“Oh wow, Robocop can fly!”
An odd film, Robocop 3. Released in 1993, this was the third and final film in the original Robocop franchise. While the action is still set in Detroit and Robocop is back (albeit now played by Robert John Burke) and Nancy Allen shows up long enough to get killed off, Robocop 3 feels strangely separate from the previous two Robocop films. If the first two Robocop films were dark, satirical, and over-the-top in their violence, the third film is a family friendly adventure film that reimagines Robocop as being some sort of fair housing activist.
And, on top of all that, Robocop can fly now. Admittedly, that’s because Robocop gets fitted for a jetpack that he didn’t have in the previous films but he still looks incredibly ludicrous flying through the streets of Detroit. Since the Robocop armor has always looked very bulky and very heavy, it’s hard to believe that he could fly as quickly and as smoothly as he does in this film.
There’s a new set of villains too. Rip Torn has replaced Dan O’Herilhy as the CEO. And listen, I like Rip Torn. He will always be a hero to me because he bit Norman Mailer’s ear off. But Torn is far too obviously evil in the role of the CEO. O’Herlihy smartly played the Old Man as being avuncular and amoral. You could look at him and understand how he rose to his position of prominence. Torn’s performance is a bit more cartoonish but then again, Robocop 3 is the most cartoonish of the series.
The CEO wants to tear down Old Detroit so the residents of Old Detroit are fighting back. Leading the CEO’s forces — called the Rehabbers — is Paul McDagget (John Castle), who is a complete and total madman but who, at the same time, is never quite as memorable as Kurtwood Smith or Tom Noonan. He’s really just another generic militaristic bad guy. Normally, you would expect Robocop to be on the side of the company and the police but he’s been reprogrammed by an 8 year-old hacker named Nikko (Remy Ryan). Robocop is now working with the rebels. One of the rebels is played by Stephen Root, proving once again that you never know where Stephen Root might pop up.
Robocop 3 has none of the satiric bite of the first two movies. Instead of being a symbol of authoritarianism gone beserk, Robocop becomes a generic do-gooder. The violence is toned down and, with the addition of a kid sidekick, it’s obvious that this Robocop was meant to be a safer version of the character. Unfortunately, a safe Robocop equals a boring Robocop. You watch this movie and you wonder what happened to the Robocop who shot Ronny Cox out of a window.
“My friend’s call me Murphy,” he says towards the end of the film, “You can call me Robocop.” That seemed to indicate that Robocop had quite a future ahead of him of doing the right thing and standing up to big evil corporations but Robocop 3 was such a bomb at the box office that Robocop’s further adventures would only be seen on TV. The franchise was rebooted back in 2014, in a film that my friend Mark called “Rubber Cop.” After Rubber Cop fell flat, it was announced that Robocop would be rebooted for a second time, this time with a movie that would serve as a direct sequel to the first Robocop and which would ignore the sequels and the first reboot. Personally, I think it might be time to let Robocop retire. He had a good run.