RoboCop 2

RoboCop 2Synopsis: Robocop returns to fight his toughest opponent yet: his replacement! Filled with “explosions and hundreds of thousands of rounds fired by automatic weaponry” (Variety), Robocop 2 pits two unstoppable cyborgs against each other in a battle to the death that will leave only the strongest standing!

When Detroit’s decent into chaos is further compounded by a police department strike and a new designer drug called “Nuke,” only Robocop can stop the mayhem. But in his way are an evil corporation that profits from Motor City crime and a bigger and tougher cyborg with a deadly directive: Take out Robocop. Containing the latest gadgetry and weaponry as well as the brain of the madman who designed “Nuke,” this new cyborg isn’t just more sophisticated than his predecessor…he’s psychotic and out of control! And it’s going to take everything Robocop has – maybe even his life – to save Detroit from complete and utter anarchy.

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RoboCop 2 6.0

eyelights: the social commentary and satire.
eyesores: its rehashed, déjà vu flavour – but less good. the poor script. the weak performances.

“I’m… having… trouble.”

RoboCop‘ was one of the most memorable box office hits of 1987: it had a unique hero, exciting action sequences, a thought-provoking setting, and a wonderful script full of humour and social commentary. Naturally, the producers decided that they had a cash cow on their hand and proceeded to milk it.

Thus we have ‘RoboCop 2’.

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems to me that milking a “half-man, half-machine, all cop” would produce -at the very  least- unusual results. It feels like a one-shot deal to me, so I would be wary to try to get more out of a satirical number such as that one. Heck, it’s probably why I waited so long to see it.

And, when I finally did see it, nearly a decade after its original release, I was unimpressed. It was okay, but it didn’t have the grit of the original. It certainly didn’t stimulate the imagination or the intellect like its predecessor did. So I promptly forgot all about it, aside for the fact that Irvin Kershner had directed it.

Yes, THAT Irvin Kershner.

Kershner, as everyone well knows, is the director of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. That alone gives any sci-fi fan hope that ‘RoboCop 2’ might be a quality picture. But one would have to forget that he also made interesting but imperfect efforts of the liked of ‘The Eyes of Laura Mars’ and ‘Never Say Never Again‘.

Yes, THAT ‘Never Say Never Again’.

It’s hard to say how much creative control Kershner had on this movie, versus how much he had on the ‘Star Wars’ sequel, but it’s clear that he wasn’t the only influence on set. ‘RoboCop 2’ was also under the influence of none other than Frank Miller, who had been hired to write the screenplay for the picture.

Yes, THAT Frank Miller.

At the time, Miller was hot off the success of ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and his run on ‘Daredevil’, so it’s not surprising that he was approached for this. This alone makes the mind water (!). But let’s not forget that Miller also has a spotty record since then: for every ‘Sin City’ he has ‘The Spirit‘. Or ‘ The Dark Knight Strikes Again’.

In all fairness, the script that he wrote was apparently considered impossible to make by the filmmakers and it ended up being whittled down to a shadow of its former self – so much so that it was later adapted into a comic book series that contained every aspect of the film he had originally intended to make.

And which was also heavily panned by critics.

Because, yes, reviews for ‘RoboCop 2’ were scathing; even its lead actors were disappointed with the end result (with star Peter Weller saying that the script lacked the previous one’s soul). It also didn’t exactly light up the box office in comparison, garnering fewer ticket sales on two and half times the budget.

‘RoboCop 2’ finds our titular hero fighting both OCP, who have conspired for Detroit to default on its debt so that they may take it over, and a drug-lord named Cain, who pushes a highly addictive new drug called Nuke. RoboCop must also contend with a dramatic rise in criminal activity, and a police strike.

And, to make matters worse, a new RoboCop.

‘RoboCop 2’ is filled with a few decent ideas as well as a host of trite ones – all of which are poorly developed. It suffers from an unimaginative, immature script, surprisingly sloppy direction, astonishingly amateurish performances, careless editing, a nondescript score, cheap-looking sets and even terrible lighting.

A perfect example of how crappily-made ‘RoboCop 2’ is a scene when RoboCop chases after Cain on a motorcycle, with every cut showing him in a different pose (sometimes sitting normally, other times sitting with his knees bent, and another time he was actually standing. Yes, standing). Un-frickin-believeable!

In short, it ain’t great.

The picture essentially takes the framework of the original film and runs ramshackle with it, giving us more (but less inspired) satire, like a Magna Volt car alarm ad (a stupid and impractical product for all too many reasons) and news items like an Amazon nuclear reactor meltdown, ED-209 malfunction and murder of the Surgeon General.

…who was assassinated just 40 minutes beforehand, and yet is only the third news item.

Then we discover that the police are on strike because OCP,  who still owns and runs the force has implemented a 40% pay cut. Interesting idea, but it seems unlikely that this would stand given that the public outcry would be so strong. Meanwhile the crime rate has skyrocketed, which seems unlikely with RoboCop around.

