Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: RoboCop Action Figures -- Part Man, Part Machine, All Inappropriate!

Longtime readers know that one of my all-time favorite movies remains the first RoboCop from 1987. As directed by Paul Verhoeven, the film brilliantly juxtaposes the hoary stereotypes of the usual action movie scenarios with a very sharp, very pointy critique of American consumerism and commercialism, all the while weaving in a surprisingly emotional through line about identity and loss. The result is a filmic experience that feels as fresh and insightful today as it did twenty-six years ago when it first played in theaters.

The irony, of course, is in how the success of that first flick spawned exactly the kind of crass commercialization-run-amuck that it was deliberately throwing darts at. As we already discussed in a previous entry, there was the RoboCop cartoon in 1988, and that same year Kenner launched a launched a line of action figures which teamed the titular titanium hero with various other tricked-out law enforcement-types ("Wheels" Wilson! "Birdman" Barnes! Who the hell?) under the unintentionally hilarious title RoboCop and the Ultra Police:


Seriously, that looks like one of the parody commercial we'd see in the movie. 

Of course, I owned that RoboCop figure. I couldn't wait to own it. He came with a removable helmet so you could see the bald, cyborgized Alex Murphy, and he had a space in his back to put a strip of popping caps (to make it as realistic as possible when you riddled the bad guys with bullets, natch). There was also a coterie of original villains (like "Headhunter" and "Nitro"in the spot above) to fill out the line, as well as various Robo-vehicles and dress-up accessories. Oh, and an ED-209 robot, so you could re-enact this scene with your friends:


Kenner's Ultra Police line lasted two, maybe three waves before going away, but that was hardly the end of RoboCop in the merchandising realm, with various other toys showing up in the decades since from different manufacturers (and this also wouldn't be Kenner's last swing at completely inappropriate action figures). With a RoboCop remake in production, you'd better believe that flick will be relying on merchandising up the wazoo. Heck, one of the leaked production shots has the new Robo (Joel Kinnaman) tooling around on a Robo-cycle that looks suspiciously like one that Kenner made:



Hmm. No idea if we can expect a return engagement by "Birdman" or "Wheels," but after seeing that, I don't put anything past 'em!

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