RoboCop 2 (1990)

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Released 25-Nov-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 111:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Irvin Kershner
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Peter Weller
Nancy Allen
Dan O'Herlihy
Tom Noonan
Robert DoQui
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music Leonard Rosenman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, more amusing than annoying
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    RoboCop was a miracle of a film - a miracle that it was ever completed, anyway. It was one big gamble that paid off in spades for its director, who was unavailable when RoboCop 2 began pre-production. Instead, he was working on a little film called Total Recall, itself a troubled production that took nearly fifteen years to get from the writing stage to the production stage. Of course, this left the producers on RoboCop 2 in something of a dilemma - they wanted to cash in on the success of the original, but they had to find a director and a writer who could inject the same quirky, brutal sense of humour that made the original a classic. So, in place of Paul Verhoeven, Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner, RoboCop 2 was directed by Irvin Kershner, written by Frank Miller and Walon Green (I give all the credit for the good stuff to the latter).

    The story of RoboCop 2 begins with a mock commercial and a newscast that fills us in on the fact that things have not gotten better in Detroit since the events of the first film. A deadly designer drug called Nuke, created by a mysterious figure known as Cain (Tom Noonan) and his syndicate, has the streets in absolute chaos as citizens commit even more violent crimes in order to fuel their habit. As one trio rob a gun store in order to do just this, all the police are on strike once again, but RoboCop (Peter Weller) is on hand to stop the violent robbers, although the filmmakers miss one of the comic highlights of the first film - stopping violent crimes with violence that winds up costing the victims or the city more than what it would have if the criminals had escaped. In the process of arresting the one surviving robber, RoboCop learns the location of a place where Nuke is refined and distributed, which he promptly proceeds to raid.

    However, after Cain and his cronies, including Angie (Galyn Görg), make a rapid exit, RoboCop is shot by Hob (Gabriel Damon), a child who just happens to be one of Cain's gang. For some weird reason, this sparks memories of his former life when he was a policeman named Alex Murphy, and in spite of this internal conflict being well and truly resolved in the original, we see RoboCop driving by the place where Murphy's wife, Ellen (Angie Bolling), now lives. This prompts action from Ellen of the legal variety, but this is all dropped like a hot potato shortly thereafter, or like a plot point that the writers just don't know what to do with. Shortly thereafter, RoboCop and his partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) proceed to raid a video games parlour where Hob is bribing a police officer by the name of Duffy (Stephen Lee). RoboCop manages to learn the location of Cain from Duffy, but things don't quite go to plan when he tries to arrest the drug lord, which in turn results in a rip-off of the most unforgettable moment in the original, which again doesn't quite work.

    There's not much more plot to discuss here, except that OCP are up to their usual dirty tricks in an effort to get their Delta City project off the ground, which involves some chicanery on the part of The Old Man (Dan O'Herlihy), Johnson (Felton Perry), a new lawyer named Halzgang (Jeff McCarthy), and most importantly, a crooked psychologist named Juliette Faxx (Belinda Bauer). The last of those four is engaged not only to supervise making RoboCop himself a more family-friendly unit (another joke that doesn't really work, and is dropped faster than it is introduced), but also to put together a working prototype of a new model. In designing a new RoboCop, Faxx feels that the problem is that policemen are macho, body-proud warriors who become suicidal when stripped of all their flesh (as seen in some of the hilarious demos of the prototypes that have come before). To get around this rejection of being cybernetic, Faxx starts screening criminals with severe mental disturbances, finding one who is a) insane enough to want to be a literal Iron Man and b) afflicted with a weakness that allows some kind of assurance to his obedience.

    I'm sure anyone who's seen the film or read about it in any detail can already guess whose brain is chosen for the RoboCop 2 prototype, so let me close by summing up why this sequel doesn't quite work. Sure, it is at least as violent as its predecessor (the OFLC advisory content warning on the VHS release, a hangover from the days when these things were actually useful, reads "assaultive coarse language and very frequent violence"), but it doesn't have a fraction of the wit necessary to pull it off. While the mock commercials remain, only two of them are really up to the standard set by the original, while the other is a load of Green Party hooey. The Bixby Snyder show known as It's Not My Problem (not I'll Buy That For A Dollar as some people who can't be bothered doing their fact-checking say) is nowhere to be seen. The attempts to bring intrigue into the script by reintroducing conflict in RoboCop's mind at two stages of the story fall so short of the mark it's pretty sad. In fact, the only thing this sequel has going for it is the ramped-up political intrigue in the shape of the Delta City plans, and where the RoboCop 2 prototype eventually figures in them.

    If you want a film with the same wit and intelligence as RoboCop, this is not the place to look, but if you want an action film that is a cut above the rest of the pack for its (sometimes) anti-politically-correct sense of humour and brutality, then this is definitely the place to look. Peter Weller and Nancy Allen have a dynamic that works wonderfully during the film, Dan O'Herlihy is as charming as ever, and Gabriel Damon brings a surprising second dimension to the criminals. It is also interesting to note the use of 4:3 televisions in a film that is supposed to be set in the near future, such as at 22:06 or 70:35, which dates the film just a little. So sit down, have some popcorn, and give the makers some marks for effort when you indulge in RoboCop 2.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I had previously seen the Region 1 Orion DVD of this title, and it would not surprise me to learn that said Orion DVD was a recycled laserdisc transfer, so I was not expecting much from this transfer.

    The transfer is presented in the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. This Region 4 transfer's many advantages over the Orion DVD can be associated with that single fact. This transfer is also encoded with Automatic Pan & Scan information for the benefit of those who want to miss out on a third of the picture.

