RoboCop 2: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (8th April 2017).
The Film

Following up a cinema classic is an unenviable task. There are more examples of where filmmakers got it wrong than right, but when done right you wind up with movies like “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and “Aliens” (1986). Those are extreme exceptions when the sequel arguably eclipses the predecessor, giving itself a clear reason to live. But there are also many instances where a sequel pays great respect to its forbearer and is solidly good in its own right, yet because it doesn’t match or exceed to beloved original it winds up being dismissed. A good example is “Psycho II” (1983), Richard Franklin’s more-than-worthy follow-up to one of horror’s top brass that remains highly underrated. Similarly, over the years very little talk is ever devoted to the sequels spawned from “RoboCop” (1987)… although I think we can all agree the less said about “RoboCop 3” (1993) the better, right? Director Irvin Kershner, himself a last-minute replacement for Tim Hunter, takes over for Paul Verhoeven for “RoboCop 2” (1990), and delivers a sequel that minimizes the humorous satire of the first film for a serious, grim affair that goes to some dark places.

Despite the presence of RoboCop (Peter Weller) crime in Detroit is at an all-time high. Omni Consumer Products (OCP) continues to run the police force – and soon the city, too, as they foreclose on a debt owed by the local government. Their plan is to take Detroit private and build Delta City, running it on their own terms. To galvanize public support for gentrification, OCP riles up crime on the streets and slashes police benefits to trigger a strike. Only RoboCop, who cannot strike, and his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), still patrol the city. A new drug on the market, Nuke, is a highly addictive injectable made and distributed by Cain (Tom Noonan). RoboCop and Lewis raid one of Cain’s factories and kill everyone after his escape, save for Hob (Gabriel Damon), an underage kid who helps run the operation. OCP, meanwhile, is trying to develop “RoboCop 2” with little luck – every officer selected winds up committing suicide shortly after resurrection. The woman in charge, Dr. Faxx (Belinda Bauer) suggests they try using a criminal.

Cain is worried that OCP’s plans to clean up the city via their new construction plans will ruin his lucrative business, so he keeps contacts within the police force like Duffy (Stephen Lee), a Nuke addict who feeds Cain information. RoboCop and Lewis track Duffy to a meeting with Cain and, although Cain escapes, they are able to get his whereabouts out of Duffy. RoboCop takes on Cain’s gang by himself but is overwhelmed and dismantled, his body parts dumped in front of police HQ. For his confession Cain has Duffy tortured and killed. RoboCop is reluctantly repaired by OCP and given all new, wholesome directives that he thankfully learns how to suppress, along with all of his old directives, too. Free to think and act how he wishes, RoboCop launches an assault on Cain and gets his man… but so does Dr. Faxx. Cain’s brain is uploaded into RoboCop 2 and he’s kept in check thanks to his reliance on Nuke, but a criminal mind like Cain’s is never stable and a confrontation with RoboCop is guaranteed.

The fact “RoboCop 2” wound up being so good in spite of a troubling start – that saw original director Tim Hunter replaced at the last minute by veteran Irvin Kershner – and the loss of a visionary like Paul Verhoeven is a real testament to the production crew. Based on a script by Frank Miller and Walon Green (although reports make it sound like Miller’s vision was greatly minimized), “RoboCop 2” gets it right by doing what a good sequel should – returning a number of familiar supporting elements and lead characters while also introducing new, dynamic villains and a similar but different tone. Gone is Verhoeven’s heavy satire that found humor in extreme circumstances; Kershner’s Detroit is more hardened and cold. Even The Old Man (Dan O’Herlihy), presented as an affable old fellow in “RoboCop”, is pretty much Conal Cochran here; he is ruthless and cunning and he knows how to play everyone like a fiddle. Remember when Dick Jones said he called him “a**hole” once? Now you learn why. In addition to O’Herlihy, the returning cast includes Sgt. Reed (Robert DoQui), the weaselly Johnson (Felton “It tastes like baby food” Perry), and a few more minor players whose presence helps remind us we’re in the same place as before.

Also (thankfully) returning: Phil Tippett and his incredible team of animators. “RoboCop 2” features the most thrilling battle of the series, when RoboCop fights RoboCop2/Cain. The stop-motion work is exciting and so skillfully executed that at times it nearly looks like actual live action footage. And it goes on for quite some time. RoboCop 2 has a bulky brute design that is evocative of the ED-209 but much more streamlined, and because Cain is established as a complex, fearsome villain throughout the film it makes his appearance within what is essentially a metal tank with legs that much more frightening. RoboCop’s rivals in the first film were threats but his real challenge was coming to grips with who he had become. This time around something more formidable was required, and Tippett and co. delivered.

