ROBOCOP TRILOGY (Blu-Ray)
Making a big-budget b-movie has got to be a careful balancing act. The director of the first "Robocop", Paul Verhoeven
, seems to be the master of doing just that. With films like "Starship Troopers"
and "Total Recall"
under his belt, with their mix of splatter effects, silly one-liners, and sci-fi pulp novel settings, he regularly defied expectations and delivered solid hits. Even his worst movie, the sexploitative "Showgirls"
, eventually found a sizable cult audience who seemed to get what, hopefully, he was intentionally trying to do with it. Looking back at his break-out film, it wasn't a surprise that he was able to take a concept like "Robocop"
, about a police officer in a dystopian near future (pretty much, today) who is murdered by thugs and then transformed into a cyborg, into a monster hit with both critics and audiences. Even less of a surprise was that for the two sequels, no one else was able to even get close to what he achieved. Good news for Verhoeven
and his legend. Bad news for audiences who had to sit through the follow-ups.Peter Weller
plays experienced police officer Alex Murphy,
who has just gotten transferred into the worst precinct in Detroit and is partnered up with Officer Lewis
). The two of them get into trouble while chasing a crime boss, Clarence Boddicker
) into an old mill and Murphy
gets literally shot to pieces. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for him, the mega-corporation OCP
owns the police, and an ambitious corporate stooge (Miguel Ferrer
) has been waiting for the next cop to die with a usable brain so they can shove his remains into the experimental new technology...Robocop
. Soon, with none the wiser, except a somewhat suspicious Officer Lewis
is cleaning up the city and winning the hearts of the populace, except Boddicker
and his gang of toughs and Ferrer
's duplicitous boss at OCP
, the scheming Dick Jones
). He wants Robocop
out of the picture to re-launch the robotic police force of his own design and is willing to go to any lengths to make it happen.
's original "Robocop"
is still a wonder to behold. His film is surprisingly prescient about
the future. His portrayal of a corporate-run government, from a media that consists of models being the puppets of corporate masters (long-time "Entertainment Tonight"
host Leeza Gibbons
was cast as one of the newscasters to drive home the point), to privatized police forces that have to answer to big business interests, is both funny and frightening (less funny now). The film skates on the edge of outrageous satire with its dark humor, but manages to stay well-safe of seeming ridiculous, and this is the balancing act that was so very difficult to pull off, that Verhoeven
did seemingly effortlessly both here, and in his other two major science fiction epics. It was this kind of smart social critique mixed into an impressive looking and well-budgeted film and, I suspect most importantly, propelled by acts of shocking violence (the film went through several X ratings before getting down to an R), that made "Robocop"
into the major hit that it was. "Robocop 2"
was released three years after the first film, with Weller
returning in the lead roles and directed this time around by "Empire Strikes Back"
helmer, Irvin Kershner
. What could go wrong? How about a terrible script by Frank Miller
? He was pretty fresh off of the success of the groundbreaking comic "The Dark Knight Returns"
and Hollywood, always on the look-out for the new hot thing, signed him up to write the sequel to their golden goose. However, his script was considered to be awful and was heavily re-written. After years of Miller
's bitching, he put out his original script as a comic, which was immediately panned as even worse than the movie (insert sound of Nelson
In the sequel, Murphy
is going around the city doing his job, but is tortured by fractured memories of his previous existence. OCP
has become considerably more of the bad guy this time around, with their plan to drive the city bankrupt, raze it to the ground, and build their new 'city of the future'
. They encourage a police strike so as to increase the chaos in the city, a place already under siege by a new super drug called "Nuke"
. The crime lord responsible for the substance is Cain
) who, along with his foul-mouthed, murderous, child protege Hob
), become the focus for Robocop
's attention. Unfortunately, OCP has other plans, like futzing up Robocop
's program with hundreds of new directives, and plotting a new Robocop
(one we're constantly reminded is, 'Robocop 2'
) this time built around the remains of a psychopathic criminal. Good plan. Oh no, wait, it so totally isn't. Would there really be a scientist who was unfamiliar with 'Frankenstein'
A whole lot of stuff goes terribly wrong with this sequel. It's bad enough a miscalculation to do away entirely with the memorable leitmotif for the character in the score, replacing it with a horrible choir chanting his name, but that's the least of the problems. I can't help but wonder if a story like the original "Robocop"
lends itself to a sequel at all, and it seems like the producers thought the same thing, as it plays it as safe as it can in terms of repeating many of the same themes. The biggest chance the sequel takes is adding a child as a major villain. It may have seemed on the outside like a cutting edge decision, but it's awkward in practice and is especially painful to watch when they eventually have to figure out a cheap way to give the tyke some comeuppance. While the violence and action remains largely intact and even somewhat worthwhile, "Robocop 2"
is a major mistake, committing the worst crime that an action sci-fi film can make: it's really
The third and final theatrical film in the series was released after another three years (one year of which was spent with it languishing on a shelf collecting dust). This time around, taking a pretty sizable step down the ladder of available directors, the studio went with Fred Dekker
, a small-timer known for his cult favorite indie horror films "Night of the Creeps"
and "The Monster Squad"
. Frank Miller
, once again, wrote the screenplay, of which many more of his trademarks seem to sneak through, but which he claimed was even more savaged than his work for "Robocop 2"
. Certainly it seemed something had gone wrong, as the traditionally hard-edged and bloody rated R films were watered down to a mere PG-13 here, an inappropriate rating for anything written by Miller
. 'How will a 13 year old understand the sublime pleasures of a story featuring lots of prostitutes and rape?'
