Paul Verhoeven, Irvin Kershner, Fred Dekker
Repeat, with laws of diminishing returns for ROBOCOP 2 and 3.
It's been probably 15 years since I've seen ROBOCOP. What I remember from watching it as a kid was the brutal violence and action and that hasn't changed. The film is almost cartoon like in its extreme gore and it's still incredibly effective as an action movie. The fights are kinetic, the explosions entertaining and the blood and guts thankfully practical and excessive. Watching Murphy get torn apart by bullets is over the top enough to not turn you off, but still graphic enough to make it a painfully emotional experience for the character.
What I got from the movie this time around was the surprisingly good story and social commentary that embodies it. Director Paul Verhoeven put himself on the Hollywood map with ROBOCOP and turned the tale in to a smart satire as much as it is an action movie. Verhoeven sets up the world with fake ads and news programs, creating a sense of realism and depth that offsets the more sci-fi elements, almost as a precursor to his similar work in the underrated STARSHIP TROOPERS. (It also doesn't hurt that Detroit is still famous for its crime.) The film boasts a surprising message about everything from violence to the media to capitalism to basic humanity, and how all these things intertwine. And it's all wrapped up in a surprisingly light, fast paced and immersive action story.
Peter Weller turns in a fairly nuanced performance for a cyborg as the titular officer, bringing a sense of grace to the movements and soul of the character that would be copied throughout the franchise and even in other mediums. There's also great roles from Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, and future Red Foreman, Kurtwood Smith, who has one of my favorite lines of all time: "Bitches leave."
4 out of 5 stars.
The first sequel loses Verhoeven in the director's chair and the absence is noticeable. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK director Irvin Kershner is a fine filmmaker, but something feels off about the film, especially when watching it in close proximity to the first.
For one, the title character just seems a little goofier in this movie. The more action-heavy story brings about some flaws in ROBOCOP and the effects. Example, he canít really run or make quick movements, making any fluid chase sequences kind of funny. Maybe they were smart in the first film to keep his character more limited to simply shooting and blowing up things. In ROBOCOP 2, the cyborg officer has to emote and deliver lots of dialogue as he wrestles with his humanity and life without his family (which leads to some funny robo-stalking).
For the first third of the movie at least. The emotional conflict is seemingly resolved half an hour in, and the rest of the movie is all action, abandoning any pretense of what came beforeósave for the brief segment where Robocop is replaced by Hippie Robocop for a brief period. I'm not complaining; I'd much rather watch a Robocop movie where he mows down criminals with his giant gun, but the transition between the threads could've been better executed. Blatant sections of the movie are played like cheesy melodrama, other parts like comedies, and the remainder Sh*t Blows Up.
There's still quite a bit to like here. Peter Weller tries hard once again, despite having less to work with. The underrated Tom Noonan makes for a great villain. The evil kid is a delight to watch, as hammy as he is. And the action is fun; the stop motion effects are fairly smooth, but the final fight between the two robots is pretty cheesy. From the drama to the fighting, everything feels more cartoonish and comic book-y than the first film. Of course thatís what you get when you hire Frank Miller, which brings us to the third and final movie.
3 out of 5 stars.
Frank Miller was hired to write ROBOCOP 2 after the success of "The Dark Knight Returns," but a large portion of his work was thrown out or rewritten. However, he was brought back for the third movie and this time it's all Miller through and through. That means a little Asian girl for Robocop to befriend, punk gangs straight out of TDKR, kung fu robots, and plenty of forced humor (Robocop driving a pink pimp car, anyone?) Yeah, ROBOCOP 3 sucks.
The main offense here isn't just that by this point any semblance of the intelligence and satire from Verhoeven's original has been lost, but with a PG13 the only other reason why Robocop was popular is also gone. The movie dials down the blood, the violence and the swearing and the result is a bore.
Peter Weller was smart and opted not to return and the filmmakers try to hide it by having the title character not even show up until over 20 minutes in. And long gone is the intelligent emotional cyborg of ROBOCOP 2; now RC is an ass kicking, one liner spewing badass. There's only one problem with thatóthere's no real action in this movie. Robocop spends most of the running time off screen, bring repaired or hiding underground with the 7 year old girl who can hack in to any computer system on earth. That is until the very end when Robocop somehow manages to fly in on a jetpack and save the day, battling robot twins that give the ones from TRANSFORMERS 2 a run for their money in awfulness.
What's sad is that the material still manages to attract a decent cast, including Rip Torn, Stephen Root, Bradley Whitford and best porn star name ever, CCH Pounder. It also brings down with it MONSTER SQUAD and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS filmmaker Fred Dekker, who has sadly been in director jai ever since. Dammit, Robocop you captured the wrong people.
1.5 out of 5 stars.
Although it boasts a low price for a trilogy, considering the first movie is the only one I would highly suggest owning on Blu-Ray, and this set is devoid of any bonus material whatsoever, it's probably a better idea to just buy the standalone Blu-Ray for the first movie (or the old DVD SE if you want any bonus material).
Extra Tidbit: Michael Ironside was almost cast as Robocop. Let us all take a moment to hope he is once again considered for the remake.