Something of an old-fashioned allegorical sci-fi drama, ROBOCOP 2 appears to be aimed at those moviegoers who stayed away from the original ROBOCOP because they were turned off by its futuristic nihilism. But that doesn't mean Robocop has gone completely soft in the sequel, which not only offers a plot that is all but a clone of its predecessor, but also features most of the original cast. However, it is the style and tone imposed on the film by director Irvin Kershner that most distinguish the sequel from the Paul Verhoeven-directed original. The shift in tone also has much to do with the Frank Miller-Walon Green script. Comic-book writer Miller's "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" was a key inspiration for BATMAN, and screen veteran Green's long list of credits includes such genre classics as THE WILD BUNCH and THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLES. The result of this
collaboration between old-timers and young Turks is an offbeat but engaging effort that brings a little unruly personality to what could easily have been just another noisy, by-the-numbers retread. A sly, self-mocking sense of humor is apparent even in ROBOCOP 2's title, which identifies both the film's sequel status and its hero. And what a fantastic nightmare creation Robocop 2 is. Controlled by the drug-addled brain of a master criminal, it is a hulking, mechanized killer that packs the
firepower of a small army. Stuffed with enough subplots and characters for three normal movies, the film is almost as feverishly whacked out as its title character. Until its climax a thundering battle royal between Robocops 1 and 2 the plot is structured like an old-fashioned action-adventure
serial, which may reflect Miller's comic-book sensibilities. Elegantly punctuated by what is probably Green's hardboiled dialog, cliffhanger endings segue each "episode" into the next. As a result of this serial-like structure, the film plays like three sequels in one. Unfortunately, ROBOCOP 2 staggers rather than builds to its climax; however, the film's structure accommodates intriguing detours and digressions that deepen its characters and mood.
As in the first film, Robocop is still patrolling the streets of Detroit for a police force that is under the control of Omni Consumer Products (OCP). That business conglomerate's CEO (Daniel O'Herlihy) commissioned the building of Robocop from the remains of murdered Detroit patrolman Alex Murphy in the first film after OCP's first attempt to build a robot policeman failed because of the prototype's lack of humanness. Now, OCP finds their present model hampered by memories of his human past, and the conglomerate's brain trust decides that a "new, improved" model must be more
efficient and controllable. The problem is that psychologist Juliette Faxx (Belinda Bauer), who is assigned to build the new Robocop, is herself on the unstable side. She turns to Death Row to find a human heart for Robocop 2 on the theory that condemned inmates will kill more readily than cops and will be more inclined to follow orders out of gratitude for the chance to live forever. On the streets, the original Robocop has become a one-android army waging a war against a super-addictive illicit drug, Nuke, whose marketing, manufacture, and distribution are controlled by master criminal
Cain. In time, Robocop manages to destroy a Nuke factory and stage a raid on Cain's headquarters, which looks like the same abandoned chemical plant that was master criminal Boddicker's HQ in the first film. However, like Murphy in the first film, Robocop is captured, tortured, and dismembered by Cain and his gang, which includes 12-year-old second-in-command Hob (Gabriel Damon). OCP reluctantly renovates Robocop. But, in response to community pressure, Faxx overloads Robocop's memory with so many "socially conscious" directives that he is unable to fight crime effectively. In the wake of a police strike and Robocop's failure to get the job done, a cry goes up for the new, more ruthless robot that is in the works at OCP. Sensing his problem, Robocop plugs himself into a handy fuse box, frying the extraneous programming. He then leads a contingent of striking cops in an attack on
Cain's headquarters. Cain is captured by Robocop but injured in the process, and Faxx decides that the maniacal drug addict is the perfect choice to provide the "soul" for Robocop 2. The new robot proves his murderous mettle by breaking up a meeting between the Detroit mayor and Cain's old gang,
now run by Hob. Only the mayor escapes with his life to identify Robocop 2 as the killer, setting the stage for the battle between Robocops 1 and 2.
Director Kershner is no stranger to sequels. His past works include THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and THE RETURN OF A MAN CALLED HORSE. Yet Kershner's filmmaking roots are in the 50s, when socially responsible themes were as important as plots and characters. Verhoeven, by contrast, didn't begin working
on feature films until a decade or so after Kershner got his start. Though ROBOCOP and ROBOCOP 2 share a bleak vision of the future, there is a distinct difference in the films' underlying attitudes that is the result of a cinematic generation gap between Kershner and Verhoeven. Tellingly, the bloodshed in the sequel is more horrifying than that in the original because of Kershner's more empathetic approach to his characters. He makes us care about everyone in the film, so that when they are destroyed, we feel their loss. On the other hand, even Verhoeven's main players are caricatures.
The only fully human characters in the original film are Murphy--whose murder was recut to fend off a dreaded MPAA X rating--and his partner, Lewis (Nancy Allen), who is present in the sequel, though underutilized. While Verhoeven may have a firmer grip on what audiences want to see today, as evidenced by his 1990 box-office triumph TOTAL RECALL, it is reassuring to know that angry old men like Kershner are still around and employable. We may learn something from them yet. And if Verhoeven's work is in any way a harbinger of movies to come, we had damn well better. (Extreme violence,
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: Something of an old-fashioned allegorical sci-fi drama, ROBOCOP 2 appears to be aimed at those moviegoers who stayed away from the original ROBOCOP because they were turned off by its futuristic nihilism. But that doesn't mean Robocop has gone completely s… (more)