    This is one of the sharpest transfers I have seen to date, and yet it does not appear as harsh as was the case with the original RoboCop (mainly because of its production). Detail is so vibrant in this transfer that the use of Nuke almost seems instructional in an anatomic sense. The sequences that are shot from RoboCop's point of view have visible line structures in them, such as at 8:07, and some of the video or television sequences have a sort of rolling moiré effect, such as at 22:26, in them as a result, but this would be inherent in the way the film was shot. RoboCop 2's point of view is deliberately pixelised, much like an early LCD display, such as at 80:20. This actually makes for a good demonstration of the chicken-wire effect that LCD-based displays can suffer from. The shadow detail is excellent by the standards of a 1990 film, and there is no low-level noise.

    The colours in this transfer are very bright and vivid, a huge contrast to the previous film, but one that works remarkably well thanks to this transfer, which renders the colour scheme of the production with no visible smearing or composite artefacts.

    MPEG artefacts were not visible in this transfer, thanks in part to the abundance of space provided by the RSDL transfer. Film-to-video artefacts are a slight nuisance, however, with frequent aliasing that ranges from mild to moderate, and can be considered a trade-off for the unusual sharpness of the image. The most objectionable instances I found were on the ceiling in The Old Man's office at 19:56, on some rails at the sludge plant at 31:28, on a van at 51:45, and on a photo frame that sits on The Old Man's desk at 72:25. Surprisingly, these artefacts didn't bother me so much when they were taken in context of the substantially sharper transfer (the Orion Region 1 DVD was as dull as a Top 40 song and had even more aliasing to boot). Film artefacts were also found in large amounts, although there were only a couple that I found to be objectionable in light of the film's age, with a large black mark on the picture at 19:59 being the worst.

    There are English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles available on this DVD. Unlike those provided for the original RoboCop, these ones only vary from the spoken dialogue in a serious way about two percent of the time, and are quite serviceable.

    One specific problem I have with this transfer, however, is similar to that I have with the recent Region 4 release of Starship Troopers - there are not enough chapter stops provided. Chapter 6 is my favourite example - it is twelve minutes and twenty-eight seconds long, with at least four distinct scenes contained therein. This makes a bit of a mockery of the chapter selection system, which was designed expressly to allow easy access to one's favourite scenes.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 9 and 10, at 64:41. This interrupts a musical cue, and therefore sticks out like a sore thumb, but it is at a relatively sedate moment, so I will let it slide.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are a total of five soundtracks available on this DVD, all of which are in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 192 kilobits per second. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue, with dubs provided in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. I stuck with the English dialogue, although I do intend to show the Italian version to a friend and get her opinion of it later.

    The dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand at all times, although the occasional word, such as the name "Halzgang", gets lost in the void. This soundtrack is a major improvement upon the Orion DVD, so I won't complain too much about the dialogue. There did not seem to be any problems with audio sync, although the final media break when one of the reporters is introducing the event has quite an unnatural look to it.

    The score music in this film is credited to Leonard Rosenman, who had to fill some very big shoes in light of the score from the original by Basil Poledouris. Sometimes he succeeds, such as when RoboCop is in conflict about the life he had as a human police officer, or during the battles with the new prototype. However, there are times, especially during the end credits, when he fails in a big way. All in all, I would rate the music in this sequel as good, but not particularly great.

    The surround channels were not involved in this soundtrack, which is a major pity given that there are numerous opportunities spread throughout the film for a directional effect.

    The subwoofer was similarly uninvolved in this soundtrack, with no LFE effects to speak of, which is again a major pity considering that this film makes the words "very frequent violence" mean something.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, silent, but 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is the same theatrical trailer I remember seeing just before trailers for R-rated films were restricted to being shown only with other R-rated films. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack, and it does a brilliant job of selling the film without giving away vital plot elements.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Aside from the current Fox/MGM DVD that is about to be released in Region 1, the only other version to my knowledge was the Orion DVD that is now out of print. The two Fox/MGM DVDs appear to be pretty much the same.

    The Region 1 Orion DVD missed out on:

    The Region 4 Fox DVD misses out on:

    I would declare this Region 4 DVD to be the victor here, although this could change if Fox or MGM bring out a Region 1 DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix on it, as I am still unhappy that such a remix wasn't even attempted for this disc. The original theatrical release was in Dolby SR, and since RoboCop has been presented in 5.1, I don't think it is too far out of the question for either sequel.

Summary

    RoboCop 2, after viewing it this time, seemed confused about what it wanted to be. It starts out wanting to do a Paradise Lost type of theme, then it veers into political incorrectness while borrowing heavily from 1984, then it boils down into a Terminator 2 style of action-fest. Any one of these threads, if explored to the fullest, could have made this film a classic (my vote is with the middle one), but instead it winds up neither here nor there because of its own indecision. Thankfully, Peter Weller really sells the man-machine concept like nobody else can, although his moves look more awkward this time around for reasons that only a commentary could explain. Still, if you enjoyed the original and would like to see some further adventures, this is worth taking a look at.

    The video transfer is excellent considering the age of the source materials.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio transfer is disappointing, but it does the job.

    The only extra is a well-made theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Great Sequel - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Verhoeven so badly needed - Tsargrad (My Bio)
Frank Miller - REPLY POSTED
Individual release? - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
Smug -
Robocop 2, a Perfect Sequel. Is there ANY news on when it will be sold as a single? - Christopher
Robocop 2 (OFLC rating?) - Miklos (my stinkin' bio)