Peter Weller  Murphy/RoboCop
Tom Noonan Cain
Willard Pugh Mayor Kuzak
Belinda Bauer Dr. Faxx
Nancy Allen Anne Lewis
Daniel O'Herlihy Old Man
Felton Perry Johnson
Robert Do'Qui Sergeant Reed
Gabriel Damon Hob

Directed by Irvin Kershner. Screenplay by Walon Green and Frank Miller . 1990. Running time: 118 Minutes.

jul1.jpg (19327 bytes)Recently I watched Robocop 2 on late-night TV again. Don’t ask why. It was just one of those evenings one hangs around without anything much better to do. Of course, the question with Robocop 2 is what went wrong? The original 1987 Robocop directed by Paul (Total Recall, Starship Troopers) Verhoeven was a brilliant, funny, nasty, violent, nihilistic, even exhilarating piece of work. Its sequel, well, it was just nasty, violent and nihilistic. Something went wrong obviously.

But what was it? Robocop 2’s credentials seemed impeccable. After all, it was directed by Irving Kershner whose Empire Strikes Back was to many even better than its predecessor, Star Wars. And it was written by Frank Miller who is a bit of a legend in the comics world having written the excellent revisionist Batman comic The Dark Knight Returns (which later inspired Tim Burton’s Batman movie) amongst others. The film also featured most of the original cast as well: Paul (Naked Lunch, Screamers) Weller and Nancy Allen both reprised their original roles. So what went wrong?

Here’re some thoughts:

The film suffers from sequelitis. The story has been told already so what else is there to do except retell it? Few sequels overcome this problem – Robocop 2 isn’t one of them. Besides, how much can one do with a half man-machine cop? The film throws in an early sequence where Robocop hangs around the neighbourhood where his wife and child are staying. Obviously he misses them, but being a cybernetic piece of corporate property obviously makes any normal relationship impossible. What happens? Does he get used to the idea? Finds a refrigerator to fuck, as one character in probably the movie’s only genuinely funny moment tells him to do? Commits suicide? Goes mad with grief? The film takes up this subplot and goes nowhere with it. When the film ended abruptly my wife turned to me and asked ‘so what about his wife and child?’

Nasty and nihilistic are the two words that pop up most. There’s the dubious morality of having a 12-year-old boy playing a viscous drug pusher bad guy. (What are younger kids who sees the movie on video or late night TV going to make of that?!) And one really hates the little shit. He’s a bad piece of work, really bad. Nothing a good hiding or swift execution won’t solve, but still . . . Sure, this is a social problem as the James Bulger case, the two trigger happy kids in Arkansas and children bearing AK-47s in brutal African and Asian conflicts illustrates.

In some circumstances innocence is yanked away from children – or they can be just as cruel shits as their adults. That is true. But is this the type of movie in which to address this issue? I don’t think so – especially when Hollywood shows its hypocrisy by having said über-brat die off-screen at the hands of an ever badder baddie (the Robocop 2 of the title) and is allowed a compassionate death scene with Robocop. This is something that all the other bad guys in the movie aren’t permitted – they all die violently and bloodily instead. Worse still, what are kids supposed to make of that?

The idea of Robocop being pitted against an even deadlier foe than before is called ‘concept-driven’ in Hollywood but old hat by everyone else. After all, it worked for Terminator 2 – Judgment Day, Superman II and every single opponent they dreamt up for poor old Rocky to fight in all those endless sequels. Here the idea works to a point: the new Robocop 2 is one mean mother that looks like a steroid-injected Swiss army knife on two legs packing half the fire power of the entire US Army. However, while the effects are competent (the stop-motion effects look slightly dated today) the final battle between the two adversaries isn’t as spectacular as one had hoped for. Nor as thrilling. Part of the problem is that this bad guy is only brought into the movie more halfway through its running time. The story lacks focus.

There are lots of other things wrong with Robocop 2 – and I won’t even go into what went wrong with Robocop 3! This series went from good to mediocre to bad in three movies and unsurprisingly, while there are people clamouring for all kinds of sequels (for anything from the now defunct Back To The Future franchise to another Jurassic Park movie), I have never heard of anybody hoping for another Robocop movie. Sequels should be better thought out than Robocop 2 and 3. When Robocop says ‘after all, we’re only human’ right at the end of the first sequel it sounds like an apology for the film’s producers. Yeah, greed is a very human trait . . .


Copyright © July 1998  James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page





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