From the title of this article, you might think this is going to be one of the best fan-fiction entries of all time. Actually, I’m going to prove that the films Iron Man and RoboCop (1987) are pretty much the same movie. So whip out your Auto-9 and get ready to take aim at these two great action movies.
Spot the Similarities
Let’s play a game called Spot the Similarities in the plots of Iron Man and RoboCop (Hint: The pictures may help. Click on them to see larger versions). Iron Man starts out with a bang when wealthy businessman Tony Stark is attacked in Afghanistan and hit with shrapnel through his bulletproof vest.
In a flashback, we learn a little about Stark and his salacious lifestyle. Instead of being chauffeured, he prefers to drive himself and he beats his driver to the airport. He flies to Afghanistan to demonstrate a new weapon called the Jericho missile. It’s a big success. Unfortunately, so is the ambush on his military convoy, as we saw at the beginning.
Stark has emergency surgery to save his life and he is horrified when he awakens to discover he has a device hooked up to his chest to keep him alive. He also meets a fellow captive named Yinsen, who refers to Stark as the “walking dead” because he’s not expected to survive for more than a week.
Is any of this starting to sound familiar? Let’s see. RoboCop introduces us to Alex Murphy, a Detroit cop. After arriving at a new precinct, he gets assigned a partner named Anne Lewis. He tells her he prefers to drive, even though it’s her car. After chasing a gang of cop killers to an abandoned steel mill, Murphy is brutally wounded through his bulletproof vest. RoboCop one-ups Iron Man by actually killing Murphy.
Meanwhile, a group of businessmen have a meeting where the antagonist, Dick Jones, gives a failed demonstration of his new invention, a killer robot named ED-209. So a younger executive named Bob Morton steps in and suggests a different approach. His idea gives birth to RoboCop, and Murphy is brought back to life.
At first, RoboCop has no memory of his former life, but once he crosses paths with the men who killed him, he starts to remember a few things. He’s horrified to discover he’s legally dead. He visits his old home and has flashbacks of his family. These help us understand his character better.
Let’s see how many similarities you were able to notice up to this point:
- Both Stark and Murphy were “killed in action” through their bulletproof vests.
- Both movies have flashbacks to help us connect with the main characters.
- Both protagonists are self-sufficient and prefer to be their own drivers.
- A demonstration of military weapons is given in each movie, and where one succeeds, the other fails.
- Both Stark and Murphy have emergency surgery. Murphy dies and Stark survives, but Stark is expected to live for just a week.
- Both men are horrified to learn what has been done to them to keep them alive.
The two movies have a lot in common already. And we’re just getting started.
Returning to Iron Man, Stark is constantly being watched through cameras by the terrorists who are holding him. They demand he build them the Jericho missile he demonstrated earlier, and he sits in front of a fire and tries to figure out what to do to get out of his predicament. He follows Yinsen’s advice and decides to fight fire with firepower.
First, he invents a mini arc reactor to install in his chest and keep him alive and then he gets to work creating a suit to escape in. Yinsen helps Stark get a second chance at life by helping him build the suit. Unfortunately, Yinsen is killed during the escape.
Stark is not happy about this. He immediately takes revenge on Yinsen’s killer, scarring his face with a rocket blast. At last he escapes his prison, only to be greeted by dozens of heavily armed soldiers. At first, Stark (in his iron suit) holds his own against the army, blowing away all the bad guys that stand in his way. But soon their gunfire overpowers him. His knee gets shot and he falls to the ground. But he manages to burn all the weapons in the area and escape by launching himself into the sky with a rocket.
Now let’s make some more connections. RoboCop has a tracking device in his body, and when he’s at rest, cameras and listening devices are constantly monitoring him. At one point he sits near a fire and feels sad he can’t remember his family, and he’s not sure what to do. After that, he gets his targeting system fixed and goes back out to fight the bad guys.
