Resin Heroes

The urban street wars of sci-fi that never were

One thing I’ve always been interested in with movies and TV is the idea of what creators from the past thought their future was going to be like. It’s like with the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Back in 1968 when writer Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick projected out 33 years into their future they took into account all of the things that were happening around them like sending man into space and then to the moon in just a few short years. To them, if we could do all that just think of all the wonderful things we’d be doing three decades in the future. Surly by 2001 we’d have space stations (correct), corporations would be flying shuttles into space (not in 2001 but this is happening today) and we’d have a colony on the Moon and sending astronauts to Jupiter would be doable (we’re no where near this even today).



But where Clarke and Kubrick looked ahead and saw a wonderful future the creators of some sci-fi films of the 1980s and early 90s thought their futures would be crummy. The producers of the three RoboCop movies, RoboCop (1987), RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 (1993), looked forward a few years in their future and saw nothing but a world of mega corporations and out of control crime engaged in urban warfare with the police.

In the world of RoboCop the future Detroit is dominated by Omni Consumer Products (OCP) who now operates the police department among many things and intentionally keeps them chronically underfunded and understaffed. They see a weak police force as allowing crime to flourish in Detroit giving gangs control of the streets and allowing OCP to sell more things they make like RoboCop and the hulking ED-209 to governments desperate for a solution.

Detroit's finest

Detroit’s finest

In the world of RoboCop it’s like these street gangs are a department of OCP and are indirectly if not directly benefiting the corporate bottom line.

Crime has gotten so bad here that it’s more of urban, guerrilla war between heavily armed gangs and the police dept. And because the criminals are now armed to the teeth with things like machine guns and rocket launchers, the average Detroit beat cop now looks more like a modern day SWAT trooper issued with a combat helmet, body armor and machine guns of their own.

The first RoboCop has a gang lead by Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) blowing the city apart bit by bit and killing as many cops as they can in the process. This benefits OCP by driving up interest in their RoboCop project as well as their plan to create a new Detroit city on the ashes of the old. And in RoboCop 2 the cops are on strike and crime is totally rampant. The streets are ruled by drug pushers who blow up rehab clinics and gangs go around robbing whatever they can without consequences.

Urban combat in Predator 2

Urban combat in Predator 2

RoboCop 2 introduces a new villain, aptly called RoboCop 2, who at the end of the movie battles it out with Detroit’s finest as well as RoboCop too in scenes that are more akin to newscasts from the frontlines of the war in Vietnam than anything else.

Another film that looked forward and saw a it to be a time very bad for the police was Predator 2. That movie takes place in a 1997 Los Angeles where Colombian street gangs engage in an open street war with the police who don’t scare them a bit. They’re afraid of rival Jamaican gangs who like to use knives and machetes to do their dirty work. Here too the police are more like a heavily armed SWAT team with even detectives carrying big laser-aimed handguns.

It’s easy to see why the creators of these films thought their future cities would be full of roving gangs and running shootouts. Back in the late 1980s when these films were being conceived/created there was a sense that crime was out of control with street gangs blasting the streets of cities like LA and Miami. Projecting out from there, thinking about what was going to happen in the next decade or so would lead to a place like that of Detroit in the RoboCop films or Los Angeles in Predator 2.