Friday, February 7, 2014

Robocop Retrospective: Robocop 3 (1993)

Robocop 3
Director: Fred Dekker
Starring: Robert John Burke, Nancy Allen, Remy Ryan, CCH Pounder, Rip Torn, Bradley Whitford, John Castle, Stephen Root, Jill Hennessy
Rated: PG-13

What's it like being a rocket scientist?
     ~Jeff Garlin as "Donut Jerk"

So, this is the best one, right guys?  This third and final piece to the Robocop trilogy saved all the best for last?  They brought Frank Miller in to try and use the elements missing from his script for 2, they got most of the cast back for one last hurrah.  Robocop gets more weapons. The city has gone under complete siege and looks like the apocalypse happened.  This is it right?  The ultimate finale.
Well...its the furthest thing from.  As I mentioned in the previous entry, I had never seen this movie coming in.  The only thing I knew about it was that Peter Weller did not return and we get a new Robocop.  And boy, is Weller instantly missed.  Aside from costume, this Robocop is nothing like Weller's.  This is what you get when you just put a guy in a costume.  The two actors do look similar enough that you can accept that this is the same character, but ultimate this performance is overdoing it moreso than Weller ever did.  Weller became the machine, this guy is acting like one.  I almost thought we were in for a reboot and a brand new character as Robocop the way this film started.  But, alas, we were only being introduced to the the little girl and her dad, who I thought was gonna wind up being some "next Robocop" or something, ends up being dead.
My expectations were set pretty low going in, but watching the opening credits I couldn't help but get a little bit excited at some of the names being thrown my way.  My hopes were that maybe seeing it for the first time years removed and expecting the worst, it might not be as bad as I heard.  Fred Dekker's name excited me, because I am a big fan of his two previous directorial efforts, The Monster Squard and Night Of The Creeps.  Also, Stephen Root is in this as well as Bradley Whitford and Jill Hennessy.  They also got most of the main cast back aside from Peter Weller.  I was surprised Nancy Allen came back, but once she's off'd at the end of the first act it made sense.  She didn't even look like she was trying to be a cop (not that she was that convincing of one in any of the films).  Her hair is finally grown out and her posture is just like "I'm here, lets shoot this".  But, hey, props to her for always coming back.
There was some sort of demented thing in the 80s with R-rated movies and children.  We all wanted to see them so bad, because they looked so awesome, but we were too young and our parents said "no".  So that thought of defiance made us want to watch them more.  The studios knew all this and shyly and slickly were marketing this stuff to kids.  It was wild.  We couldn't see Rambo's movies, but we sure could buy the action figures and watch the cartoon.  Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger were hell on Earth, but the video games for Nintendo?  Sure, go play them til your thumbs tire out.  Us kids had all sorts of knowledge and familiarity with these characters, settings and accessories without ever seeing one of these movies.  It was really really strange.  It'd be like making No Country For Old Men toys for kids when that came out.
Robocop was possibly the poster child for all this.  And how could a kid NOT think he was awesome.  It was totally something of a kids ultimate fantasy.  Like I said, this was my first R movie and I was 7 maybe when I finally saw it and I wasn't supposed to.  Why did I just decide to bring this topic up now?  Because Robocop 3 is where they finally gave in and made one for kids.  They trimmed the rating down to a PG-13, which is far less restricting from a parent when the young boy wants to see Robocop.  The film also has a kid character that is a robotics whiz and assists in helping Robocop save the day.  The tone is much lighter and far less gritty.  It almost looks like Thunderdome in a big city.  Oh, and the best part...Robocop now has accessories, a removable arm that you can replace with different weapons and JET PACK!  All for those important action figure sales to come when this movie hits theaters.
And what was popular with the kids in 1993?  NINJAS!  With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, 3 Ninjas Franchise and little movies like Surf generation was CRAZY about some stealthy kung fu action.  So, of course Robocop had to get in on that action.  The big bad can't just be some grumpy old businessmen.  And giant robots were yesterdays news and had been done in the previous 2 films.  So, here, in order to save money on the budget, we get a cyborg samurai/ninja/something to combat our crime fighting robot hero.  I will say there is a really cool moment where Robocop breaks one of the ninja robots' face and it kinda has this shatter look to it.
I could see that Robocop 3 was for kids much early on into it.  And my guard went down quite a bit as I realized that this was not for me and was never going to completely satisfy me.  The movie was pretty dumb, but because of my awareness early on, I shrugged because it was for kids.  I enjoyed seeing a lot of actors I liked in this, especially Whitford.  So that made for some enjoyment.  Noticeable from the sets and costuming, this movie is cheap, but it just makes it more look like something for the kids.  I'm not making excuses or saying that Robocop 3 is underrated or that we all need to go back an give it another look.  No, no, no.  It is indeed a bad movie,'s for kids in almost the same way many of those 90s kids movies are.  Its just this one has the mystique of being tied to a rated R franchise and sold as something for the adults.

NEXT TIME:  Prime Directives!  I hope I've not made a grave mistake!

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