Sequels are a funny thing. Sometimes they reach beyond the scope of their predecessors and are regarded as better than the films that came before them (Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, etc..). Others are regarded as incredibly inferior and even go so far as to hurt the rep of the first entry as a result (Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Crow: City Of Angels, Batman & Robin, etc...). Then there are those which fall somewhere in the middle. The movies which aren't great, but aren't bad either. They don't really break any new ground, but they're not the same old same old either.
Welcome to 'RoboCop 2'
Old Detroit is still a bankrupt city, tearing itself apart. A citywide police strike has made matters even worse, and gangs have run of the streets, driven by a new designer drug called Nuke. Lording over them all is the creator of this drug, Cain (Tom Noonan Last Action Hero). Meanwhile, the CEO of OCP (Dan O'Herlihy The Last Starfighter) has designs on tearing Detroit to the ground so that he can finally begin construction of his beloved Delta City. In the midst of all of this, RoboCop (Peter Weller) still roams the streets, dispensing justice. But OCP has begun to regard him as obsolete. To help patrol this new Delta City, the company believes they should create a new, more advanced RoboCop. But where to find a volunteer? And what lengths will RoboCop go to to take Cain off of the streets?
RoboCop, by his very nature, seems like a character tailor made for adolescent boys age 8 to 12. He's a cyborg who fights crime in a futuristic suit of armor with a handgun that somehow manages to combine the power and might of a tripod mounted M60 into a handgun. The funny thing is, the first 'RoboCop' movie was a hard R rated action thriller. Did this stop the filmmakers from marketing their creation to young boys? Hell no! After the success of the first film, RoboCop found his way into arcade games, action figures, even an animated series. With all of this kid friendly tie in merchandise, one could understandably think that a sequel to the first movie would tone down the excessive violence and cater to a younger demographic. But no, oh no.
It's interesting. This sequel to one of the most violent action movies to have ever come down the pike is every bit as visceral as the film that came before it. But it's violence on a different level. The first film was gorier, more explosive. This sequel is like 'RoboCop's uglier, more mean spirited nephew. Cain's right hand man is in fact a right hand boy, who looks no older than 12 (Gabriel Damon, Newsies) who has no problem cursing like a sailor and dispatching of police officers by the dozen. Traitors are cut into with a scalpel in full view of a child. Brains are smashed to the street (see above image) like so much Jell-O mold. Make no mistake, this may not have as much quantity in the violence department as 'RoboCop', but the quality (as it were?) is more than just on display.
Now, lest you think that this is just one giant sadistic film with designs on ruining your psyche, this was (originally, anyway) written by Frank Miller, the comic book artiste behind the resurrection of Batman and the dark side of Daredevil (amongst other creations). The idea was to make a comic book film with a darker edge to it, and, to a certain degree, he succeeded. The studio had their own vision however, and so Miller's ideas combined with theirs didn't always make for a truly realized vision, even under the direction of George Lucas mentor Irvin Kershner (director of 'The Empire Strikes Back').
At the end of the day, however, what sets 'RoboCop 2' apart from it's predecessor (amongst other things) is that the pros and cons tend to stand side by side. Most of the principal actors return, but just seem to be going through the motions. The social satire, which set the first film apart from so many other action films, is still on display, but to a somewhat less realized degree (the news reports and commercials, thankfully, remain) The stop motion effects are still impressive, but were beginning to look antiquated by this time. The soundtrack by Leonard Rosenmann (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) is good, but not nearly as good as Basil Poledouris' score for the first film.
'RoboCop 2" is good, even fun to a certain degree. It's just not nearly as iconic as the first groundbreaking film in the series. But it delivers the requisite thrills and action. It's just curious that a series which would seem fit for young boys would come out of the gates with two films parents wouldn't be caught dead showing their children. This would be corrected, to a certain degree, with the third film. This, however, would be the series' downfall...