It’s no surprise Robocop 2 turned out like it did. Paul Verhoeven and his original writing team wanted time to come up with a proper sequel when the studio asked them about it. Orion said no, wanting a quick turn-around. Frank Miller drafted the first screenplay, but that was dropped and re-written by Walon Green. Tim Hunter was ready to direct, but quit, replaced by Empire Strikes Back’s Irvin Kershner.
All those behind-the-scenes shenanigans led to a product that feels like a jumble. There is so much going on here it’s absurd, ideas introduced, dropped, and forgotten about. Things begin piling up, and it all leads to a showdown between Robocop (Peter Weller, returning) and Robocop 2. The list of script elements here is nothing short of baffling. Corporate city takeovers, Robocop having feelings of humanity, a new drug on the streets, commercial satire, an Elvis-loving cult leader, a kid acting as a drug lord, a parody of parental groups, and wonderful stop motion work all crammed into this one, a mess of ideas.
Keep in mind that with all of that, there still needs to be action, and there is little shortage of shots fired. The film wastes little time in producing Robocop for all to see, now glistening with a new metallic sheen. The action begins as the city is being overrun by crime, the privatization of the police force causing a strike, while Robocop takes to the streets, one of many potentially great ideas that are lost in the shuffle.
Orion undoubtedly saw kids grasping onto the idea of a cyborg cop, a cartoon series premiering prior to the release of the film. What do the screenwriters do? Insert a key child character into the script, an idea that is as misguided as they come. It doesn’t make a point, and only makes you cringe as his destructive rampage brings misery to all around him. The sight of Robocop hopping onto a motorcycle to chase down lead criminal Cain just makes you wonder how long it will take for the action figure to debut. “Robocop, now with motorcycle wheelie action!”
It’s almost comical that the film bashes corporate internal politics, idiotic policies, and shameless cash grabs. That’s exactly how this sequel seems to have come together, from the mish-mash of creative talent to the obligatory pandering towards children, aggressive violence or not. Robocop 2 is almost uncomfortable to watch, save for the finale when the spectacular array of stop motion pops-up on screen and almost salvages this mess. This is a technical achievement if nothing else. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Robocop 2 is currently only available in a box set with the other films, so you’re stuck with the other two movies whether you want them or not. MGM’s encode for Robocop 2 is… okay. Immediately apparent from the opening frames is some sharpening. Slight edge enhancement and ringing can sporadically be made out, and even in areas of fine detail, edges appear harsh and unnatural. Grain is elevated, poorly resolved in the early going with the excessive smoke, while other times becoming digital and noisy against brighter colored walls.
Colors are bold, the metallic tint of the new Robocop suit more apparent than ever. Primaries carry heft, even to the point of slightly bleeding out. The dimness of Detroit (actually Houston) requires deep blacks, and this transfer provides with the slightest hint of crush. However, they are stable and consistent, producing a slight dimensionality to the image where the exaggerated sharpness fails.
In close, detail can be strong. An early close-up of Peter Weller inside the suit at 15:24 is excellent, although again, suffering the effects of digital tampering. In the mid-range things tend to flatten out, the hefty grain structure that is at times anything but film-like, wipes any high-fidelity detail from the frame. Brief shots of the stop motion models near the end of the film, particularly Robocop 2, produce a visible, scratched metal surface that is quite distinct.
Exteriors, from the OCP building at 20:38 to the various factories (there are a lot of abandoned factories in this movie) are merely okay. While the better compression of the AVC codec and resolution boost showcase a light increase in detail over the DVD in these shots, it is in the end fairly minimal. The print used is in great shape, few scratches or any other damage appearing within the frame. Regardless, this one needed more work, or maybe it’s an older master that simply wasn’t ready for hi-def. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
A DTS-HD mix begins with a fairly rough start, the surrounds of this 5.1 mix almost completely ignored in the early going. The stereo effects are stable and natural, surely sufficient. The score, especially its flat, muddy low-end, is hardly impressive. Gunfire carries a minimal punch, and bass of the rocket launcher explosion is lackluster.
Somewhere, this mix kicks into overdrive, the surrounds breaking out into full gear during a raid on an arcade at 29-minutes. The pings of early ’90s arcade games are captured in each channel, while the panic of fleeing drug dealers creates a convincing environment. It is the echo of the first warehouse shoot-out that creates a convincing effect, the gunfire ringing out in each channel accurately and naturally. While the peaks are somewhat flat, even slightly faded, the assist from the rear channels keeps them notable.
Gunfire remains this way for the rest of the film, the finale delivering a large-scale robot-on-robot assault with various sound effects of crunching metal, the music of Leornard Rosenman balanced in all this hectic action. Also of note are the various robotic sound effects, prominent even in the heaviest of action as Robocop (and RC 2) move about. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
The only extras on this disc are two trailers for Robocop 2. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]