The satire of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) remains as relevant today as it was when it was released. As unsettling as it is exciting, the sci-fi actioner Robocop remains a beloved and well-respected classic thirty years after its release, and not just a genre classic either—a bona fide classic all around. Given its incredible success at the box office, it was of course inevitable that Robocop would receive a sequel, and it did just that in 1990 with the release of Robocop 2. And with Robocop 2’s re-release on home video in a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory, there’s no time like the present to give this sequel another look.
As far as sequels go, Robocop 2 is no slouch. While it certainly doesn’t surpass the original in quality (few sequels do of course), Robocop 2 brings back the core cast of the original film including star Peter Weller himself—the heart of the character—and Nancy Allen as his partner Lewis. The robots and stop motion animation look as fantastic as they did in the first film, and we get exponentially more robots here than in the first at that. Add to that winning combination of elements Empire Strikes Back-director Irvin Kershner, a script by Dark Knight Returns-writer Frank Miller, Tom Noonan as a villainous drug kingpin/spiritual leader, and a brutal rampaging robot climax, and it’s no wonder Robocop 2 is so fondly remembered by those of us who grew up with the film.
If Robocop 2 has any major shortcomings that prevent it from being as great as the original, they’re found in the film’s recycled themes and overall broadness. Robocop 2 revives the debate over whether or not Robocop is man or machine in the first act, which I’m pretty sure the final exchange of the original film explicitly settled. It also cartoonishly handles all its satire, never settling firmly on any one target until late in act two, though consumerism and greed are still vaguely targeted throughout.
When the film does finally decide on a singular target to criticize, the core social commentary stems from OCP executives’ attempt to take over operations of Detroit from local government. Once OCP does take over Detroit in act two, the film then highlights the incompatibility of purely capitalistic and democratic ideals. That said, this very same incompatibility is also something the first film dealt with in a major way, only it did so with considerably more subtlety.
So it’s not a perfect film, nor is it all that original. And though Robocop 2 may indeed not have that much new to say, it does attempt to deepen the themes and continue the narrative of the first film. Frankly, that’s the bare minimum I expect of a sequel. Plus, while you might feel Robocop himself takes too much of a backseat to the more sprawling narrative of Robocop 2, the story more appropriately follows the rise of the titular Robocop 2, much in the same way the Batman sequels focused less and less on Batman himself as the series went on. Honestly, Robocop 2 is as good a sequel as you can hope for when looking at a follow-up to a classic like Robocop, and is still a hell of a lot of fun.
The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition release of Robocop 2 boasts a beautiful new, 2k transfer of the film’s interpositive, and special features include a host of new interviews, featurettes and commentaries in addition to the usual trailers and photo galleries. The new featurettes focus on the special effects team, the creation of robot suits, and the adaptation of the film into a 9-issue comic book series. There’s also a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage including a series of interviews with cast and crew filmed by Paul Sammon during production of Robocop 2, collected here as the featurette, “OCP Declassified.” It’s in “OCP Declassified” that you’ll finally get Peter Weller’s thoughts on the film, so don’t miss that one.
The most revealing of these features in the Collector’s Edition is unsurprisingly the making-of featurette, which includes additional behind-the-scenes footage as well as new interviews with Nancy Allen, Tom Noonan, cinematographer Mark Irwin, special effects artist Phil Tippett and others. It details the on-set strife and the stress that affected all those who worked on Robocop 2, including Kershner and Noonan who shared a tremendous distaste for the constant script changes. In spite of their shared disgust for the perpetual development process, the featurette doesn’t paint screenwriter Frank Miller in a bad light at all. Instead, it shows him to have been a dutiful and devoted on-set writer, scribbling things out as needed, even if it meant writing while sitting on the floor.
To my mind, the Robocop 2 Collector’s Edition’s new transfer and the Scream Factory-exclusive features make this release of Robocop 2 an inarguably mandatory upgrade, no matter what previous release of the film you own! And if you don’t own it already, you surely won’t find a release as good as this anywhere else.