The Action Mutant…
says there’s no crying in robotic police protection!
review by Joe Burrows
Let’s play armchair movie tycoon for a sec. You just had a sequel to a pretty successful Sci-Fi/Action film perform poorly at the B.O. Your production company, despite distributing the last two Oscar winners for Best Picture, is heading down the bankruptcy toilet and there’s no way to stop it. Your follow up to that sequel is coming up. How do you make it?
A) Just like the first one and give the core fans something to sink into?
B) Change things around to support the natural progression of the characters and make it a new vision that will reach more people, while maintaining the first one’s spirit?
C) Shoot totally for the kid market, flip off everything that made the first film such a hit and watch it go down in flames?
If you really don’t know the answer to this….just stop…just stop now. Go work for MGM, though. By all means!
The Plot, as it was:
The beginning of the third installment shows that OCP’s plans to create a new city in place of Detroit are in full swing with the construction of Delta City. The new CEO (Rip Torn, one of the greatest stage names ever!) has ordered a special “Rehab” squad of officers, led by the sadistic McDaggett (John Castle), to force people off of their property so the building can continue and OCP’s deal with the Kanemitsu corporation can commence. The Rehab squad runs into a determined group of resistance and is out for extra help to rid them. Meanwhile, Robocop/Murphy (Robert Burke) disobeys an important order and is again in line for reprogramming. When a tragedy hits close to Robo, he is thrust to the side of the resistance and is out for some Robo-revenge!
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Most fans like to look at this as the beginning stage of the raping of the Robocop concept (though this wasn’t the finishing touch, as there were two TV series and miniseries to follow this). The frustrating thing is that this could have been a worthy enough addition to the franchise had a few hands been absent from the pot. Firstly, whoever decided to make this PG-13 and edible for the masses is a fucking dolt and deserves a good portion of the drubbing. Not only is this an exercise in bloodless carnage (and therefore lacking the visceral pop that the first two installments possessed) but it takes a bad cue from T2: Judgment Day and has Robo dulled down for the kid friendly set by having a little kid named Nikko (Remy Ryan) intermittently help him out of jams and wax philosophical with him. Everything about this feels generic & comic book-lite and at least the second half the blame has to go to writers Frank Miller (the original scribe for Robocop 2) & Fred Dekker (who directs here, as well). The villains are overly broad and stereotypical to the point that I was wondering if the story was being deliberately sabotaged. Between McDaggett’s Nazi-esque regime and the pair or Android Otomos (the ninja android fighters sent out by Kanemitsu to destroy Robocop), I was halfway expecting our metallic hero to come out for his final battle draped in the American flag and jab the flag into a mountain of dead bodies, a la Iwo Jima. There are some good elements here, mainly in the form of a game supporting cast (Jill Hennessy as a rogue scientist, Bradley Whitford as his usual yuppie slimeball self, CCH Pounder, Daniel Von Bargen & Stephen Root as the main resistance members). Burke doesn’t have much to do other than being a placeholder in the franchise but he does well with what he’s given. Nancy Allen (Lewis) shows up yet again but doesn’t stick around any longer than she has to (look in the film’s trivia section at IMDB, if you don’t mind a spoiler…smart move!). As mentioned in other reviews, its not that there isn’t fun to be had from Robocop 3. The familiar Basil Poledouris score is there, several bravura moments take place and the flick is never boring. It’s just…well, it’s like a stripper coming to a bachelor party and forgetting the whipped cream and party favors. It’s all good and everything but it didn’t have the elements that could have made it so much more. “Not with a bang, but with a whimper” – T.S. Eliot.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Jodi Long (Striking Distance) is Nikko’s mom.
- Jeff Garlin (HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm) is the Donut Jerk.
Body Count/Violence: 36. Despite the moderate number, this was dryer than the humor of one Steven Wright (“I tried to hang myself with bungee cord. I kept almost dying.”). There are plenty of large scale explosions, fighting, shooting, car mayhem, neck breaking, stabbing, (implied) suicide and robot dismemberment. The frequency of the carnage is equal to that of the first two in the series, just minus the juice.
Language/Dialogue: Some mild obscenities and nothing else.
How bad was it?:
Most critics trash this effort the most out of the three, though it’s not like it isn’t well deserved or anything. “Tiresome”, “run of the mill” and “Roboflop 3” are terms used more than often in the reviews you will read. Ebert (rating it at *1/2) pretty much said that while some characters like James Bond can go on forever, there’s “…only so much you can do with a creature who is half-man, half-machine. Who walks like a child's toy.” That last quote is pretty ironic, considering its dumbing down for the Toys ‘R Us set.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
After filming in the spring of 1991, Robocop 3 sat on Orion Pictures’ proverbial shelf as the studio was undergoing bankruptcy (they had racked up losses tantamount to $690 million by November 1991!). The film got its release a little over two years after it wrapped up, debuting on 11/5/93 and bombing with an opening weekend gross of $4.3 million. Produced for $22 million, Robocop 3 sputtered out a total gross of $10.7 million; its performance effectively killing the franchise for years to come. (Note: There is a Robocop “project in development” listed on IMDB for 2010. Prepare to shudder.)
Entertainment value: ***/*****
Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.