Robocop 3: Collector’s Edition

| March 24, 2017

I once heard writer/director Fred Dekker declare at a Q&A here in Chicago that the film he made of which he is the proudest is Robocop 3 (1993). Given that he’s the man responsible for the cult classic Night of the Creeps (1986) and one of my personal favorites, The Monster Squad (1987), his pride in Robocop 3 made it a film I felt deserved reappraisal. I put it off for a while, but the new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of Robocop 3 from Scream Factory provided me with the incentive to finally revisit Robocop 3 for the first time since the late-1990s.

Though I’ll grant you that Robocop 3 suffers from all of the problems you usually hear levied as complaints against it, the film actually holds up better than I remember, especially when viewed in context of the special features included in the Collector’s Edition release. Sure, the little girl protagonist is trite, the film is a PG-13 family-focused work where the previous films were rated hard-R, we sadly don’t get Peter Weller as Robocop (though Robert John Burke does a fine job), and Robocop’s partner Lewis is casually killed off after having done basically nothing in the previous film. These are indeed all bummers.

Yet Robocop 3, if you watch it for what it is instead of what it could (or should) have been, proves to be an all-around fun, feel-good actioner replete with flying cyborgs and ninja robots, and it’s got some fine messages about the necessity of friendship and community too. And if you’re a kid, that’s great! It’s a Robocop film kids can actually watch without feeling physically upset as I recall feeling while watching the first two films as a child. Heck, Robocop 3 even had a corresponding toyline that the film itself perfectly advertised by allowing Robocop to change his hands out for weaponized accessories and giving Robocop a jetpack to fly around in. It is, in almost every way, a straight-up kids’ version of Robocop.

The problem is of course that the first two films weren’t about appealing to or merchandising to kids, nor were they necessarily conveying wholesome themes like the power of friendship to overcome all travails. The first two films told bleak stories set in a dark and violent world where the average American is totally powerless against corporate greed, no matter how unified they may be with those in their neighborhood. And so, much to its detriment, Robocop 3 forgoes the edge of the preceding films and is ultimately far less subtle in its themes than even the exceedingly overt Robocop 2. It’s a film burdened by an identity crisis, at once trying to advocate anti-corporate efforts, while itself serving as the clearest corporate product in the trilogy.

After rewatching the film, I dove into the special features on Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Robocop 3 and after watching all that material, I can honestly say I have significantly greater respect for the film having now heard its creators talk about it. At the heart of the special features are a brand new commentary track with co-writer/director Fred Dekker and a brand new, making-of featurette. What I appreciate most about hearing Dekker talk about the film is that, though he’s clearly immensely fond of the experience he had making the film and proud of his efforts therein, he takes full responsibility for any issues the film has, attributing them to his own inexperience or shortsightedness.

The making-of documentary alone provides immense insight into the production decisions that led to the film we have today, including the extent to which Dekker was given free reign, why Robocop was recast, and how much of Frank Miller’s original screenplay made it into the film, all of which I previously knew very little about. The documentary includes interviews with Dekker himself, Nancy Allen (Lewis), the cinematographer, and the production designer among others, and I think is a must-see for fans of the series as a complement to the experience of Robocop 3.

Other special features on the Robocop 3 Collector’s Edition include:
-a featurette about the film’s special effects;
-an interview with Felton Perry discussing his recurring role as OCP corporate kiss-ass, Johnson;
-a featurette about Bruce Locke’s training to play the ninja robot Otomo, featuring interviews with Locke himself and his trainer, Sensai Bill Ryusaki, who died in 2016;
-an interview with James Belhovek, the fabricator of Robocop’s gun (and Robocop’s suit, though that was carried over from Robocop 2, which you can hear more about on the Robocop 2 Collector’s Edition Blu-ray);
-the film’s trailer;
-and a stills gallery.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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