Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robocop (1987) * * * *

Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Dan O’Herlihy,Robert DoQui, Felton Perry

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

One of the all time best sci-fi/action hybrids of all time still holds up real well. Robocop details the story of a fatally wounded police officer who is turned into a cyborg police unit who single handedly fights crime however Robocop remembers parts of his past and sets out to find out who killed him when he was human all while big business yuppies compete to solve Detroit’s crime problem. Robocop really is as awesome as you've heard, you really have the best comic-book captured on film, you have excellent action sequences, hilarious satire and a lot of character driven humanity that make Robocop actually somewhat touching. People often go back and forth as to whether Robocop or The Terminator and T2 are better but I’m more than content with saying that these films are equally excellent and different films. The Terminator had a compelling love story and time travel can’t overcome destiny message that drove the action, this one has satire and a message of humanity and tragedy (almost Shakespeare like) that drives the action. Peter Weller deserves the most credit for making Robocop work so well in the sequences where there is just reflection. One particular scene that is distinctive in its tragic hero is the way Robocop goes back to his house and starts to remember his past life and family, this sequence gives Robocop an emotional angle that few films ever have. Another good scene is the one where Robocop and his former partner (Allen) right before the climax kicks in, to which Robocop asks about his family and to which he says “I can feel them, but I can’t remember them.” This might sound depressing but that isn’t describing the hilarious jabs at the media, corporate big business and the excitement found in the action sequences. Indeed this actually shares a lot in common with Death Wish 1, for the way it balances the sadness of the main character (though in Death Wish, the hero is starts to deal with his grief through violence) and the way media handles it. Much of Robocop works due to the excellent directing of Verhoeven a director that often uses the action and carnage to make a comedic or actual point. It’s a one of a kind film that deserves to be remembered as one of the very best classics of the genre. Robocop is that film that doesn’t come along everyday and it’s not only worth seeing, it’s a priority.

Robocop 2 (1990) * * *

Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Felton Perry,Tom Noonan, Gabriel Damon, Stephen Lee,Robert DoQui

Directed by Irvin Kershner

Robocop 2 is of course not up to the level of Robocop 1, but it is good on its own merits. Indeed Robocop 2’s satire is far sharper than the first. (The commercials are just overall far funnier, and Robocop 1 was no slouch) The action is about on par, the atmosphere feels grimier and more mean spirited which is an asset and the special effects are better. So why Robocop 2 isn’t quite as good as the first one is simple. It lacks the character driven tragic hero aspect that provided the first one with emotion and heart. This sequel has a few moments of such, like when Robocop confronts his former wife, to which he realizes he can’t offer her a real relationship. Another excellent scene finds Robocop comforting a dying teen drug dealer (Damon) to which the kid says “I’m gonna die, you know this feeling right? It really sucks!” to which Robocop replies “yes.” Had there been more sequences like this, Robocop 2 would’ve been a sequel that lived up to its predecessor. However the sequel merely works as sci-fi action. I don’t want to imply that Robocop 2 is terrible, rather it just lacks the heroic bloodshed angle that makes the difference between classic and decent. Robocop 2 though does benefit from great villains, as well as a really exciting climax and weirdly enough Robocop 2 even gets you to care about the villains as all characters are human, Despicable perhaps, but human and with three dimensional personalities. Robocop 2 than also suffers from trying to do too much as there is enough material here to warrant four more more sequels, so cramming it all together is what damages the appeal of such movie. This is one of those movies that probably has a longer cut that is more inherently satisfying. Overall Robocop 2 is worth seeing and I think fans of the first will find a lot to like, Just know that it isn’t on the same level as the first and you’ll be alright. The satire though is sharper than part 1.

Robocop 3 (1993) *

Cast: Robert John Burke, Nancy Allen, Felton Perry,Rip Torn, Jill Hennesey, Mako, John Castle, CCH Pounder, Remy Ryan, Robert DoQui

Directed by Fred Dekker

This pointless and awesomely dull sequel finds Robocop joining a rebel underground to fight back against the OCP army who are throwing the poor out of their homes, while also fighting a robotic ninja. Robocop 3 isn’t just terrible, it is an abomination. Robocop 3 for one is PG-13 and so such is watered down for children despite the fact that Robocop 1-2 were both violent movies that worked because said violence set up a comic-book like futuristic atmosphere. This movie is so hokey and dull that even a rip off like say Nemesis is way better than such. Robocop 3 is just painful to watch, say what you will about Robocop 2, but at least the climax as well as the action delivered on all accounts and was on par with the action style. Robocop 2 might’ve been missing the heart but it had the satire (that was even better than 1), the action and it gave Robocop something to do. Indeed this sequel finds Robocop sitting around out of action. The only positive thing I can say is that maybe the idea could've worked with an R rated approach and with a bigger budget (And some energy) Robocop 3 might’ve been able to have been made into something decent out of the idea. Admittedly the idea of Robocop going underground to protect people from the OCP fascist army is fairly inspired, just too bad there wasn’t enough energy or in fact carnage to make such a premise work on film. The worst thing about Robocop 3 is the uninspired feeling to everything, none of the actors that returned seem all that enthused (Allen only agreed to be in such if they killed her character off) and star Peter Weller didn’t even show up. All of this dooms Robocop 3 as it becomes quite obvious nobody here wanted to make anything special. This was a sequel made to cash paychecks and it shows. I literally can’t really find much else nice to say, as if I rattled off the problems with Robocop 3 it would sound like a laundry list. Mainly the jetpack thing is lame, the robot ninjas are lame (especially compared to the two robot enemies in 1-2) , the film just seems murky rather than atmospheric and the film is just plain dull. Overall it was sort of sad to see Robocop go out on such a horrendous note.

1 comment:

  1. I think we're in agreement on both liking the first two films. I would say that RoboCop is one of the best films of all time, regardless of genre. I also think the satire in part 1 was better than part 2, though part 2 held its own. NUKEM the board game was classic, better than the blue sun tan lotion or anything else.

    Part 3 had a lot of strikes against it going in: no Weller, Orion in financial difficulties, etc. As far as budget goes, it had by far the largest, only to make by far the least. It was just sauteed in wrong sauce.