Thursday, February 6, 2014

Robocop Retrospective: Robocop 2 (1990)

Robocop 2
Director: Irvin Kerschner
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan, Gabriel Damon
Rated: R

Bad language makes for bad feelings.

It's Robocop 2...LITERALLY (he's robotic nemesis is actually called Robocop 2)!  Three years later, Detroit's protector returned.  Verhoeven was able to return, but no fear, Irvin Kershner was in the director's chair.  Frank Miller, of ultimate Batman comic book fame, was penning the script.  Peter Weller and pretty much all the original cast, whose characters were still alive, are back!  Maybe this would wind up The Empire Strikes Back of the Robocop saga.  This sounds like they got all the right chips in place.
Well, not quite.  Miller's script was deemed unfilmable and the Kershner delivers more of a Never Say Never Again instead of Empire in terms of franchise sequels.  Robocop 2 is a sometimes weird film that manages to get things right and then again also gets them wrong too.  There were times in the film that I felt like Verhoeven wasn't absent, that it was a true followup to the original.  They keep the satirical nature and structure, and I love the decision to keep the news segments and commercials a part of the story.  But, more often then not, its evident that Kersnher doesn't quite have a handle on everything the way that Verhoeven did and the film skews off into an bizarre and uncomfortable screwy direction.
One thing that held up pretty good in the film is the action.  Its not as great or as bloody as Verhoeven's in the original, but its still a loud and explosive affair.  There is still blood and there's are many surprisingly quick and brutal fatalities in the film.  The make-up work on the film also stays pretty efficient.  I especially thought the animatronic of Robocop when he was torn apart looked really good.  So, in this regard, its not a huge step back from the original.
Where it gets lost is its script and much of the execution.  When we last left Robocop, he seemed to have been regaining some of his humanity and his identity.  When we start here, and ultimately through the whole film, he's that monotone no-nonsense robot we saw when he first was unveiled.  Except, it gets super creepy because he's now stalking his ex-wife.  It feels a really weird scenario, and even much more weird than the stalking Superman in Superman Returns.  And what's more, this subplot is eventually just tossed away early on and we never return to that or his emotions returning.  Its just...gone.  But, hey...sign of the did have a scene that took place in an arcade and brought back a shitload of nostalgia and memories of my childhood!  Where do underage kids commune like that nowadays?
And that's how clunky this film is.  It's primarily Robocop Vs drug dealers, but there's a lot of quick shifts in direction as to what and where this film wants to go.  It helps (for me at least) that the lead drug dealer is played by Tom Noonan who is terrific at playing creepy characters.  And he's pretty great as always here.  But, he unfortunately is taken out a little more than halfway on as he becomes Robocop 2.  So our main villain then becomes a child for a while.  Then the villain becomes Robocop 2.  In the midst of this we have a scenario where Robocop starts to malfunction and the film goes for some humor that is pretty embarrassing and hard to watch.
I suppose going any further than 1 movie with Robocop ultimately risks becoming the corny, cheesy movie that everyone would assume the first to be.  And under the grasp of someone who's not quite getting it, it can turn a little disastrous.  And Robocop 2 doesn't quite go full on head first into that territory, but it manages to jump in and out of it.  In the end, I actually think Robocop 2 is pretty watchable and can be enjoyed if you're wanting to go further with the character.  Its nowhere near as good as the first movie (most non-Robocop movies aren't), but I think it can be sort of enjoyed in a dumb way.  Its got plenty of loud and destructive action that'll keep your brain at ease and your fists pumping.  But, in the end, its a movie that marvelously recaptured what I loved about the first one a few times and for the most part ended up being weird but saving itself with some action.

NEXT TIME:  I got nothing...I've never seen Robocop 3 or anything from it.  So this should be a surprise.

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