RoboCop, of course, isn’t responsible for building the suit that brings him back to life. Morton, the man who is responsible, is actually a lot like Stark. He’s rude, full of himself and he has a salacious lifestyle outside of work. He gets killed by the same man who killed Murphy, Clarence Boddicker. This definitely upsets RoboCop.
Here’s where the two movies start to feel almost identical. Iron Man’s escape scene echoes three action sequences in RoboCop. The first scene takes place at a gas station where RoboCop encounters one of his murderers. The man distracts RoboCop and blows up the gas station to make his escape. But he’s stopped by a few well-placed bullets. The second scene is at a drug factory where RoboCop kills all the bad guys except Boddicker, who he throws through several windows, severely cutting his face. The third scene is when RoboCop confronts dozens of police officers who’ve been ordered to destroy him. They shoot him hundreds of times. His knee is shot and he has to hobble away until he’s rescued by his former partner Lewis.
Oh, the similarities are piling up, aren’t they? But wait; it gets even better. Just watch.
Getting Down to Business
After his miraculous escape, Stark returns to America and immediately calls a news conference to say two things: He laments not saying goodbye to his deceased father and he is shutting down all weapon production at his company. This sends his company’s stock and leaders into chaos, but we don’t really see either of those take place; we just hear about them.
Thinking he’s stopped the supply of weapons to his enemies, Stark gets down to the business of building a better suit. He asks his secretary, Pepper Potts, to remove his old arc reactor and replace it with an advanced one he just built. She reluctantly does so.
With his new power source in place, Stark begins the redesign process of his Iron Man suit in earnest. He first builds a pair of boots and then flight stabilizers for his hands. In a training montage, he learns to control his flying ability and he later even uses his flight stabilizers as weapons, shooting several windows in his garage.
In the finished suit, we get to see from his perspective. He’s able to lock onto certain items in his garage. The camera does a nice pan around the silver Iron Man suit, slowly moving up to the big reveal of his face. Despite his computer’s apprehensions, Stark takes his new suit out for a test flight. He goes over a Ferris wheel, and spots a kid who is surprised to see him.
Iron Man’s story jumps around quite a bit in RoboCop’s. All the elements are there – they’re just in a different order. So bear with me as we keep going back and forth in RoboCop’s timeline.
When Murphy comes back to life as RoboCop, we see a montage of engineers putting his new robotic body together. Then he arrives at the police station where we get little peeks at his new suit until we finally get a nice reveal of his face. He impresses all the cops and executives with his loud gun and perfect aim on the firing range. Then he grabs a pair of keys and gets down to business fighting crime. He even visits a school where he spends time with a nervous group of kids.
Soon after RoboCop’s debut, Morton holds a news conference to boast that he’s about to rid the city of crime. Despite RoboCop’s success, Detroit’s police force threatens to go on strike because of the unsafe working conditions. When they do strike, the city is plunged into chaos.
Here are the similarities in this section:
- Stark is sad he didn’t get to say goodbye to his father and RoboCop is sad he can’t even remember his family.
- Stark shuts down weapons manufacturing, and Detroit’s police force strikes.
- Both films have a slow reveal of the protagonist’s metal costume. They’re even both silver.
- Both Iron Man and RoboCop test their visual displays by locking onto items.
- Iron Man tests his weapons by destroying windows, and RoboCop shoots down a silhouette on a firing range.
- Both Iron Man and RoboCop startle children.
Stark learns that terrorists in Afghanistan are still receiving Stark Industries weapons, so he confronts his longtime business partner Obadiah Stane about it. Stane represents the Board of Directors. Instead of answering Stark’s question, he says he locked Stark out of the decision-making process of his own company.
Stark decides to take matters into his own hands. With his redesigned Iron Man suit, he goes to Afghanistan and kills the terrorists who are threatening to destroy a village and kill a young boy’s father. When several terrorists hide behind human shields, Iron Man fires several tiny missiles from his shoulders, killing the bad guys while missing the innocents. One of the men who was holding Stark prisoner tries to hide behind a stone wall, but Iron Man punches through it and pulls him out. He even dodges a missile launched from a tank right in front of him.
