I’m always a bit shocked when I hear American liberals mock their conservative brethren for lacking in self-criticism. To me, that’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black if kitchen appliances were really, really rude. Consider how left-leaning critics celebrate Robocop (1987), yet rage against Robocop 2 despite the two being cut from the exact same crop. Both movies feature absurd levels of violence, cartoonishly unscrupulous side characters, and irreverent TV cutaways like the advert for Sunblock 5000: “They say that two minutes in the California sunshine is too much these days, after we lost the ozone layer…”
In fact, Irvin Kershner’s film delivers everything you could want from a faithful sequel, building on even the minutest subplots from the first movie. Robocop threatens a police strike; Robocop 2 starts with the city drowning in crime because of it. Robocop shows Omni Consumer Products (OCP) corporatizing law enforcement; Robocop 2 has the company making a bid for municipal government. Robocop introduces four directives our hero can’t bypass; Robocop 2 uploads him with over 250 rules, each more idiotic than the last.
Aside from the plot obviously, the only significant difference between Robocop and Robocop 2 lies in the latter turning its satirical mirror toward public policy groups instead of repeating the same pot shots at the expense of corporate America. Take, for example, the aforementioned directives implanted in Robocop (Peter Weller), a slaughtered police officer whom OCP turned into a cybernetic crime prevention unit. Put together by a committee of marketers and concerned citizens, they force our hero to lecture about coarse language and the dangers of smoking while ten-year-olds in baseball uniforms savagely beat an elderly storeowner.
Robocop 2 takes the joke further by casting thirteen-year-old Gabriel Damon as one of the lead villains. Dealing drugs to corrupt cops and mowing down the competition with an oozy half his size, Hob represents what might happen to our youths, according to screenwriters Walon Green and Frank Miller at any rate, if we keep neglecting order and discipline in favour of self-centered platitudes and hypocritical causes. Sure, you could complain about the bad taste inherent to involving a child in Robocop’s lurid universe, but, seeing as kids are indeed prime consumers and distributors of narcotics, you’d only be proving the filmmakers’ point about using our delicate sensibilities to bury our heads in the sand.
Besides, how can anyone take at face value a movie in which corporate moguls try so hard to out-scheme each other they end up grafting the brain of a drug lord to an unstoppable killing machine? I mentioned in my review of Robocop that Johnson (Felton Perry) served as the basis for Smithers in The Simpsons, but it isn’t until part two that he becomes a brownnosing icon, sniveling by the old man’s (Dan O’Herlihy) side and tattle-telling on his rival, Dr Faxx (Belinda Bauer), when the Robocop 2 project goes off the rails.
Yes, in a clever deconstructionist twist, Robocop 2 actually features a character called Robocop 2. He proves as ill-conceived as ED-209, quickly turning on his friends and creators for a fix. His purpose in the narrative is, of course, to face Robocop in the climactic stop-animation brawl, but he also serves as an interesting foil for our hero, who, earlier in the story, disowns his beloved wife and child in order to let them move on. Incidentally, I remain in awe of how much hurt and conflict Peter Weller can convey without facial expressions, not least because this is the only scene in the film devoid of cynicism.
Don’t get me wrong. Having grown up in Canada, I’m naturally inclined to reject anything spewed out by the pundits over at Fox News, but Robocop 2 proves dead-on in its biting satire of left-wing excesses. What the movie lacks in novelty (on account of it being a sequel), it makes up for in polish. Consider Robocop’s new blue-ish tint, which gives him the feel of a shiny sports car and sets the stage for his final, self-deprecating line, the perfect note on which to roll the credits. Sometimes, you’ve just got to learn to laugh at yourself.