It’s Killer, And I Saw It! — Scream Factory’s Blu-ray Revival of ROBOCOP 2 & 3

Robocop (1987) is a tough act to follow. Director Paul Verhoeven infused it with such a unique and personal mix of social satire, black humor, spirituality, and X-rated violence that any follow-up without his involvement would face a challenge to nail the right tone. Furthermore, Alex Murphy (Robocop) had avenged his death and his story had a sense of closure. When the film proved to be a huge success, struggling distributor Orion Pictures rushed to greenlight two more sequels to bolster their weakening position.

Robocop 2 (1990)

Listen in on any conversation about Robocop 2, and it’s likely you’ll hear it disparaged or dismissed. That drives me crazy, because despite its difficult launching point and extremely rushed development, Robocop 2 is an absolute blast.

The film is the final feature from Irvin Kershner, known for movies like Eyes Of Laura Mars, A Fine Madness, and, oh yeah, The Empire Strikes Back. And brought on board to write the script was none other than Frank “The Dark Knight Returns” Miller. Their story builds upon the already-seeded conflict between evil mega-corporation OCP and the striking Detroit Police force, which results in a whirlwind of chaos on the streets. Psychopathic drug kingpin Cain uses the opening to flood the city with a synthesized ultra-stimulant called Nuke.

While Robocop 2 doesn’t quite match Verhoeven’s particular wavelength of caustic social critique or Christ-figure analogism, it has a manic, freewheeling style all its own. For reasons never explained, Cain’s second-in-command is a bossy, foul-mouthed kid who treats adults as his subordinates. That’s almost too wild to take seriously, but it’s a stroke of genius — to young viewers it feels like watching something truly vicarious and subversive.

And like the original, Robocop 2 has a definite strain of biting humor. In one comical sequence, OCP’s “Robocop 2” program goes through a parade of failures in trying to create another cyborg; they all end up suicidal. Later, when Robo is decimated in battle with Cain and his goons, his image-conscious corporate owners reprogram him with hundreds of new non-violent and PR-friendly prime directives, overloading his circuits with dopey bromides and making him an ineffectual police officer.

This all culminates in a stop-motion packed battle between Robocop and Cain, whose consciousness has been transplanted to a huge and powerful cyborg as the culmination of the Robocop 2 program. Over the course of ten minutes, this knock-down, drag-out melee takes its brawlers to the top of a skyscraper, and plummets them to below the city streets, forcing Robo to outwit his bigger, stronger, better-armed adversary. In terms of both action and effects, it’s the pinnacle of the entire franchise.

Robocop 3

Despite its hard-R roots, the franchise had always held a place in the hearts of kids who were attracted to the pulpy comic-hero subject matter. An improbable animated series debuted in 1988, and by the time Robocop 3 came around, Orion was convinced that a PG-13 film was the way to go.

Fred Dekker was tapped to direct the film, and after two box office failures (though now beloved cult classics, Night Of The Creeps and The Monster Squad were considered big losers), he jumped at the chance to helm a major franchise despite the inherent difficulties.

Detroit just can’t catch a break. OCP’s urban renewal program, essentially a mercenarial gentrification army, attempts to forcibly remove families from their homes and neighborhoods to make way for their new vision of “Delta City”.

Robocop 3 is easily the least essential of the trilogy, stymied by its PG-13 trappings and tonal differences from the first two films. It plays as sillier and lighter than the other films, lacking both their sarcasm and bite. Additionally, there’s a lack of uncanny stop-motion robot effects which were by this time a hallmark of the franchise. Perhaps most detrimentally, Peter Weller didn’t return to the title role.

In its defense, the film does attempt to finish a wider arc for Murphy, who having been separated from his wife and son, now finds a surrogate family. He turns against his owners to join and defend the displaced citizens who are banding together to survive and fight off their oppressors.

Rather than try to top Robocop 2’s robot slugfest, 3 pits Robo against Japanese cyborg ninjas and culminates in a western-inspired showdown: The “sheriff” (franchise stalwart Robert DoQui as Sgt. Reed) and his posse ride onto the main street of town and inspire and deputize the citizenry to fight off the bandits trying to steal their homes. Robocop is the lone gunslinger in this analogy, and fittingly both a dead man and capable of flight — an avenging angel as in western tales like Pale Rider.

Robocop 3 boasts the most recognizable cast of the trilogy, with CCH Pounder, Stephen Root, Rip Torn, and Mako joining the fun, but the swelling cast is a double-edged sword — less character development is afforded to these new characters, which is particularly important because the audience needs to feel a sense of attachment for Robocop’s new surrogate family.