After returning to his home, Stark is confronted by Potts, who learns he is Iron Man. He asks her to go to Stane’s office and steal information on his illegal arms trafficking. She succeeds, but Stane is now hot on her trail. Stane goes to Afghanistan to get Stark’s first iron suit and kill the man he had hired to kill Stark in the first place.
Unlike Iron Man, RoboCop shows much more of the office politics, instead of just hinting at it. After Morton steals Jones’ thunder in front of the company president, Jones is aiming for revenge. In the executive bathroom, he warns Morton he’s messed with the wrong corporate No. 2. And he backs up his words by sending Boddicker to kill Morton in his home.
RoboCop, meanwhile, travels around the city stopping several crimes. A convenience-store thief (who happens to grab an Iron Man comic off the rack) threatens to kill the shopkeeper’s wife if he doesn’t open a safe. But RoboCop arrives just in time to send the thief flying into a refrigerator. An attempted rapist, when confronted by RoboCop, holds his victim in front of him as a human shield. In a bit of poetic justice, RoboCop aims through the woman’s skirt and maims the man in a sensitive area. The woman is unharmed. At city hall, the former mayor has taken hostages, but before he can kill the current mayor, RoboCop punches through the wall behind him and knocks him out the window.
RoboCop’s old partner Lewis discovers the man under the mask, and she helps him when he’s at his lowest point. She goes to the police station for him and retrieves weapons and other tools he needs to fight the villains.
Did you catch all those similarities? In this section:
- Both Iron Man and RoboCop include high-stakes office politics. Stane is upset with Stark for going over his head and shutting down weapon production, so he shuts Stark out of the Board. Jones is upset with Morton for going over his head with the RoboCop program, so he kills Morton.
- Iron Man saves a boy’s father from being killed, and RoboCop saves a shopkeeper’s wife.
- Both Iron Man and RoboCop find creative ways to get around human shields.
- Both Iron Man and RoboCop punch through a wall to get a bad guy.
- Stark’s assistant discovers his true identity and helps him steal vital information. RoboCop’s former partner discovers his true identity and helps him steal vital tools.
We’re in the home stretch. Both movies are rapidly approaching their climax. Let’s sit tight and see how they both arrive at the same conclusion.
What’s Your Name?
While Potts is away on her errand, Stark is attacked by Stane who uses a paralysis device to immobilize him and steal the mini arc reactor in his chest. Stark barely manages to crawl to his garage and find the original arc reactor to save his life. He quickly suits up and prepares to fight Stane, who now has an Iron Monger suit. Potts narrowly escapes being killed by Iron Monger thanks to Iron Man’s timely arrival.
The two have a rather anticlimactic fight in the street and sky until Iron Man finally gains the upper hand. He crash lands on the roof of his own building and begins to shed some of his armor. But he’s surprised to find Iron Monger is still ready to fight. Iron Monger traps Iron Man in a bear hug, and Iron Man has to deploy flares to escape. He jumps on Iron Monger’s back and rips out the optic wiring (which ruins Monger’s targeting system), but then has his helmet pulled off as he’s thrown and helplessly dangles over a huge arc reactor. Potts overloads the arc reactor’s circuits and wounds Stane, who falls to his death.
Stark survives the clash. The next day he prepares to give an official story about who Iron Man is at a news conference. However, instead of sticking to the fabricated story, he simply says, “The truth is… I am Iron Man.” And he gives a self-confident smile as the credits roll.
After RoboCop learns that Boddicker is working for Jones, he confronts Jones in his high-rise office. However, he’s rendered helpless by a programming glitch that prevents him from arresting OCP executives. Jones then sics ED-209 on the weakened RoboCop, hoping to destroy him. RoboCop is severely damaged, but he gains the upper hand by forcing ED-209 to blow up his own gun. He manages to dodge three of ED-209’s missiles and makes his escape.
