New on Blu-ray: The Robocop Trilogy

You can’t keep a good cop down. Even after you’ve shot him all to pieces. Hey, it’s the future, and they have the money, so they’ve rebuilt him into the perfect cop — part human, part machine, and all badass cop! One ultra-violent original and two lackluster sequels later, Robocop finally arrives on Blu-ray in a “Robocop Trilogy” from 20th Century Fox.

Robocop:

In ROBOCOP (1987), a terminally wounded cop in crime-ridden Detroit returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him.

In the not-too-distant future, bad guys rule the streets, the cops are helpless to stop them, and big corporations like Omni Consumer Products rule the roost. Our hero is Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a good cop who comes face to face with some very bad guys led by Clarence J. Boddicker (“That 70s Show’s” Kurtwood Smith). After Murphy gets the living Bejesus shot out of him by Boddicker and his crew and left for dead, he is resurrected by OCP as the half-man, half-machine, and all-cop Robocop!

“Robocop” marks the Hollywood coming out for director Paul Verhoeven (he had previously directed the 1985 movie “Flesh+Blood”), who brings flash and an appreciable appetite for uber violence with him to the party. Verhoeven’s futuristic Detroit (okay, it’s barely futuristic looking) is one dangerous city, and so are the miscreants that rule its streets and from their ivory towers. The bad guys here wear suits and carry shotguns, and it’s sometimes pretty hard to tell them apart, mostly because, well, there really aren’t all that much difference.

Peter Weller is excellent as Robocop. You wouldn’t think having to wear the “metal armor” for much of the movie would allow Weller to do any real “acting”, but you’d be wrong. Nancy Allen is cute as his partner, and Kurtwood Smith is downright entertaining as the bad guy. Like most of Verhoeven’s films, “Robocop” loves it some brutal violence. Limbs go flying regularly, and bullet squibs are ridiculously explosive. Verhoeven also begins his obsession with skewing media over-saturation, a theme that would continue to populate his future films.

Special Features are limited to a theatrical trailer for the movie.

Robocop 2:

ROBOCOP 2 (1990) features a corrupt businesswoman seeking to disable Robocop in favor of her own model of cyborg.

Sequels, by their very nature, always have to be bigger, louder, and generally there are more explosions. That’s the Hollywood motto, anyway. Irvin Kershner’s “Robocop 2″ has all those things in spades, but it’s missing one very important ingredient: Paul Verhoeven’s delightfully obscene disregard for good taste. Mind you, not that “Robocop 2″ didn’t have its share of splattering bodies and the good ol ultra violence (the sequel retains the original’s “R” rating), but it just never really quite matches the standards set forth by Verhoeven.

“Robocop 2″ continues to explore Robocop’s inner struggles with the man (as it were) he used to be, all the while being confronted by more OCP shenanigans and the introduction of a newer, more violent ED-209 model, this time piloted by a drug-crazed killer named Cain (Tom Noonan). Yeah, that was a real smart move there, OCP, you buncha generic suit-wearing bad guy corporate morons. Never let it be said that the “Robocop” movies didn’t know who its “real” villains were at all times.

Kershner and company also continues a lot of the themes that Verhoeven introduced in the first film, and is, overall, not an entirely bad follow-up. It’s certainly a lot more comedic than the first movie, though this at times is to the film’s detriment.

The sequel is notable for comic book guy Frank Miller’s involvement (or lack thereof). Though credited as one of the film’s screenwriters, Miller, then coming off the high of his revisionist take on Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns”, had much of his script for the sequel taken apart. He would, though, make his “triumphant” return to the franchise with the third installment.

Special Features are limited to two theatrical trailers for the movie.

Robocop 3:

In ROBOCOP 3 (1993) Robocop saves the day once more. This time the half man/half robot takes on ruthless developers who want to evict some people on “their” land.

Fred Dekker’s “Robocop 3″ is easily the weakest installment in the trilogy, which is not a real surprise given that even original star Peter Weller did not return for the third go-round. (Robert John Burke steps in as his replacement.) At this point, there was not a whole lot of steam left in the series, and the injection of a well-worn “evil developers/Big Business” plot (once again involving those profit-seeking fiends at OCP, now bought out by a Japanese corporation) didn’t exactly get anyone excited. And oh yeah, killing off fan favorite Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen) was probably not the wisest thing to do, either.

Part three is also notable for bringing Frank Miller back into the fold as screenwriter. At about the same time, Miller was writing one of the best Robocop comic book stories out there called “Robocop vs. Terminator”, which despite its silly title, is worth seeking out if you’ve never read it. Good stuff. Unfortunately, Miller’s comic book sensibilities didn’t exactly translate to the big screen (a problem that has since come full bloom with his “Spirit” movie, alas), though a Robocop vs. Robot Ninja fight was deliciously corny and probably the film’s one highlight.

The violence has also been noticeably toned down, thanks to a PG-13 rating. When you include a precocious little girl character into your franchise, it’s kinda hard to keep up the ultra violence. Much of the film feels camp and safe, and the main bad guy this time around? Well, let’s just say he’s no Clarence J. Boddicker. On a positive note, “Robocop 3″ features an early appearance by the gorgeous Jill Hennessy (“Law and Order”) as an egghead scientist, so there’s that.

Special Features are limited to a theatrical trailer for the movie.