Nightlife

The Robocop Trilogy

by Michael Fessenden
Contributor
Tuesday Jun 8, 2004
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Released in 1987, Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop was an entertaining thriller ahead of its time. Never quite fitting into a strict action movie mold, the formula here is three parts blinding violence mixed with two parts witty social satire…perceptive moviegoers will recognize this style later used to great success in Starship Troopers and Total Recall. Not content to just conform to the confines of an action movie, Verhoeven presents us with his sardonic and cynical vision of the not-to-distant future. Comedy is interspersed amongst the extreme and gory violence. And violent it is…the unrated cut of the first Robocop contains the extended goriness cut out of the movie in order for it to receive an R rating in theaters.

Set in futuristic crime-ridden Detroit, corporate giant OCP is looking for ways to clean up the city to make way for its rebirth as safer New Detroit. A murdered policeman is resurrected as the mechanized Robocop to clean up the streets. The policeman’s’ memories persist, however, and soon Robocop is seeking out the thugs who left him for dead.

Look for Kurtwood Smith (of TV’s That 70’s Show), Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer in supporting roles. Smith plays a maniacal thug secretly on call for OCP VP Cox, with Ferrer as the scrappy young executive who’s Robocop trumps Cox’s failed endeavor to create a super robot to fight crime. Part of the fun of this movie is watching these three antagonists go about their business.

Robocop 2 attempts to realize Verhoeven’s bleak vision just a little further: OCP sets out to create an even more advanced version of Robocop, employing the disembodied brain of a captured drug lord. During the first half of the film we witness his antics to distribute the deadly designer drug ‘Nuke’ before he meets his unsettling end. The plot is mostly predictable, but there are some funny moments in the film (watch for a little league team robbing a store en masse).

Unfortunately, the series loses a little luster with each sequel. While the second film has many of the same performers, including Peter Weller in the title role and Nancy Allen as his partner, Lewis. The story just doesn’t seem as strong and gets thin in spots, often bordering on silly. The third movie is easily the worst, as the series appears to have taken a turn for the younger, comic book set. In this watered-down PG-13 outing, the signature brutal violence is mostly gone. In its place are lame lines and some not-so-special effects. You won’t see much blood spilled the entire movie and a few of the explosions looked like a high school kid with a few firecrackers had rigged them. On the plus side, look for some nice cameos such as Jill Henessey (Jordan on TV’s Crossing Jordan), Rip Torn and CCH Pounder.

The special DVD edition of the first movie is the real reason to buy this set; if you really enjoy the extreme violence and witty social commentary, you’ll be thrilled as some of the more disturbing scenes are shown in their gory splendor. All in all, it’s light fun, and also a nice trip down memory lane.

While only the first Robocop DVD has any special features, they are worth a look. Two entertaining behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes and an look at the animation effects in the film narrated by Phil Tippett. While stop motion animation seems kind of cheesy by today’s standards, back in the 80’s. It’s fun to hear Tippett - who has now established his studio as a major player in the computer animation field – describe how he animated the ED209 robot.

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