Robocop 3 1993
I’ve been feeling rather indecisive as to what direction I wanted to take next on this site. I still have a small handful of relatively good, or at least mediocre and well known comic book movies that I still need to get around to and a whole lot of dreck. So I decided to make a little Twitter poll with a couple good movies, a bad movie, and an oddity to see what won out. It shouldn’t have come to much surprise that this is the film that won. And despite the fact that I have yet to see Robocop 2, I was certain that it didn’t matter. It also helped that I had the DVD sitting in front of me from a clearance bin I picked up months ago. I am a big fan of the original Robocop, but I’ve never really given much thought to the sequels. I was a little surprised to see that this was rated PG-13, and even more surprised considering it still had a fair amount of blood and swearing, just toned down from the levels seen in the original. It had a scant few impressive moments, and notably more laughably bad moments. It really just lost sight of what made Robocop an interesting property in the first place in return for a failed attempt at marketing towards a younger audience. But one of the more interesting things about this film, especially coming from this site, is that comic book writer Frank Miller co-wrote this film (as well as the second).
One of the more surprising things about this film is the cast, there are a large number of notable character actors early in their careers. There’s CCH Pounder, Bradley Whitford, Rip Torn, Steven Root, and even Mako. But none of them are given anything interesting to do. There are several callbacks to the earlier movies, but they are treated more like a parody film than a typical sequel. Nancy Allen is once again back for the third installment, but the way she’s revealed is set up as if it were supposed to be a big surprise. There’s a restaurant full of cops that Lee Arenberg tries to rob, but his arrest is interrupted with a police call. They argue over whose turn it is before they mention that it’s Lewis’s turn. Cut to someone with a newspaper over their face who then slowly lowers it to reveal Nancy Allen. Likely a surprise to no one who had seen the trailer, cast list, or either of the previous movies.
Besides being PG-13, one of the other most obvious ploys to make this film aimed at younger audiences was the inclusion of a young girl as one of the main cast members. Nikko is a half-Asian, soon-to-be orphan who happens to be a genius level hacker and giant fan of OCP’s robotics division, as evidenced by her Robocop and ED-209 toys shown in the intro. She just so happens to be left behind when her parents and all the rest of the citizens are gathered up and falls in with a group of resistance fighters who she helps by disabling an active ED-209 and reprogramming it for their own purposes. With a bit of added humor by making him literally “loyal as a puppy”, though literally in this case means that he repeats the phrase “loyal as a puppy” rather than actually acting like a dog. Though that would make just as much sense as the pig noises they used in the original movie when he fell down the stairs.
The overall plot of this film doesn’t entirely make that much sense. OCP is still trying to clear out the slums in order to make way for their new Delta City, but this time around they’re doing it by forcibly ousting people from their homes so that they can demolish it. In the case of Nikko and her family, literally while they are still living there. There’s also this divide between the beat cops and the elite SS-like “Rehabilitation officers” who are dressed a bit like SWAT. There’s also a thread where OCP is being bought out by a Japanese corporation led by Mako who has their own ninja robots called Otomos who look entirely human but all look the same and only wield samurai swords. There are a couple great looking special effects moments with the Otomos, one is the first reveal that they are actually robots and not just human ninjas when a punk hits the Otomo in the face with a pipe. This hit merely knocks his jaw out of place and he shifts it back and forth before putting it back in place. The other moment comes at the end when Robocop has to face off against two Otomos on the top floor of the OCP building – in a pale imitation of the original movie’s ending. He shoots the first Otomo in the face which leaves him unfazed, but his face has a great shattered look to it. Even though it’s obvious that this was done so that a different actor could wear this shattered face prosthetic considering that all the Otomos look exactly the same, it still looked pretty great. The scene even ends with another nod to the original, which was a powerful moment when he finally reclaimed the name Murphy after essentially reclaiming his human personality, but here it’s just a lame joke where he essentially says the opposite, “my friends call me Murphy, you can call me Robocop”.
There’s so much that can be said about the faults of this film, especially the fact that it’s PG-13, and yet they’re still able to show Lewis get shot in the chest a dozen times as well as a couple other moments of death with blood, but no gore. And on top of that, they’re constantly saying some form of “shit” though they keep it clean enough by not uttering a single “fuck” so that’s apparently ok. The moments of comedy also tend to fall flat more often than not in their absurdity, like how Robocop ends up commandeering a pink and frilly pimpmobile that gets totally demolished during the chase, but continues to run before he’s finally stopped when the villain throws a fistful of cash next to a group of kids playing street hockey who block the road. The film also tries to call back the comedic TV breaks of the first film, but doesn’t do anything with it until 80 minutes into the film so that when it comes, it’s incredibly jarring to the pace of the film, even though the animated Johnny Rehab commercial is another high point in the movie. There are just so many wrong decisions throughout this film that it’s a wonder how it even made it to theaters and wasn’t just a straight-to-home-video cash grab. I haven’t even mentioned the awful jetpack scenes where Robocop flying above a shootout between the beat cops teamed up with the resistance fighting the Rehabs teamed up with the local punks that looks far worse than Superman: The Movie from over ten years earlier. It’s just ridiculous. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.