- Directed by Irvin Kershner
- June 22, 1990
RoboCop faces a new threat when OCP deploys the unstable RoboCop 2 as the next evolution of the program.
RoboCop 2 is a bad sequel to a great film. The original RoboCop was a low budget masterpiece. As an action film, RoboCop 2 is great (if a bit generic) but as a sequel to RoboCop it is a pale imitation and lacks most of what made the original so special. You would think the guy that directed The Empire Strikes Back, considered one of the best sequels ever, could give us a good RoboCop film but unfortunately that is not the case. I enjoy it but it is nowhere near the quality of its predecessor.
Peter Weller returns as Alex Murphy/RoboCop and this time around, among other things, RoboCop is stalking his ex-wife. The elements of Murphy’s character that remain in the RoboCop body are becoming stronger and miss his old life. His driving by her house has caused her to threaten to sue OCP. You think it is because she is bothered over harassment but when she finally meets RoboCop she asks him if he is Alex. Something interesting that could have provided real emotional weight to the story.
The character of Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) played an important role in the original film but here she is more just along for the ride. She is like a pet that follows in RoboCop’s footsteps rather than a participant in the story. If she had abruptly stopped showing up in the film, I do not think I would have noticed because she is that unimportant. It is a real disservice to fans, the actress, and the character.
The Old Man (Dan O’Herlihy) and Johnson (Felton Perry) get much more screen time here than they did in the last film. They are more important to the narrative as they are essentially the backing behind a villain. Since RoboCop’s creation, OCP has been struggling to create another similar unit but have been meeting with repeated failure as each successive unit becomes suicidal. OCP psychologist Dr. Juliette Faxx (Belinda Bauer) believes that Murphy’s moral code and Catholic upbringing were key in his model’s initial success.
The main villain of the film is a drug dealer with delusions of godhood called Cain (Tom Noonan). You may remember Noonan from The Monster Squad as Frankenstein’s Monster and as The Ripper in Last Action Hero. Cain becomes embroiled in the RoboCop Program when after a confrontation with RoboCop he is critically injured and Dr. Faxx recruits him-by shutting off his life support. She plans on using his drive for survival to keep him alive and his addiction to the drug Nuke to keep him on his best behavior.
Holzgang (Jeff McCarthy) fills the role of slimy corporate executive in this movie. He is said to be a lawyer, but it feels like two distinctly smaller roles of a lawyer and executive were merged into one bigger part with almost no effort to make it appear otherwise. He looks more like the mob boss stereotype than anybody in a boardroom. As I recall from the era the actor dressed like that in many of his TV appearances from the time. Coincidentally he and Stephen Lee who played the corrupt Officer Duffy were both in episodes of TNG. Not important. Just interesting.
As I said as a RoboCop film this movie is not that good but as an action film it is great. The finale is just a whole bunch of awesome! It is a very epic battle between the two RoboCops. That helps make amends for many of the flaws here. Does not make this a quality film though. The action sequences are pretty good here. A little goofy at times but entertaining by the standards of the day.
RoboCop 2 lacks the satire and the characterization that turned the first film into in classic. There is nothing here that makes this story necessarily RoboCop. Two cyborgs battling each other was done in plenty of Terminator and RoboCop knock offs of the time.
RoboCop 2 looks cheaper than the first film. Not the original RoboCop original looked like a lavish production as it was a low budget film, but something makes this feel more of television quality. There is a certain cheapness to it all. Perhaps it is the hammy performance of far too many of the actors. I am not talking about those that came from the first film. I am talking about the new additions. The original was satire, but they did a pretty good job of performing everything straight. It helped sell what they were doing. Here it just felt like a halfhearted effort by some in their performances.
The script is a heavily altered version of one done by comics legend Frank Miller. That certainly explains the more superhero feel of the film. There are random elements that get thrown in the film that are quickly overcome by RoboCop. The lawsuit by Robocop’s widow is just one of them. As part of her plot to ruin RoboCop and start again, Dr. Faxx adds a long list of new directives which screws with Robocop’s programming. Within a few minutes of this being introduced, RoboCop shocks himself to delete them all from his system.
Cain has a child sidekick named Hob (Gabriel Damon) who is just as evil as him and who apparently is planning to help the city of Detroit out of its financial crisis in exchange for the mayor (Willard E. Pugh) going easy on their drug operation. He is eventually killed by Cain and his plot goes nowhere.
All interesting elements that do not do much of anything. There is so much potential there for something more sophisticated, but Kershner and Miller dropped the ball. You have some stuff here that could be used for dark satire or serious drama that ultimately fizzles into nothing. This script needed a professional Hollywood writer from the start and more work before production began.
Leonard Rosenman takes over music duties from Basil Poledouris. That is like going from a Porsche to a late model Pinto. The man was behind the worst of the original Star Trek scores with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. It was a serious downgrade from his predecessor in that series and the same goes here. In fact, this has many of the same musical cues as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Blech!
Still though for some reason I have a soft spot for this film. As I said it is a good action film even if it is a bad RoboCop film. I can enjoy it for the visuals and the explosions and the fighting. It reaches the kid in me that likes mindless junk. It is the same kid that likes junky and cheesy films that ask you to leave your brain at the door and this movie often does that.
RoboCop 2 is a poor follow up to a great film. Given the pedigree of the director and much of the original surviving characters from the original returning you would think that this would have been far better than it was. This is barely an if you want. I say that because you might be interested to see a continuation of the RoboCop story or like cheesy action films but you can skip this if you enjoyed the original. It adds nothing special and may even make you feel a little sad that they handled it so poorly.
2 thoughts on “RoboCop 2”
I remember watching this at the cinema when it came out and being totally disappointed by it – especially as Kershner was involved, with his rep at the time being so tightly bound-up with the brilliance of The Empire Strikes Back. If anyone was the right guy to make a sequel that opens-up and improves upon an original, he was the guy, right?
How strange that they could get something like Robocop so wrong, but like the Predator movies, and possibly the Terminator ones to a lesser extent, its weird how you can have genuinely great films (Robocop, Predator, Terminator 1 (and 2, I guess)) and then not be able to go on to continued or greater success with a franchise.
I agree with you absolutely regards Leonard Rosenman- good lord I cannot stand that guys music (his Star Trek IV score leaves me unable to ever watch that film) and what he does to Robocop… well, I can only thank my stars that he was never allowed to sully the Conan movies. There is so much wrong with Robocop 2 but I think the music is the worst.
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The issue is that all the franchises that fall on hard times forget what made the first or earlier films great and cannot do something different yet in their mold.