Sequel Saturday: My First Sequel Marathon, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
I started really getting into movies after I got a job at Blockbuster Video in 1998. A new product called DVDs was introduced to store shelves, but VHS was still the format at time. High-definition video was not a blip on anyone’s home theater radar. One of the few perks of the job is that you could rent any movie you pleased for free, even before the movie came out.
On one of my days off, I decided to do the first of what would be many sequel marathons. Searching the store shelves, I looked for a short series that I could watch in a single day. The first one I picked was a doozy. It started off with a genuine science-fiction classic and ended with a shoddy entry that was shot a few dozen miles from my house. I’m talking about the original RoboCop trilogy.
The original RoboCop is one of the best combinations of comedy and science-fiction out there. After an extraordinarily violent shootout with a gang, police officer Alex Murphy gets gunned down. Omni Consumer Products scientists work to restore his body into a test model of RoboCop. Part man. Part machine. All cop. Director Paul Verhoeven (Katie Tippel) turns the titular character into a Christ-like figure while the screenplay by Edward Neumeier (Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid) and Michael Miner (Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace) slips in plenty of corporate satire.
RoboCop 2 gets off to a strong start, but quickly slides into shallow comic book nonsense. One wishes the directing by Irvin Kershner (The Hoodlum Priest) was a bit sharper. The concept of RoboCop fighting against a different model literally called RoboCop 2 (!!) is too silly for words. Some so-so ideas percolate to the surface (RoboCop becomes politically correct! A kid fires a gun at RoboCop because he knows RoboCop won’t harm a child!), but this one is merely a miss.
RoboCop 3’s apple pie don’t taste too nice. Ninjas and jetpacks collide along with a welcome return to the satire of the original. Too bad the whole enterprise looks cheap and RoboCop is out of commission for most of the plot.
After a day of watching RoboCop action, I was kind of upset. The original is such a clever gem of a flick that the sequels never really lived up to it. But how could they? It’s similar to the high bar set by John Milius (Farewell to the King) with Conan the Barbarian – can you really top perfection?