There’s another reason Cain is such an effective villain: Tom Noonan is one creepy motherf**ker. His involvement in a project has been shown to increase unsettling vibes by 81%.

Other than being a little long in the tooth I can’t make too many complaints about this film. Recapturing the magic of “RoboCop” was never going to happen; that film is an absolute all-timer and no sequel could have outdone it. What this film does is, again, just what it needed to: give fans more of the good stuff but be its own thing, too. Not an easy task by any means, but a capable team led by Kershner pulled it off splendidly. My one honest complaint: no Basil Poledouris score! He was working plenty when this was made and it may have just been a scheduling conflict but those resonant themes and soaring cues of triumph are highly conspicuous by their absence. The score provided by composer Leonard Rosenman lacks everything Poledouris’ embodied, making that my one true trouble here. Otherwise than that, this is a respectable sequel that plays nicely following Verhoeven’s masterpiece.

Video

Previously issued by MGM in both a trilogy collection and solo disc, “RoboCop 2” sports a shiny new coat of paint in the form of a new 2K scan of the interpositive. The resulting 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is a stunner, improving on the old releases in every way. The color palette appears more vivid, with splashes of brighter shades popping off the screen. Film grain is smoother and has been returned to a more natural, filmic appearance. Fine detail and overall definition enjoy the biggest boost over prior releases, allowing so much more of the film’s minute production design to be seen. Detroit has never looked uglier! There are sporadic instances of dirt & debris, though they are fleeting. Black levels are rock solid.

Audio

As per usual, Scream Factory has provided an English DTS-HD Master Audio track in both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound options. Dialogue is presented cleanly and without issue, striking a good balance within the mix. There are many moments of explosive gunfire and, er, explosions and while there is a decent audible response the impact could be greater. Leonard Rosenman’s score gets the job done but it in no way will inspire and elate in the way Poledouris’ themes did the first time around. Subtitles are included in English.

Extras

“RoboCop 2” has never had more than a trailer included for bonus features. Well, Scream Factory has rectified that problem tenfold by including a staggering amount of extra material. There are multiple audio commentary tracks, interviews, promotional materials, still galleries, and more.

Two audio commentary tracks are included here – the first, with author/CG supervisor Paul M. Sammon; the second, with the “Robodoc: The Creation of RoboCop” team.

“Corporate Wars: The Making of RoboCop 2” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 32 minutes and 4 seconds. This compilation of new and vintage interviews features discussions with director Irvin Kershner, producer Jon Davison, actors Tom Noonan & Nancy Allen, associate producer Phil Tippett, and many more. Lots of production history is covered here and it is all fascinating.

“Machine Parts: The FX of RoboCop 2” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 31 minutes and 36 seconds. Tippett and most of the lead special effects technicians on the film sit down to discuss their approach to making the film’s FX stand out and push the boundaries of what current technology could achieve.

“Robo-Fabricator” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 8 minutes and 47 seconds. James Belohovek designed RoboCop’s armor and he sits down here to recall his process.

“OCP Declassified” is a 1989 interview featurette with producer Jon Davison that runs for 45 minutes and 50 seconds.

“Adapting Frank Miller’s RoboCop 2” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 5 minutes and 55 seconds, featuring comic book writer Steven Grant discussing Miller’s vastly different take on the sequel.

A theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 1 minute and 56 seconds.

Two teaser trailers (1080p) run for 1 minute and 56 seconds.

A trio of TV spots (1080p) runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds.

Deleted scenes gallery (1080p) features still shots of scenes cut from the final film along with explanatory text, running for 2 minutes and 34 seconds.

“Behind-the-Scenes” gallery (1080p) features 9 images, running for 46 seconds.

A more loaded still gallery (1080p), featuring 109 images, runs for 9 minutes and 7 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible, allowing for display of the new art of the original key art. A slip-cover with the new art is included on first pressings.

Overall

Much better than you remember it or the reputation that precedes it, “RoboCop 2” may not reach the upper echelon of its predecessor but it is by no means a slouch as far as sequels go. Fans will have a blast revisiting it, too, thanks to Scream Factory’s absolutely killer Collector’s Edition, which packs in a ton of bonus features to supplement an already impressive A/V package.

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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