But the entire Detroit police force is waiting for RoboCop when he gets to the parking garage. They shoot him with everything they’ve got. He’s saved by Lewis, who drives him to safety in the abandoned steel mill where he was killed. RoboCop removes his helmet to take a look at what he has become, and he spends the rest of the movie helmet-less. Lewis volunteers to help him fix his targeting system, which was damaged during his fight with ED-209.
Meanwhile, Jones meets with Boddicker and pays him to kill RoboCop once and for all. Lewis and RoboCop split up and face off with Boddicker and his cronies. They pick a few of them off, but Lewis is wounded by Boddicker. He’s about to kill her when RoboCop arrives and distracts him. Another bad guy surprises RoboCop by dropping a load of metal beams on him, rendering him helpless, but Lewis fires a large gun at that bad guy, blowing him up. Boddicker tries to kill RoboCop by stabbing him in the chest, but RoboCop responds by stabbing him in the neck.
RoboCop then heads back to OCP headquarters to confront Jones once more. He faces off with ED-209 again, but this time he just uses a big gun to blow it away. He interrupts Jones’ presentation to the Board and gives indisputable evidence of his guilt. The president promptly fires Jones, freeing RoboCop to dispatch him by shooting him several times and knocking him out the window where he falls to his death.
The president is impressed by RoboCop, and he says, “Nice shooting, son. What’s your name?” RoboCop turns and simply responds, “Murphy.” He then smiles, knowing everything that one word implies, and the end credits roll.
Whew! What a wild ride these two movies are. Now that we’ve reached both conclusions, let’s go back and see how they were actually the same conclusion:
- Both Stark and RoboCop are incapacitated by business executives who want to kill them.
- Iron Man dodges a missile from a tank, and RoboCop dodges three missiles from ED-209.
- Stark crawls to his garage to save his life, and RoboCop crawls away from the police onslaught. In both cases, their female companion’s actions save them.
- The final fight with Iron Monger is fairly anticlimactic, like the ones with Boddicker and ED-209.
- Iron Man jumps on Iron Monger’s back and rips out his optic wiring. RoboCop has his targeting system messed up by a blow from ED-209. Iron Monger and ED-209 have the same accuracy when they fire missiles, but at least Stane excuses his poor aim by saying Iron Man ripped out his targeting system.
- In a twist on the RoboCop story, Stane kills the underling he hired to kill Stark instead of buying his services to finish the job, as Jones does with Boddicker.
- Stark saves Potts from being shot by Iron Monger by calling out to him from a distance, and RoboCop saves Lewis from being killed by Boddicker by calling his name while still a long distance away.
- Lewis sacrifices herself for RoboCop in a similar manner as Yinsen for Stark, but the difference is she survives.
- Potts and Lewis each cause a massive explosion at the end to help save the heroes.
- Stane falls to his death after being electrocuted by Potts, and Jones falls to his death after being shot several times by RoboCop.
- Stark smiles slightly after freely admitting he’s Iron Man to a roomful of reporters, and RoboCop smiles warmly after declaring his true identity to a roomful of executives.
Oh, the Irony
So there we have it. Iron Man and RoboCop chart an almost identical course that leads to the same conclusion. Is this just a coincidence? Why have so few people noticed all of these similarities? Maybe it’s because there are enough subtle differences in the characters and story twists that each film is able to stand on its own.
The irony in the case of Iron Man is that RoboCop was directly inspired by the Iron Man comic book and RoboCop was made 21 years before the Iron Man film. So even though Iron Man is a copy of RoboCop, RoboCop was a copy of Iron Man first. It’s kind of like a cinematic version of “I’m My Own Grandpa.” But much more entertaining.
Both of these are great movies in their own right. So what if they’re practically clones? This is the kind of storytelling Hollywood should clone more of.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All photos from Iron Man and RoboCop are the copyright of Paramount Pictures and MGM, respectively.