Neither Robocop 2 or Robocop 3 have gotten much fan love over the years which is both a surprise and isn’t one considering how revered Paul Verhoeven’s original film was and still is. Shout Factory have gone and given fans reason to reconsider though with two brand new Collector’s Editions, one for each sequel. And the results may or may not be what you would expect.
For a while, I had written off Robocop 2 as being too mean and ugly of a film to champion along the same lines as Robocop. Where Verhoeven’s film was plenty mean and plenty ugly, it also had a biting sense of satire and wit. Helmed, perhaps unlikely so, by Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner and based on a nihilistic story by comics veteran Frank Miller – Robocop 2 paints a pitch black picture of humanity set within a Reagan era “war on drugs” universe that now feels both prescient and antiquated. But the real star of Robocop 2 isn’t Kershner’s direction, Miller’s dour script or even Robocop himself – it’s the stop motion work. It’s ultimately difficult to say that Robocop 2 outdoes Robocop as a whole, but the effects are a leap forward and there’s some legitimately impressive set pieces on display. It’s just a shame that it’s surrounded by a humorless, brutal story that feels more like an imitation of Verhoeven’s film than a successor to it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have as many (or any) nice things to say about Robocop 3. A sad, misguided attempt at trying to make the titular hero more kid friendly for the mid 90s with merchandise selling additions like a Robocop jet pack and robot samurai (!?). Frank Miller returns as a co-writer on the script, with this one being much less dark (but equally as inane) as that of Robocop 2. And the director this time out is Fred Dekker of fan favorites The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps. But his attempt at directing a Robocop film doesn’t match the spirit or quality of either of those, instead resulting in a tonally awkward mess of spectacle and carried over Reagan era politics which don’t mesh with the more kid friendly tone. It’s aged about as well as you’d expect it to.
Shout Factory have brought both titles to Blu-ray as Collector’s Edition releases in 2017 with Robocop 2 being billed as having a new 2K transfer of the interpositive and Robocop 3 appearing to be the same transfer as the 2011 MGM release. Both look good, with little to no damage showing up and a healthy grain structure intact. I wouldn’t say that the new transfer of Robocop 2 improves upon the MGM release enough to justify a double dip (but the supplements should fix that), but it definitely looks solid nonetheless. Both titles offer DTS HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 options and all sound great, I’ll always side with what mix a film was originally released with so I’m always happy to see both options included on these releases.
Shout Factory have given these sequels the best treatment they’ve gotten on home video so far, supplements wise with both discs containing plenty for fans to dig through. Robocop 2 starts with two new commentary tracks: the first being with CG supervisor Paul M. Sammon which is expectedly technical in nature, and the second being with a few of the makers of RoboDoc: The Making of Robcop documentary, which is much more about the content and reactions to it than the nitty gritty filmmaking side of things. Then we get “Corporate Wars: The Making of Robocop 2” which is a new feature assembled with new interviews of pretty much everyone involved in making Robocop 2, it’s a real treasure trove for fans. Then we get “Machine Parts: The FX of Robocop 2“, which is exactly what it sounds like and is a treat for anyone interested in how special effects are created. That’s followed by “Robo-Fabricator” which is an interview with armor creator James Belohovek. Next we get “Adapting Frank Miller’s Robocop 2” which unfortunately isn’t an interview with Miller but is one with comics writer Steven Grant. And then there’s “OCP Declassified” which is assembled from archival interviews of principal subjects. If that’s not enough, we also get a bunch of trailers and stills galleries of promo materials and even some stills of deleted scenes. Whew!
If you thought that the amount of supplements would drop for Robocop 3, think again! We get another onslaught of new content which should even please those who aren’t fans of the film. We start with a commentary with Fred Dekker which is reason enough to watch the film again, with Dekker being incredibly candid about the production and reception of the film and not necessarily being kind about it either. Then we get a second commentary with the same RoboDoc crew as on the Robocop 2 disc and it’s pretty much the same deal as that track, worth a listen for fans. Next up we get “Delta City Shuffle: The Making of Robocop 3” which is another newly created piece full of interviews from those involved with making Robocop 3 and it’s great. And then there’s another effects piece titled “Robo-Vision: The FX of Robocop 3” which is full of details about the special effects, of which there are plenty. An interview with actor Felton Perry follows, titled “The Corporate Ladder” which is a fun look back at one actor’s experience with the franchise. Actor Bruce Locke and martial arts trainer Bill Ryusaki are profiled in “Training Otomo” which is mostly a conversation about the martial arts work required for Robocop 3. The last interview is titled “War Machine” and is with James Belohovek again, talking more about his Robocop work. Trailers and stills galleries round out the package.
You’d be hard pressed to find those who like the sequels to Robocop as much if not more than the first film, but Shout Factory have pulled out all stops in making two robust Collector’s Edition releases for each sequel. If you’re already a fan, these are as highly recommended as you can get. If you’re on the fence, definitely check them out even if only for the stacked supplements packages.