[8 November 2010]
When most people think of the character RoboCop, what comes to mind is director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 sci-fi action classic RoboCop, and not so much the two sequels that came after it. MGM has decided to conveniently re-package the previously released Blu-ray disc of the first film with both sequels as the RoboCop Trilogy. For however many fans there are of the entire trilogy, this is a solid bargain buy that wraps up the titles in a shiny new slipcase. If you’re simply a diehard fan of the first film, then you might want to consider seeking it out on its own unless you’re willing to gamble on two progressively worse sequels.
The series is set in a dystopian future Detroit where mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products is contracted by the city to run the police force while at the same time planning to destroy “Old Detroit” and replace it with the utopian “Delta City”. When newly transferred veteran police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) and partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) chase a gang of criminals led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), Murphy is captured and brutally murdered. OCP use Murphy’s body to construct RoboCop, a cyborg who skillfully combats criminal activity in the city. Throughout the film, RoboCop struggles with past memories of his life, and attempts to reconcile his death with his current existence.
The first film in the series is unquestionably the best one, and is one of the landmark sci-fi action films of the decade. The script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner contains great social commentary on media consumption and corporate corruption, which Verhoeven expresses in the humorous fake commercials and news casts that appear in the film. The special effects are still remarkable, and the gritty sets and horrific violence give this entry a tense atmosphere that is definitely lacking in the subsequent sequels. A resurrection narrative that also works as a satire of American culture, RoboCop is truly an iconic film that may not have needed sequels, but got some anyway.
For the first sequel, producer Jon Davidson enlisted Frank Miller to pen the script, which was later deemed “unfilmable” and re-worked into something mainstream. RoboCop 2 features much of the same cast, with a story centered on OCP attempting to have Detroit default on its debt so that they can finally build Delta City. Meanwhile, a drug called “Nuke” distributed by a megalomaniac named Cain (Tom Noonan) is plaguing the streets. When Cain is apprehended by RoboCop, OCP decides to use him to create RoboCop 2. Much like the machine in the film, RoboCop 2 is a bigger, noisier, uglier, and ultimately weaker sequel. The special effects show a marked improvement and a few action scenes are interesting, but bad dialog, the pre-teen criminal, and a lack of character development make for a big disappointment.
Since RoboCop 2 managed to succeed at the box office despite a poor critical reception, it was no surprise that RoboCop 3 would pop up three years later in 1993. Frank Miller was hired again to pen the script only to have it butchered once more. Peter Weller was replaced by Robert John Burke in the role of RoboCop, with only Nancy Allen and Robert DoQui reprising their roles. OCP continues their efforts to build Delta City, now with the help of a Japanese corporation looking to invest in the city’s future. Rip Torn, Jill Hennessey, Bradley Whitford, and Mako all have small roles, but this movie is pretty much a mess. It has PG-13 Hollywood fluff written all over it, with an excess of cheesy one-liners and a complete lack of integrity. The only resemblance this film has to the original is RoboCop’s suit.
The Blu-ray release of the trilogy contains the same high definition transfer that was previously released for the first film, but two brand new transfers for the sequels. The first film looks pretty mediocre in 1080p so it’s a bit disappointing that it didn’t get a remaster, but for what it’s worth the sequels look pretty good. What is unfortunate is that while the first film is available to buy on its own, the second isn’t, so if you want to see it (and not the third one) then you’re going to have to get the whole trilogy. Additionally, there is a complete lack of bonus features in this set, other than a couple trailers.