RoboCop 2 followed up Paul Verhoeven’s wildly successful RoboCop at an important time in Orion Pictures’ lineage; the idea was to revitalize the company with, ironically, a story about corporate greed and corruption that capitalized on the original’s more satirical moments and elevating them above even the violent content; the resulting film differs in tone while retaining the same overarching subject matter, also broadening its audience base by incorporating a comedic and sometimes even slapstick approach.
RoboCop 2 approaches its plot in much the same way the first film tackled crime and corruption in Detroit: centralizing its focus on Omni Consumer Products’ attempts to privatize Detroit’s police force and eventually craft a new city out of Detroit’s wreckage, eliminating crime on the streets by utilizing an unstoppable killing force known as RoboCop 2. Sound familiar? While RoboCop 2 features the same overarching idea as the first film, its most interesting offering is its meta concept of a RoboCop 2 cyborg – in effect, the franchise revisits its own concepts with a new and more powerful creation, at times even putting Peter Weller’s RoboCop aside in an attempt to build up Cain’s (Tom Noonan) drug trade, a highly addictive Kool-Aid substance called Nuke.
Frank Miller and Walon Green’s script intentionally features a higher volume of gratuitous humor, not veiling it under the guise of satire. RoboCop 2 contains a high number of catchphrases, comedic action scenes, and a more triumphantly cheesy soundtrack, all combining to form a film that often belies its own more serious concepts about retaining a sense of humanity and the corruption underlying governmental decisions. Still, there are some razor-sharp jokes within, especially in sequences that mimic news broadcasts and advertisements from the time period, often mocking the representation of criminals and corporations in the media.
RoboCop 2 certainly feels less gritty than its predecessor, but that also heightens the viewer’s sense of fun. Director Irvin Kershner’s pacing is tight, and the film moves at a fast clip throughout; when it’s not featuring excellent chase and stunt sequences, it’s working on satirically portraying the masterminds behind OCP and building up the film’s main antagonist Cain, both before and after he’s transformed into a Nuke-addicted cyborg. Noonan does a good job in his role – and really, this kind of character is his shtick anyway – but the whole Nuke cult is aided by the work of young Hob (Gabriel Damon), who often steals the scenes with his rude vocabulary.
One area the film lacks, though, is in its depiction of RoboCop himself. Besides its opening sequence, RoboCop 2 doesn’t spend much time on the titular cyborg or his friendship with his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen); while it’s not as vital to the plot as it was in RoboCop, it’s still a shame that there’s not more focus on RoboCop’s struggle adapting to being mostly machine and only partly human – it’s actually a strong subplot with Cain, and it would have been interesting for the film to explore the juxtaposition between him and Alex Murphy.
All around, RoboCop 2 is a highly entertaining film that actually promotes its inanity while urging viewers to look for the subtext, and while some may not prefer this style to the original’s tone, it’s a quality sequel that manages to keep the franchise functioning. Solid performances from its cast and a heavy dose of humor blend well the bloody action, making this a popcorn movie tough to beat.