Should I Watch..? 'RoboCop 2'
What's the Big Deal?
RoboCop 2 is a sci-fi action film released in 1990 and is the sequel to the 1987 film RoboCop. Based on a story created by Frank Miller, the film sees RoboCop pitted against a drug baron as well as the attempts by OCP to render him obsolete with a new robot designed to fight crime. The film stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O'Herlihy, Tom Noonan, Belinda Bauer and Gabriel Damon while original director Paul Verhoeven was replaced by Irvin Kerschner, the last time he would direct a feature film. Despite fairly mixed reviews, the film opened to great success and went on to earn around $45.7 million in the US alone. It would eventually be followed by the third and final film in the original trilogy RoboCop 3 in 1993 before a reboot appeared in 2014.
What's It About?
Murphy's success in the role of RoboCop means that Omni Consumer Proucts (OCP) can turn its attention to its grandest scheme yet - forcing the city of Detroit to declare bankruptcy and allowing OCP to buy out the entire city before redeveloping it in the corporate styling of Delta City which would be completely independent of the US Government. In an attempt to rally public opinion behind them, OCP (who own the police force) terminate pensions and cut salaries which forces the cops to go on strike - resulting in a massive spike in street crime.
Meanwhile, OCP are also trying to replace RoboCop with a newer model as the remains of Alex Murphy are proving too costly to repair. Unable to strike, Murphy and his partner Lewis raid a manufacturing plant developing a deadly new designer drug called Nuke which is distributed by the criminal Cain and his gang. But with no back-up, Murphy and Lewis are hopelessly out-gunned and before long, they find themselves in a dangerous predicament...
The Old Man
Dr Juliette Faxx
Frank Miller & Walon Green *
Release Date (UK)
12th October, 1990
Action, Crime, Sci-Fi
What's to Like?
Anyone who felt that the first film was a little slow might take heart from the fact that RoboCop 2 ups the ante considerably. The film is just as violent and gory as before and the climatic battle between Murphy and his upgraded model is well worth staying around for. There is more scope for the story which doesn't spend too long dwelling on the man-vs-machine issues and kicks the film off as it means to go on.
Thankfully, there isn't too much distillation of the satirical aspects of the first film either. From fake commercials to the ever-psychotic behaviour of OCP executives, the film isn't afraid of poking fun at the same targets as before - excessive consumption, corporate irresponsibility and the perils of bureaucracy. However, the film has a darker tone overall thanks largely to Damon's appearance as the child criminal Hob who aims to follow in Cain's power-hungry footsteps. Damon gives the film an edge that makes this a more adult proposition than the first film. RoboCop's dismemberment at the hands of Cain's vicious gang also pushes the film into darker territories.
- The film gained a degree of notoriety after it successfully predicted the city of Detroit going bankrupt. The city did indeed declare itself bankrupt on July 18th, 2013 with debts estimated to be between $18-$20 billion.
- After Paul Verhoeven declined to return to the director's chair (instead preferring to direct 1990's Total Recall), one of the candidates to replace him was legendary comics writer Alan Moore. Moore refused due to his intense dislike of Hollywood.
- Some of RoboCop's many new directives include: No. 245: If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't talk. No. 250: Don't walk across a ballroom floor swinging your arms. No. 262: Avoid Orion meetings. Orion, of course, was the distributor for the film who later filed for bankruptcy themselves.
What's Not to Like?
The trouble with ramping up the action is the tragic demise of the storyline and RoboCop was always about more than the action. The debate about how much of Murphy is still alive as RoboCop is pretty much ignored in favour of shoot-outs and car chases. We get a token gesture in the form of brief flashbacks to Murphy's old life but nothing much comes from it. Worse still, Murphy seems to have reverted back to the monotone machine he was when first activated with no sign of the humanity he had found by the end of the first film.
The film's overall story gives little for any of the cast to do which makes them look disinterested (with the exception of Damon) and makes the film itself feel dull. The storyline also doesn't offer as much of the satirical edge the first film had, reducing the franchise to that of a generic sci-fi shooter like the later films in the Terminator franchise. The first film had real intelligence and thought behind it whereas the only brains found in this film tend to be splattered all over the walls and floors. It's a shame, but not surprising, that the subtleties of the first film are missed by this trigger-happy sequel which does nothing to further the original story, characters or reputation of the series.
Should I Watch It?
Even more extreme than Verhoeven's bloody original, RoboCop 2 has none of the smarts of the first film and less of the charm. It's a dark, violent and ultimately forgettable shooter with gimmicky sci-fi elements tacked on to make it stand out. Giving the cast nothing to do but shoot the baddies, the film fails to explore the philosophical elements of the RoboCop character (is it man or machine, etc.) and instead puts him to work blowing stuff up. A real pity.
Great For: action fans, the easily confused, lovers of Robot Wars
Not So Great For: fans of the original film, younger viewers, the squeamish
What Else Should I Watch?
I suspect that this film is part of the reason why people often overlook the original RoboCop. Nobody expects it to have such a brilliant screenplay which offers the viewer a more fulfilling experience than that of a simple action picture like this. It also has Weller delivering a good performance as Murphy who finds himself resurrected against his will into the famous shiny metal suit. Whereas this film and the more family-friendly RoboCop 3 feel little more than commercial cash-ins with little thought or interest in the characters.
When the reboot arrived in 2014, comparisons with the original were unavoidable. The general consensus is that this new RoboCop fell short although it wasn't a complete bust. The film benefitted from better effects, a stronger cast and still retained some satirical elements that were missing from the two sequels. With global earnings of more than $242 million (far more than the first three film achieved), it's no surprise that a sequel is apparently in development. Personally, I'd either stick with the first film or the first two Terminator films which are bigger, better and punchier.
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© 2017 Benjamin Cox