, he must have thought to himself. Clearly, those elements must have been the first to hit the cutting room floor when the ratings change was put into effect.Weller
chose not return for the third film (wisely), and was replaced by Robert John Burke
in the title role. In this third installment, the city is in total chaos as OCP
, now owned by a Japanese company called the Kanemitsu Corporation,
has become tired of screwing around and is now forcibly relocating the citizens of Old Detroit
at gunpoint, led by hired gun Paul McDaggett
) and his shock troops. They're going
to build their new super-city now, laws and Robocop
be damned. While trying to help defend some of the innocent folks being bullied by the corporation's goons, Officer Lewis
is killed (I think I can pretty much guarantee it was a rider in her contract that she had
to be) and Robocop
decides that OCP
is no longer to be given the benefit of the doubt. He full-on hooks up with the resistance, whose leader was portrayed by the wonderful C.C.H. Pounder
, who I wish I could go back in time to tell she had much better things ahead of her. OCP
isn't without their own new resources though. This time they've got (are you ready for this?) Ninja robots.
There aren't enough words in the English language to chastise the third film with for being as bad as it is. In fact, it goes so thoroughly over into the realms of the terrible, that it's almost worth watching for the laughs. Poor Burke
had to wear the exact same suit from the previous film, which was too small for him, and he looks really uncomfortable the whole time. Maybe it was the suit, maybe it was the script. Either way, I'm sure his agent got a reaming. Who thought it was a good idea to cut all the gore out of a Robocop
film? Who thought it was a good idea to give him the ability to fly? And most importantly, who thought it was a good idea to add a precocious child and a (sort of) love interest so Robocop
could find a new family? Were they trying to lead up to the kid-friendly fluff required by a Saturday morning cartoon series? I could fill up pages and pages about how terrible "Robocop 3"
is, but then you'd miss the experience for yourself. I almost hate myself for saying it, but it's seriously worth it just to see Miller
's trademark 'crazy street punks'
being armed by OCP
to help them kick the citizens out of the city. Oh yeah, and the aforementioned flying Robocop
is the only rating I could give this film. We really need to add that to our categorized roster here at Spill.
Are you ready for the really bad news? I mean, I'm as big a fan of the original film as the next guy, so much so that I'd have been willing to pay the price tag for this trilogy set even though I had no interest in owning the sequels. But guess what? No extras. None. Unless you count the trailers (and, as previously established in earlier reviews, I don't). There have been multiple re-releases of this film on DVD in the past and quite the archive of bonus features exists out there, but Fox chose not to include them here, a decision that makes NO
sense considering each film gets its own disc and there's NOTHING BUT
room for them. If I had gone and bought this myself, I'd be furious. This is the worst kind of cash-grab, and it's no wonder they waited a few weeks after release date to send copies of it out to the press. Don't be fooled by the cool looking shiny cover, "Robocop Trilogy"
is a waste of money for anyone who owns the previous editions, higher resolution be damned.--CLICK HERE TO BUY RoboCop Trilogy [Blu-ray]