RoboCop 2 (1990)

RoboCop 2 feels a lot like its predecessor, but it’s not as enjoyable. Why? I’m still not entirely sure. Perhaps it’s because it seems to undo most of the work done in Paul Verhoeven’s flick, or maybe because the character of RoboCop seems to have been dropped into a plot that’s barely related to the one he was in beforehand. Or because most of the satire is gone. And because RoboCop becomes even more of a boring character here. And there are no relationships established that matter.

But at least it’s still funny. That’s the one thing that RoboCop 2 does just as well as the first film. The clever advertisements that pop up from time to time — like one involving sunscreen with an SPF of 5000, because that’s necessary now that the ozone layer is gone — are very enjoyable, and I wonder how many of these were rejected before they made it to the screen. It would be a lot of fun, I think, to see a large reel of all the advertisements that the filmmakers could come up with. That probably would have resulted in a more enjoyable movie, too.

Whatever. This time around, RoboCop (Peter Weller), is dropped into a plot in which there’s a drug going around that is the most addictive in history. It’s called “nuke,” and after taking it once you become reliant on it. One man, Cain (Tom Noonan), who sees himself like a god, distributes it and wants to allow everyone to become addicted to it. He’s our villain, and RoboCop has to take him down. In their first encounter, Cain wins because he’s prepared, somehow, and then tears all of the limbs from RoboCop’s body, rendering him useless.

We know that’s not how the film will end. RoboCop ends up getting put back together and strives to take down Cain, and his drug business, and the corrupt business that wants to control the entire city of Detroit. The climactic battle involves RoboCop fighting an upgraded version of himself, a stop-motion creature not unlike the ED 209 of the first film. The battle between it and our hero is akin to a child playing with action figures. It just looks bad.

The over-the-top violence returns with this installment, with even more focus on bullets being shot at ever-increasing numbers — at things that are impervious to them! Most of the bullets wasted in the film are shot at either RoboCop or version 2.0, both of whom don’t care when they’re being pelted by the weaponry. That’s about all that ever comes out of the action scenes, save for that anti-climax that just made me laugh considering how silly it was. There was also a chase scene, but it was so unmemorable that I almost forgot it existed.

The last part of that final sentence actually sums up the entirety of the experience that is RoboCop 2. It’s not so much bad as it is bland, and the only parts that stick out are either very funny, or so silly they made me laugh. I enjoyed a couple of lines of dialogue, and I quite liked those advertisements, but that final battles looked awful, and a couple of other moments made me cringe because of how they played out. Like how there’s a foul-mouthed kid (Gabriel Damon), who kills without remorse for … no reason, so it seems.

The only thing that made RoboCop the first film interesting was the constant toying regarding whether or not he was partially human. By the end, we get our conclusion. At the start of this film, that decision is retconned, and once he’s ripped apart and rebuilt, it’s all but gone. He goes back to being a cold-blooded killer, not caring whatsoever about his “fellow” man. He becomes a dull character without this — or without the way he ended up at the end of the original — and it’s hard to feel anything for him in this movie.

Having that emotional attachment made me not care a whole lot about how boring his stiff, robotic body made the action scenes in the first film, but here it’s really evident. When you have to take your time to turn, move your arms, and you can’t run or move quickly, the action has to rely solely on gunfire — which can’t hurt him, thus removing all possible tension. A little bit of agility has been added this time, as RoboCop rolls out of the way once, but for the most part, he makes for a boring action hero.

All of the depth to the performance that Weller had in the last film is gone here. This time, he’s emotionless and empty. There’s still the monotone voice, but now even the bottom half of his face doesn’t emote. Nancy Allen continues to be a worthless investment of time, as her character is once again given nothing to do of importance. The villains are all bland, and none of them are as memorable as the guys from the first film — who weren’t all that important, either.

RoboCop 2 is a lackluster sequel to a pretty good film. This one is bland and unmemorable, appealing only to people who want to see an uninteresting character go through a storyline that doesn’t feel tailor-made for him. The final battle is a joke, most of the film is boring, and if it weren’t for the few moments of black comedy that shine through every now and then, I would consider it a total loss. As it is, it’s a film that doesn’t deserve your time, although it doesn’t significantly ruin the titular character like it easily could have done.

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