By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Tom Noonan, Dan O’Herlihy, Gabriel Damon, and Belinda Bauer
When looking at the fact that Robocop did in fact have a sequel, one must assume that the first one was a smash hit. But that is actually not the case. $53 million domestically is nothing to sneeze at. But Robocop (as outlined in my review of it) was a different sort of action film than what had come before it, and it took awhile for people to warm up to it. It had such a biting satire that trying to sequelize it would have been like serving a pig in a blanket to a lion. It would give maybe a bit of satisfaction, but the size and scope of what came before it would loom too large to gratify the majority of the first film’s followers. Robocop 2 has all the indications of a film that had no idea of what made the first film so successful. Sure, they brought in scab writer Frank Miller to try to bring the same sleazy aesthetic that the first film had. But you, Mr. Miller, are no Verhoeven. And the resulting product is a complete laborious mishmash of ideas that had a few moments of decent action. But overall, it comes up way short of not only being a decent sequel to Robocop, but also an enjoyable stand-alone film.
If you look at where Robocop the character is when this film starts, I don’t think it’s that far off from where Weller the actor mentally is (producers had to add another zero to his contract in order to get him to return to the role.) They both really don’t look like they want to be there. And a violent beginning bust that has him rescuing a baby from danger and saving the day feels like Robo just going through the motions. The film presents an interesting mix of visions because of who is at the helm and typewriter this time. Irvin Kershner, the man who I would say 85% of Star Wars fans assess directed the best film in that entire saga (Empire Strikes Back), is at the helm here. He is directing a script co-written by the aforementioned Miller. Not a great tandem, and that collaboration awkwardness shows up onscreen. Let’s take the much mentioned at the time child character Hob. On one end, you have a child character who sprouts four letter words, sells drugs on the streets, and takes out legions of police officers with machine guns. Then, when the end of his arc is reached and his final scene with Robocop comes around, without giving too much away, it seemed as if Kershner wanted to bring back memories of Yoda and Luke. It was a very forced scene that this kid did not deserve given how despicable he’d been the entire film.
Robocop 2 is probably most remembered for the inclusion of its fictional synthetic drug called Nuke. Injected into the neck by what looks like some Star Trek contraption, this plot device and the way it unwinds is just flat-out silly. Dr Juliette Faxx (Bauer) summarizes that the cop-in-suit theory is not working. Seeing everyone except Robocop prove to be financial and ethical disasters, Faxx devises a BRILLIANT plan that puts drug lord Cain (Noonan) in the Robocop 2 suit. She theorizes that she can actually control him using Nuke. Combined with the incredibly horrible special effects involving putting a holographic version of Noonan’s face on the robot, this story is a stupid and idiotic attempt to commentate on our War on Drugs, which was going on at the time. Yes, it is science fiction and suspension of disbelief is a must within the genre. But there’s a fine line between pushing the envelope and asking your audience to swallow too much dung in order to find strands of enjoyment. Robocop 2 is more of the latter than most first sequels I have ever seen.
I can go on and on about Robocop 2’s faults. The fact that the most interesting portion of the last film’s story involving the inner conflict of what appears to be an archetype hero, and how Murphy’s wife is handling her life now, is pretty much unsatisfyingly solved and never looked at again after the film’s first fifteen minutes. How even the silly commercials that had such a biting edge to them in the first film come off looking cheesy and bad in this one. And how a film containing a 58 person body count can be as boring as Robocop 2 really is. But what I would like to close with is that while I was not an overly enthusiastic proponent of the first film, Robocop 2 makes Verhoeven’s vision look like that of Fincher’s Seven. The wise thing to do would have been to wait until he was done with Total Recall, and let him take the chair again. As Robocop 2 is now, it feels more like, well, Basic Instinct 2.