February 12, 2014

Movie Review: RoboCop 3 (1993)

I guess it was a foregone conclusion that RoboCop 2 was going to be a hit as RoboCop 3 went into production shortly after the second film wrapped. As it turned out, part 2 was a moderate hit, not making as much as the original, but certainly enough to justify a continuation of the series. Unfortunately, this third film seems to have been compromised from the get go. This third film just takes everything that made RoboCop a franchise to be reckoned with and made it a joke. I know that sounds harsh, but this movie is just bad. I am sure it did not help that it sat on the shelf for a while as Orion Pictures went through bankruptcy.

RoboCop 3 went on to gross a dismal $10.6 million against a budget of $22 million, by comparison RoboCop 2 earned $45.6 million on a budget of $35 million. Now, the reduced budget was not the biggest mistake, although I am sure it did not help. The movie was contractually obligated to deliver a PG-13 rating. So, based on this it is easy to see this was going to be a compromise of vision for a wider audience. It is a ploy which clearly backfired as the movie did not even make back half of its budget during its domestic release.

The movie was directed by Fred Dekker, stepping into the shoes left behind by Irvin Kershner. The two directors have something in common, neither one has directed a film since their respective Robo-entries. Hopefully Dekker will return to the director's chair at some point as he had made a couple of very enjoyable films in Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad, not to mention writing House. Dekker teamed with the returning Frank Miller to write the screenplay based on Miller's story. This (along with RoboCop 2) drove Miller away from Hollywood until the 2005 adaptation of Sin City. Both of these screenplays were compromised by studio interference, souring Miller on the collaboration process. I cannot say I blame him, I do not know what his original plan were, but they had to be better than the released products.

RoboCop 3 features few returning cast members. Chief among them being Nancy Allen as Officer Lewis, Felton Perry as OCP VP Johnson, and Robert DoQui as Sergeant Warren. The key cast member who chose not to return was Peter Weller, who portrayed RoboCop so well in the first two films. Weller did not have a good experience during the second film and was also signed to be in Naked Lunch for director David Cronenberg. A much better decision. Stepping into his robotic boots, literally, was Robert John Burke, who previously starred as the titular character in Richard Stanley's Dust Devil. Sadly, his performance lacked any real power or emotion and seemed to be designed to sell toys. Not really Burke's fault, but the performance was quite lacking.

This RoboCop catches Detroit at a critical juncture. OCP is in financial meltdown following the end of the second film and is forced to sell to the Japanese Kanemitsu corporation in order to remain solvent and attempt their goal of creating Delta City. Meanwhile, Detroit is becoming a war zone, as residents are being rounded up by Rehab agents, a security force OCP is using in place of the Detroit PD. There is an underground resistance fighting back, but things are not going well for them.

As for RoboCop, he is still around. He is out on the streets fighting crime, but when he faced with criminal activity by Rehab and OCP, forcing people out of their homes and such. He goes rogue and joins the resistance. Together they mount a war on OCP. It all comes down to a war on the streets of the Cadillac Heights section of Detroit with the Detroit PD siding with the resistance in a battle with Rehab and their deputized gang of street punks. Yes, it does sound a little silly, and it is. Oh yes, there are also cyborg ninjas. Oh yes, it goes there.

This sequel fails on just about every level. It does not even feel like it belongs to the same universe as the first two. That even takes into consideration that the second film is really not all that good. It abandons the dangerous, drug filled, prostitute ridden city we had known and replaces it with a series of poor neighborhoods where only good people live fighting for their homes. Sure, there is some gang activity, but it is hardly noticeable. This is a far cry from the crumbling city that needed RoboCop to step in. The fall of OCP seems to be a matter of convenience, it is not nice seeing the big bad company reduced to a shell of its former evil. Gone is the satire, replaced by simple comedy. Gone is the over the top violence, replaced by a RoboCop with a Swiss Army Knife for an arm and a silly jetpack. Gone is Robo's stuggle to find his humanity.

This movie essentially guts whatever was left of the franchise after the second film. It follows the trend of so many other franchises, it dumbs itself down to the lowest common denominator. Studio suits, with no interest in actual creativity, get involved and make sure the film becomes a product they can sell. I guess we should be thankful that this actually failed to be a commercial success, otherwise who knows how many more would have been released to further dilute what the original movie did so well. I am all for giving a movie a chance, and I guess there is a certain level that makes this an easy watch because it is so dumb, but I also like seeing movies that build on what came before, or at least try to make something interesting.

If there is one thing to do while watching this, it is a game of spot the familiar face. This movie is loaded with them. Get past the returning cast members and you will find Stephen Root (NewsRadio, Office Space), Jill Hennessy (Crossing Jordan), CCH Pounder (The Shield), Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show), Mako (so many shows, Memoirs of a Geisha, Samurai Jack), Daniel von Bargen (Seinfeld), Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Lee Arenberg (Seinfeld, Pirates of the Caribbean), Shane Black (writer Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Eva Larue (CSI: Miami), you could almost turn it into a drinking game.

One can only hope the remake is better than this sequel. That's all I am asking for.

Not Recommended.

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Dell said...

Agreed. This movie is dreadful in every way.

Vic Lana said...

I remember not seeing this film in the theater and renting it, only to feel I had wasted my bucks at Blockbuster. Your review is right on the $.

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