Sunday, 24 June 2012

Film Review | RoboCop 3 (1993)

After the mess and bad feeling surrounding RoboCop 2, it was down to the third in the trilogy to bring some of the credibility of the original film back to the franchise. However, RoboCop 3 suffered the behind-the-scenes turmoil which marred the first sequel: Peter Weller chose not to return as the eponymous cyborg, his experience being so negative whilst working on RoboCop 2; Frank Miller was again brought back to write the script, hoping to reintroduce some of the ideas he'd had for the second in the franchise that weren't used, but again saw his script rewritten to the point of being unrecognisable. He wouldn't return to Hollywood until Robert Rodriguez brought Miller's graphic novel Sin City to the big screen. All things considered, RoboCop 3 seemed anything but a safe bet to bring back the satirical brilliance of the first film.

We return to the dystopian near-future, where OCP's plans to level Detroit and create "Delta City" in its place are underway as many of the city's inhabitants are forced from their homes by armed officers known as "rehabs". After an attempt by RoboCop (Robert John Burke) and partner Lewis (Nancy Allen) to defend citizens against the rehabs goes awry, the law enforcement cyborg joins forces with a resistance group to take down the rehabs and OCP once and for all.

In short, RoboCop 3, much like its predecessor, never manages to overcome the trouble behind its production. The script is schlocky and overly sentimental - a world away from that of Paul Verhoeven's sharp and acerbic original. Some of Verhoeven's hallmarks linger on, although they just serve to remind you of how far the franchise has fallen since its opening installment.

Burke's effort in taking on the Murphy/RoboCop role is admirable, but is hampered by the poor script and Fred Dekker's muted direction, as well as the insurmountable problem that he simply isn't Weller. Allen is a welcome returning face, although her time on screen is brief making her sorely missed for most of the film. New characters introduced are flimsy, from Stephen Root's over-the-top resistance member Coontz to Remy Ryan's irritating and ludicrous juvenile computer hacker Nikko.

RoboCop 3's biggest failing, however, is the change of tone from the first two films, largely in order to gain it a PG-13 rating in the USA upon its release. Gone is the adeptly utilised ultraviolence the first film is known for and that the second film, albeit with limited success, attempted to replicate. Instead we get neutered action sequences and cartoon style violence that for the most part falls flat.

To its credit, RoboCop 3's story hangs together much better than that of RoboCop 2, and in that sense it is superior to the first sequel. But when the story is as mawkish and silly as that related here, it makes very little difference. RoboCop 3 ensures that the franchise goes out on a whimper, certifying the original film as the trilogy's sole worthwhile entry.


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