Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Robocop Trilogy from glistening armour to shiny turd.

High concept satiric edge, black humor, grisly on-screen violence, it can only be Paul Verhoeven's Robocop. At the time it was the coolest concept in the world, a man that is part robot, that's the good guy and not Darth Vader.

The original remains a sci-fi/action movie epic. Then came Robocop 2 which oddly takes Robocop backwards stripping him of the humanity and balance he found as Murphy in the end of part one. Robocop 2's rose tinted coolness lay in the title, it is the bad guys characters name, the name is the sequel. Literally. The third film a low-budget affair is sadly lousy. Let me share a few thought on the shiny disco ball Robocop Trilogy...

RoboCop (1987)
A cop is brutally murdered in the line of duty only to be resurrected as a robot cop. With a mission to clean up Detroit stopping criminals and corruption unwitting Robocop meets his killers.

Social commentary, religious connotations and cutting satire, Paul Verhoeven's Robocop is now over 20 years old, some of the effects have dated and some of the acting is like two-day-old chicken, but it holds up. It is indeed an often-imitated sci-fi classic. It could have been just another Terminator rip-off but all it shared was a machine theme as it had a whole world of its own. That said, it borrows heavily from lesser known films Jean-Claude Lord's The Vindicator and The Wraith both made a year prior.
Amongst the rival robot ED-209 and TV commercials what's more interesting about Robocop (played by the now elusive Peter Weller) is the loss of his family and how they have moved on after Alex Murphy's gory death which is only partly explored. There's a lot going on in Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner writing underneath all the action pieces.

Miguel Ferrer as 'Bob' is excellent, his performance has all the 80's Wall Street feel of the time, doing whatever it takes to get to the top. Ronny Cox plays 'Dick' Jones and gives the bad guy dimension. It shows a corporate structure and how they also use the underworld to get an immoral job done, in this case using Clarence and his gang played terrifically by Kurtwood Smith.

Basil Poledouris' music is fantastic and heightens the films punches and subtleties, the action is great as to are the costumes and practical effects. It is a comic book film for adults but is unusually grounded in a surreal plausibility.

It's Orion Pictures fine production, part man, part machine. All cop.

RoboCop 2 (1990)

After the accomplishment of the Robocop programme corporate company OCP goes about recreating it success with varied unsavoury results. However, with a police strike looming they use a drug addict criminal as the host of Robocop 2 which comes with violent consequences.

Frank Miller's Robocop 2's concept is intriguing and exciting but the film falls short of expectations. The acting for the most part is atrocious compared to the first, possibly due to the comic like tone of this sequel. Again the turmoil of Murphy's death and his inability to communicate with his wife and family are only touched on.

Both Peter Weller and Nancy Allen reprise their roles but are underutilised with many of the scenes going to the shenanigans of OCP boss The Old Man Dan O'Herlihy and the villains. A handful of the original cast return with Robert DoQui's Sgt. Reed feels closer to the original character portrayal compared to the likes of The Old Man. These anomalies highlight a fault with writers Frank Miller and Walon Green's screenplay.

Veteran director Irvin Kershner does his best with the sub-par script. The special effects are varied in quality, but make use of an array of techniques in bringing it to life. It has some standout scenes notably Robocop riding a motorbike, Robocop's dismemberment, Robocop's reprogramming and it's results and the showdown fight. However, with a gun touting drug dealing kid, hammy acting, stereotype villains and Scooby Doo corruption it's fun but lacks any dramatic weight.

Overall, entertaining but is short of the iconic clout of the first.

RoboCop 3 (1993)

Robocop finds himself pitted against his own police department as he helps an underground resistance group from having their homes torn down by greedy OCP it's conglomerates.
Like its predecessor Robcops 3 on paper sounds great, with an interesting concept featuring loss, empowerment and corruption. Orion's bankruptcy is evident, plagued by production issues the final result is unsatisfying.

Director Fred Dekker's Robocop features a number if interesting elements, Robocop's changeable weapon arm, a flying jet pack and Ninja robot assassins. OCP is in the process of being taken over which treads new ground creating a sense of economical uneasiness as the backdrop. However, everything feels rushed, cheap and nasty with actors unconvincingly made to look either dirty, villainous or army like.

Due to the awful dialouge it's hard to tell if Robert John Burke measures up to Peter Weller's Robocop character. Luckily for actress Nancy Allen Ann Lewis' appearance is short. Rip Torns Hammy performance as OCP CEO livens things up but is cringe worthy and solid actor Mako shows up as Kanemitsu but it's too little too late.

With bigger production values and a shake up of Frank Miller and Fred Dekker's screenplay it may have fared better. Nevertheless, under scrutiny Robocop 3 is diluted entertainment in all departments.

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