreptitiously. Also interesting, there is a moment during RoboCop's installation at the precinct when Morton and Johnson seem to temporarily switch identities - which until that moment are identical to the film - with Morton remarking that the rudimentary paste tastes like baby food, and Johnson cursing out one of the scientists. Dick Jones is also more malevolent in the book; he actually spits in Morton's face during their bathroom confrontation. I think I was as shocked as Morton.

The most unusual thing about the novel is that the tone is almost equally darker and lighter than the film. The violence is much more explicit than the film in many cases (the description of Emil's toxic waste meltdown in the novel makes the film's rendition seem almost comical), to the point where the novel's Detroit seems far scarier than the film's effective dystopian visage. Instead of waiting for Boddicker to find them, RoboCop and Lewis defy the police strike and head into the streets to restore some peace, with a higher body count ensuing when Boddicker's gang attacks them while they are trying to disperse some looters. There's also more cruelty to animals, with the aforementioned cat-tossing, and some dog-hunting by Boddicker's crew. (There's even a pet-shop demolition during the riots in the original screenplay that doesn't even make it into the novel).

But then again, RoboCop befriends the surviving dog, and Boddicker even takes the time to rescue a siamese cat after shooting out Morton's kneecaps and leaving him a live hand grenade. And dark comedic moments in the film, such as the hostage negotiations with the crazed councilman, are extended and more blatantly comical. Even the novel's opening and closing chapters, featuring Murphy and RoboCop both staring off into the night, are more sentimental and hopeful than the film's bleak cityscape opening and jarring finale cut to credits.

Overall, when you go into the RoboCop novelization, you aren't just reading the author's take on the screenplay, you are witnessing the movie that might have been, for better or for worse, if film production wasn't such a fluid undertaking.
Other minor differences that either interested or amused me personally:

*Both of the clashes between Boddicker's Gang and Murphy/RoboCop/Lewis take place at night and at different locations, as opposed to the film's repetition of the daytime steel mill location for both sequences.

*T.J. Lazer is referenced numerous times through the novel, while Bixby "I'll buy that for a dollar!" Snyder becomes less of a running gag with only one or two mentions.

*Ed Naha uses the term 'Brobdingnagian' in a RoboCop novelization, widely misinterpreting his target audience.

*The man that robs the convenience store specifically selects an issue of Anal Lesbians in Heat for purchase before demanding the money from the register.

*During the attempted rape sequence, RoboCop saves the female hostage by calculating a ricochet off a nearby wall and shooting the rapist in the back of the head. The film opted for the through-the-dress-crotch-shot instead (which is, ultimately, much more satisfying), but the ricochet takedown comes back in RoboCop 2.

*Futuristic gas-station pump.

*The fist-spike data port that RoboCop eventually stabs Boddicker with seems to have been an afterthought (possibly inspired during development of the suit), as the novel only describes it as a non-menacing thin metallic strip.

*During RoboCop's tour of his abandoned home, the electronic salesman mentions something called Masterbudget Financing. "...your earning power is your equity. We manage your income so that you can manage your life." An interesting glance at another aspect of the corporate takeover of society, with the bank actually taking control (and presumably ownership) of an individual's financial powers in exchange for housing.

*Dialogue differences are sure to occur with rewrites and actor contributions, but Boddicker's "Okay sluts, take a hike" in the novel highlights how perfectly Kurtwood Smith replaces that in the film with "Bitches leave."

*When the police refuse to open fire on RoboCop with the swat unit, peripheral character Starkweather takes the time to mutter "Perch and rotate, slimemold," to the Lieutenant.

*When RoboCop's eye is revealed through his cracked visor during the ED 209 battle, it is implied that the computer displays are actually projected onto the inside of the visor, while the film ends up showing it as an internal display.

*The are several references to RoboCop running in the novel, especially during climactic battle, which points to the author's unawareness of the RoboCop suit's lack of mobility in the finished film.

*News item not in the film: "It was revealed today by doctors at the Texas Clone Institute that Hollywood immortal Sylvester Stallone died yesterday during an unsuccessful brain transplant. A longtime supporter of bio-engineering, Stallone was ninety-seven. His last film, Rambo 38: Old Blood, will be released posthumously next month."

*Did I mention that RoboCop gets a dog? ( )
  smichaelwilson | Oct 4, 2016 |
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The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what will sell. --Confucius (c. 551-479 B.C.)
The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots. --Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Man--a being in search of meaning. --Plato (427?-347 B.C.)
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For Kate and Kiah
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He was a cop.
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Murphy was a good cop. He had the toughest beat in the toughest precinct, in a tough city. He had a fine family, good friends, and a new partner. Then a bunch of lowlifes blew him away.

Only Murphy didn't completely die. He cam back in a body of steel--big, invincible, and deadly...back to the streets where the bad guys ruled. But no more. Behind the badge is a cop that can't be killed. A super cop out to find the punks who shot him. And stop crime. Dead.
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