This is a continuation of the Badass Sci Fi movies of the 80’s series, capturing 1986 and 1987, but make no mistake, the winner of this showdown will be crowned sovereign, monarch, tyrant, and overlord of Badass Sci Fi filmdom.
You may wonder why these two beauties consistently rise to the top of my list. The answer is simple; it’s the humor.
That’s why Blade Runner isn’t ranked higher, and the only reason The Thing isn’t in this championship match. I know, it’s subjective. That’s why they call it a ‘sense’ of humor.
There are no wacky stories about seeing either of these movies, but I do remember my first viewing of each.
I saw Aliens for the first time in an ancient, single screen theater in Chicago. Sitting in the first row of the balcony, I remember being absolutely fucking blown away.
A big, summer release (July 18, 1986), a legendary forerunner, and an acclaimed director; when Aliens came out, everyone was expecting greatness, and it delivered.
A year later, we got Robocop. Though released at the same time of year (July 17, 1987), and doing very well (it beat out Full Metal Jacket in it’s second week), it was an unknown quantity.
Honestly, I remember thinking it looked really cheesy. ‘Part man, Part machine, All cop.’ I like cheese, but I think I went in with a Ghostbusters-ish image.
So, with that in mind, I saw it for the first time in a little duplex cinema called the Villa Italia Twin in Lakewood, Colorado, I believe, on a first date. She was the Howards End type. Needless to say, that was our only date. It didn’t matter, I was in love with Robocop.
Alrighty then, let’s get to it! As you may have noticed, I invited some of the also-rans. Max Rockatansky, R.J. MacReady, and Herbert West will be whispering in my ear as I officiate the bout.
Aliens Versus Robocop!
I’ll be conducting this much as I did the Re-Animator versus The Return of the Living Dead, carrying over many of the same categories. It’s pretty much stream of consciousness. I’m making it up as I go along. I still don’t know who will win.
Robocop received 11 X ratings before finally being released with an R rating.
Tie. Here we go again. But seriously, while I don’t rank either soundtrack among my favorites, if you combined elements from each into one soundtrack, it would be.
Robocop, composed by Basil Poledouris, who crafted the greatest fantasy soundtrack of all time with Conan the Barbarian, has a stronger theme.
Aliens, however, with James Horner’s iconic, militaristic percussion work, is more consistent from scene to scene.
You can listen to Rock Shop from Robocop and Combat Drop from Aliens on the homepage.
I almost had this as another tie, but I gotta go with Robocop. Of course, both movies are chock full of memorable lines and darkly funny moments, but where is humor created?
When we look at Aliens, dialogue and events surrounding a traumatized little girl, whose entire family has been brutally kidnapped, impregnated, and killed by aliens, and a frantic soldier, who sees no hope for the future, provide an ironic, yet rather satisfying, sense of schadenfreude.
On the other hand, Robocop is more overtly satirical. From the commercials, the ‘I’d buy that for a dollar.’ guy, the interview with the Eddie Van Halen lookin’ dude, to just about everything that comes out of Clarence Boddicker’s mouth, Robocop is funnier.
So, piggybacking on the humor category, we find that the quotability factor mostly comes down to battle of one-liners between Hudson and Boddicker…mostly. Then you throw in quips from the likes of Emil, Vasquez, Morton, Apone, Robocop, and Ripley?
Upon further review, I can’t choose. I’m not gonna choose. You can’t make me choose! Game over, bitches.
Aliens. This is a no-brainer. Ripley is sympathetic, strong, and a milestone in female empowerment.
Perhaps intentionally so, Robocop/Alex Murphy is overshadowed by all the evil around him.
Speaking of evil, one of the greatest things about Robocop is its manifold hierarchy of villains.
From the aforementioned Clarence Boddicker, to Bob Morton, up to Dick Jones, there’s a web of really bad people trying to fuck each other over, and it’s awesome.
Aliens in another close call, but I gotta go with the colonial marines, Bishop, Newt, and Burke over Boddicker’s crew and Lewis.
Aliens in yet another close call, but if there’s one thing James Cameron does well, it’s killer vehicles and weapons. We got the Sulaco, armored personnel carriers, drop ships, pulse rifles, and the ultra-cool M56 smart guns.
This takes nothing from ED-209 and the Cobra Assault Cannon. State of the art bang bang.
Sex and Drugs
Robocop is a much naughtier movie. It’s got drugs, and hookers, and all the layers of city scum represented.
On the other hand, for all its viloence and swearing, Aliens‘ core values are obviously family-oriented.
Aliens. The Queen is a truly magnificent piece of craftsmanship.
But I do still have my little ED cap shooter from 1989.
Alright, let’s tally up! (ten points per category)
You gotta be fuckin’ kidding. Alright, Mac, did you bring Palmer? A tie. I guess, based on current rankings, Aliens retains its top spot, and Robocop is a big number two.
Honestly, though, these two films, seen at the most impressionable time of my life, influence me creatively more than any others. The categories above apply not only to them, but to me. They’ll always be 1-2 in my book.
Until next time, prep the drop ship. The revised edition of Opposable is on its way, and Halteres is approaching.