But RoboCop is haunted by memories of his past life as Alex Murphy so he drives by his wife’s new home, unknowingly tormenting her. She decides to sue OCP because she is having difficulty moving on with him around to remind her of her loss. She later confronts him directly but the interaction is cheesy and rather unlikely.

There’s a scene that’s tied to this which has an OCP lawyer and an OCP exec interrogating RoboCop on the matter, with one of them brusquely asking him whether he believes he’s human or machine. It could have been a good way to discuss the question in greater depth than in the first picture, but it was merely confrontational here.

Meanwhile, prototype models of the next generation of RoboCops (dubbed imaginatively “RoboCop 2” – Hey, just like the movie! Wow!) are being unveiled at OCP, but there are consistent problems with them. You’d think that they’d test these things before showing them to “the old man”, but apparently they don’t.

RoboCop eventually gets wind of Cain and finds him through a corrupt cop who sloppily led him to the drug lord’s HQ at a disaffected factory. He somehow escapes his car before it explodes on a landmine (not sure quite how, since he walks so slowly and makes noise… but next he’s just standing there around the corner).

But, despite his magical ability to teleport from his car (probably a skill he learned from Jason Voorhees), he somehow gets captured by Cain and is taken apart – in a sequence so patently absurd that it is cringe-worthy. Naturally, Cain and his crew don’t destroy him (that would be too efficient): they only mutilate him.

RoboCop gets rebuilt and reprogrammed by OCP after much delay, so that the crime rate can increase in the meantime, giving the city incentive to get RoboCop 2. Once reprogrammed, he’s ineffective because they added too many directives into him; now he wants to talk things through first and gets taken advantage of.

…by kids.

Yes, kids. Pre-teen hooligans.

Speaking of which, one of the main villains is a child. After Cain is taken out of commission, this young boy, Hob, takes over the business. He doesn’t get any push-back from anyone in the gang and runs things like a pro. It’s hard to take him seriously to start with, but it does the picture no favours, turning it into a caricature.

Inevitably, Hob dies after the new RoboCop 2 Crime Prevention Unit (using Cain’s brain) goes on a killing spree. The kid’s death scene was super cheesy: RoboCop finds him in a truck and they have a horrific exchange that made me want to projectile vomit – which was not at all helped by the two actors’ putrid performances.

The worst offenders of the bunch, though, are Belinda Bauer as Dr. Juliette Faxx, the woman in charge of the RoboCop 2 project, who can’t deliver a line worth her life, and Willard E. Pugh, who stinks up the screen as the mayor by being in a constant fit of hysteria. He is essentially a dialed-up  cartoon character come to life. In a ‘RoboCop’ movie.

Ugh.

The rest of cast wasn’t exactly stellar, but I was still disappointed with Peter Weller for his rendition of RoboCop here. This time, he over-roboticizes his movements and overdoes the robot voice. Also too many robot sounds are heard when he moves around, and RoboCop seemed really clunky this time, almost like a ’50s robot.

‘RoboCop 2’ is no better. Granted, it moves better than ED-209, but it’s impractical, like a cheap Michael Bay-style Transformer. When it gets unveiled to the media, it lacks any credibility. Naturally, it goes on a rampage, mowing everyone down indiscriminately. But we aren’t convinced one bit by what we are seeing as it’s so stupid.

That whole scene was a total joke: OCP is taking over Detroit and holding a new conference to show off a mock-up of the new city they’ll be building – featuring at most two dozen buildings crammed together. Wow. Talk about some terrific city planning! As a build-up to the end of the picture, this looks pretty damned lame.

One thing that was interesting in that scene, however, was when “the old man” is questioned by the press about the undemocratic aspect of a corporation owning a city, and he retorts: “Anyone can buy our stock. What could be more democratic?”. With capitalism and democracy being used interchangeably since 9/11, this strikes a nerve.

Sadly, this is where we’re headed: a total bastardization of democratic principles, where the ability to consume equates personal freedom and democracy. I wish that the film had explored this concept more, but it’s just a quick quip in an otherwise bloated film. I’m not quite sure that the message is being conveyed here.

And this is a recurring problem in ‘RoboCop 2’: There were also plenty of opportunities to discuss the dangers of using robotics for law enforcement, what with the consistent ED-209 mishaps, the RoboCop 2 prototype issues, and RoboCop being reprogrammed inefficiently. But, alas, this is sidelined for cheap thrills of the moronic kind.

In the end, RoboCop tells his partner Lewis (who is barely around in this film, and mostly incidentally), “Patience, Lewis, we’re only human”, after she comments about OCP getting off Scott free. Obviously this was a set up for another sequel, yet one can’t help but wonder if this couldn’t also serve as some form of apology from the filmmakers.

Or, to borrow from “the old man” himself, “This could look bad. Scramble the best spin team we have.”

Date of viewing: April 17, 2015

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