The closing film of the series is, at best, a passable entry that simply isn’t very good despite the best intentions of director, cast, and crew. With this edition, though, the film it at its best with an informative and excellent commentary by Fred Dekker.

The Package

Robocop 2 and Robocop 3 have been on Blu-ray before in inexpensive trilogy and solo releases, so I imagine the real question for anyone considering picking up these discs is what they’ve got to offer that’s new. The previous releases have always been barebones affairs, but Scream Factory’s new releases are feature-packed with tons of new interviews ready to assault your eyeballs. Unfortunately there are some lamentable absences, particularly Peter Weller and Frank Miller. What’s here, though, is great, especially the stuff with Fred Dekker and Phil Tippett.

Scream Factory’s feature-packed new Collector’s Editions have reversible covers featuring new and classic artwork, with slipcovers featuring the new art.

Robocop 2
Robocop 3

These releases look nice, and one thing that these discs get right is actually using the classic logo with the iconic font. That probably sounds like an easy layup, but MGM has actually screwed this up repeatedly over the course of years.

Not this.

Robocop 2 features a brand new 2K scan of the inter-positive, and it’s a marked improvement. I posted a separate article dedicated to comparing a ton of screenshots, which you can check out here. Robocop 3 includes the same (good looking) transfer from its previous discs.

Special Features and Extras — Robocop 2

· Audio Commentary with author/CG supervisor Paul M. Sammon
· Audio Commentary with Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths, and Eastwood Allen (makers of RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop)
· Corporate Wars: The Making of ROBOCOP 2 (32:04)
Making-of with tons of cast and crew.
· Machine Parts: The FX of ROBOCOP 2 (31:36)
Phil Tippett and many others discuss the film’s awesome stop motion sequences.
· Robo-Fabricator: An Interview with James Belohovek (8:47)
James discusses his work on improving the practical aspects of Robo’s suits for the sequel, but the best part of this interview is his opening tale of woe.
· Adapting Frank Miller’s ROBOCOP 2: An Interview with Steven Grant (5:53)
Grant, who adapted Miller’s original Robocop 2 screenplay into a comic book series, discusses the differences in the material.
· OCP Declassified (45:50)
Unpolished vintage materials including interviews with Irvin Kershner, Peter Weller, and Dan O’Herlihy, plus some BTS footage of deleted scenes
· Teaser Trailers (1:56)
· Theatrical Trailer (1:54)
· TV Spots (1:02)
· Deleted Scenes (Still Gallery) — The deleted scenes themselves are not included on the disc (perhaps lost?) but archival photos show some glimpses of what was excised.
· Still Gallery — BTS and promo materials

Special Features and Extras — Robocop 3

· Audio Commentary with director Fred Dekker
Dekker’s commentary is incredible, and his unprecedented look behind the scenes is fascinating. He’s obviously aware of the film’s poor reputation, and totally honest and humble about it. He even takes it full on the nose, never throwing anyone else under the bus for the film’s faults. He laments some choices, argues in favor of others, and takes pride in the parts he loves best.
· Audio Commentary with Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths, and Eastwood Allen (makers of “RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop”)
· Delta City Shuffle: The Making of ROBOCOP 3 (38:25)
Cast and crew, including Fred Dekker and Nancy Allen among others, reminisce on the film’s making and reception. Between this and Dekker’s commentary, this disc is one Frank Miller short of a best-case scenario.
· Robo-Vision: The FX of ROBOCOP 3 (12:03)
Several FX artists recall the film’s special effects — since there isn’t much stop motion in Robocop 3, this ends up mostly being about the CGI and flight-suit sequences, which have not aged particularly well.
· Climbing The Corporate Ladder with Felton Perry (10:48)
Perry, who plays OCP executive Johnson in all three films, recalls his history with the franchise and his own career and personal work ethics.
· Training Otomo with Bruce Locke and Bill Ryusaki (8:35)
Actor Locke and his trainer Ryusaki discuss the casting process and martial arts preparation of the film’s ninja character.
· War Machine: An Interview with James Belohovek (9:17)
Belohovek, who designed the Robocop 2 suit, talks about his return to the franchise as a prop-maker.
· Theatrical Trailer (2:02)
· Still Gallery


The Robocop sequels have never had better or more reverent home releases than these. Lovingly crafted with tons of extras, these are highly recommended. Robocop 2 is essential viewing, and even Robo-fans who dislike the third movie may be surprised at how fascinating its treatment is — with frank and humble reflections from Fred Dekker and others, this is a compelling look at a reviled film.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
Robocop 2 [Collector’s Edition Blu-ray]
Robocop 3 [Collector’s Edition Blu-ray]

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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