1993 - PG-13 - Mins.
|Director: Fred Dekker
|Starring: Robert John Burke, Remy Ryan, Rip Torn, Felton Perry, Shane Black
|Review by: John Ulmer
"RoboCop" (1987) was a hard action picture with an edge and a heart. It had a strong sense of everything--brains, heart, social satire, and wit, probably all thanks to Paul Verhoeven, the eccentric Dutch man responsible for "Total Recall" and "Basic Instinct."
"RoboCop 2" (1990) lost the heart but still had the violent edge. It seemed somewhat geared towards children, the plot was tired and recycled, the violence still packed a punch but lacked the seriousness and dramatic flair of the first film. In a sense, all humanity shining through the RoboCop character from the first film was gone.
"RoboCop 3" (1993) has none of the above. It has no heart, it has no brains, it has no sly social puns, and it has no hard violence. It's goofy and stupid. Over-the-top and obnoxious. Some qualites are redeemable. Most are not. It's undoubtedly the worst of the series.
Filmed in 1991 and delayed for two years due to film company Orion's pending bankruptcy, "RoboCop 3" centers around Murphy, a.k.a. RoboCop (Robert John Burke) joining forces with evicted squatters who are opposing Omni Consumer Products, the new conglomerate company running Detroit, which is kindly referred to as the homeless citizens as Opposing Capitalist Pigs.
OCP is no longer run by The Old Man (Daniel O'Herlihy), but rather The CEO (Rip Torn), a character played over-the-top for laughs that never come; he is in fact a sort of subtle summary of the entire movie. He is in cahoots with the Japanese to throw citizens of futuristic Detroit out of their homes and onto the street so that he can level their homes and build big money-making skyscrapers.
RoboCop doesn't like this one bit, and after seeing a lone child named Nikko (Remy Ryan) run across a street and into the arms of squatters, he decides it's time to protect the innocent and delete his fourth directive, which instructs him to not oppose a member of OCP. After Lewis (Nancy Allen) is killed my a corrupt OCP employee, he swears to take vengeance and uphold the law.
What a digression the "RoboCop" series has made! It started as a biting social satire, a hard action film with loads of wit, and an emotional tale with subtle hints at humanity and the warnings of regenreating the dead. It was "Frankenstein" and "The Terminator" intertwined into one gigantic, non-stop, thrill-packed rollercoaster ride.
Watching "RoboCop 3" is like trying to focus on a Saturday morning cartoon serial with an invincible hero defeating uncountable foes amidst a very, very unfocused backdrop. It's hard to do. Co-characters extended in this film were made clearer in the first installment when they were given less time on screen. Johnson (Felton Perry), the black man who gave Robo the thumbs up at the end of the first film, is now partly a bad guy. He was supposed to be a fairly good guy in the first two. What's happened to him? I doubt the movie cares much.
Peter Weller, who said making the first two films in this trilogy was the worst experience of his acting career (the suit was heavy and hot, shedding some number of pounds off his body on a daily basis), has left the series for more attractive projects, leaving John Robert Burke to fill in his shoes. Burke is okay in the suit, but his voice sounds too robotic when he speaks, lacking the monotone calmness that Weller possessed without any type of digital alteration. Weller's voice sounded like a man who was fused with gadgetry and somewhat hidden underneath an alternate identity. Burke just sounds like a robot, leaving all sense of humanity at the door. And with the mask off, his facial features look splattered with too much makeup and plastic, probably an ill-fated effort to cover up Weller's disappearance. It's not a biggie, as RoboCop himself is barely in this film at all.
Yes, that's right, RoboCop is not really the subject of this movie at all. Perhaps because Weller left they decided to keep RoboCop off frame for as long as possible. He is introduced some fifteen minutes into the film during a heated (and ridiculous) car chase, he gets injured and disappears throughout most the film, comes back for a bit, then saves the day. It's like when they tried to cover up Crispin Glover's absence in "Back to the Future Part II"--only Zemeckis knew how to do it right. Fred Zekker, the director of "RoboCop 3," does not.
Paul Verhoeven was (and I say "was" because he is now a has-been) a great director. He got away with over-the-top action because he had a way of making it brutal, gleeful and downright excellent, while managing to insert levels of humanity (remember Quaid's background in "Total Recall"? The flashback sequences in "RoboCop"?). Zekker's over-the-top style is different. Very different. Zekker is the type of director who should be in the cartoon business, not the movie business. It's obvious that he knows how to make adventure serials with over-the-top childish blow-'em-up action, long passages of cheesy dialogue between cardboard characters, and anticlimatic battles. Now it's time for him to prove that he can show the decent amount of courtesy to make a satisfying conclusion to a great movie. He has, in essence, failed.
"RoboCop 3" is rated PG-13 for language, childish violence and idiotic sequences of stupid battles.
Footnote: A complaint of mine in "RoboCop 2" was that the RoboCop suit had been remodeled as a type of overweight blueberry as opposed to the sleek silver armor seen in the original. They've got the armor back in "RC3." They don't have the direction skills. If it's not one thing, it's another...*sighs*.