Following up Paul Verhoeven’s lovingly anarchic RoboCop is its Irvin Kershner-helmed sequel RoboCop 2. This 1990 science fiction flick picks up where the 1987 original left off and finds its titular character still struggling with the breach between humanity and technology. The movie is also top-loaded with satire, graphic violence, a wacky sense of psychology, and black humour.
Critics weren’t overly fond of RoboCop 2, especially in comparison to RoboCop, but some of the denunciations seem odd when one looks at the big picture. RoboCop 2 actually digs deeper into the character and also spends more time in the anarchic city, with corporations looking to pick the bones and gangsters staking out their own turf.
As the film opens, it turns out that RoboCop (Peter Weller) is still fraught with his former identity. He loiters outside the home of his wife, subsequently causing trouble for Omni Consumer Products, the company that created him. OCP is also pushing the city further into debt in order to construct Delta City, its pet project, so it’s forced a police strike and is still intent on producing “more advanced” brands of security.
Just like in RoboCop, the efforts to build a new cyborg cop aren’t going well. It turns out that Murphy only worked out due to a stout sense of responsibility, which draws an OCP psychologist (Belinda Bauer) to come up with a game plan. Also in the mix is the mob, including cultish drug dealer Cain (Tom Noonan) and his juvenile apprentice Hob (Gabriel Damon).
The crime world of Cain and Hob and the corporate world of OCP are never that far apart, so it stands to reason that the company’s decisions often involve strategies that are even beneath the Nuke-peddling gangsters. OCP’s various “projects” serve as reminders of the dangers of unregulated corporate power and of the platitude that the bottom line always will be profit.
The character of RoboCop fits neatly into things because his silvery form is sometimes literally at the junction of corporate interests (the machine) and the volatility of being a police officer (the human). While OCP remains hooked on public relations and on how things look when its more horrible machines blast holes in the city, RoboCop is still trying to protect the innocent.
Speaking of the innocent, the concept of virtue is another theme in this Frank Miller and Walon Green-penned outing. The character of Hob proved contentious for more than a few critics, but the early echoing of Murphy’s own son with the wee villain proves instructive with respect to his importance. He, along with the entire Little League team of robbers, characterizes the air of innocence lost.
So while it may seem immoral to some to have a youngster in such a role, the situation is certainly far from implausible. The RoboCop cosmos is one of chaos, after all, and there’s no reason to expect such pandemonium would leave derelict kids out of its alluring fury. The movie’s final scene with Hob sets this, revealing simplicity under the vulgar armour without yielding to sentiment.
Kershner, who George Lucas trusted to direct the best of the Star Wars movies, handles the material with balance and seems more grounded than Verhoeven. Many of the fundamentals of RoboCop not only remain unharmed, they are reinforced: the commercials are more resolute and ridiculous in the sequel, for instance.
RoboCop 2 is every bit as good as the original; in some ways, it’s the better movie. It sinks its teeth further into the neck of corporate face-saving and is a more scornful, despairing film. The action is sufficient if not quite as gory, while the humour of RoboCop’s malfunctioning due to having too many directives is great. Critics may not be over the moon about the sequel, but they are “only human” after all.