This time the producers have sought the script input of comic-book writer Frank Miller. In 1990, Miller had just emerged on the scene, having conducted some acclaimed work on revising Marvels Daredevil in the early 1980s and then moved over to DC to write The Dark Knight Returns (1986), which became the most influential graphic novel of the decade and created the modern dark angst-ridden superhero. Ahead for Frank Miller would be cult independent titles like Give Me Liberty (1990), Hard-Boiled (1990), Sin City (1991-2), Big Guy and Rusty the Robot (1996) and 300 (1998). Film adaptations of these Sin City (2005), 300 (2007), Batman: Year One (2011), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I (2012), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II (2013) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) later gained Miller a widespread name, even the directors chair of the big screen adaptation of The Spirit (2008). Miller co-writes RoboCop 2 with Walon Green, screenwriter of The Wild Bunch (1969), Sorcerer (1977), Eraser (1996) and Dinosaur (2000), the director of a number of nature documentaries including the insect takeover film The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971), as well as a tv producer/writer on Hill Street Blues (1981-7), ER (1996-2009) and various incarnations of Law and Order. Frank Miller was not happy with production interference on his script and swore off movie work for many years, such that it required considerable persuasion by the respective directors to allow his graphic novels to be filmed in the 00s. His original RoboCop 2 script gained legend and he later allowed it to be adapted in graphic novel form as Frank Millers Robocop (2003-6).
Irvin Kershner was a director who had emerged in the 1950s and made a variety of dramas such as The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964), A Fine Madness (1966), The Flim-Flam Man (1967), Up the Sandbox (1972), S.P.Y.S. (1974) and The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976). Irvin Kershners first brush with genre filmmaking came with the clairvoyance thriller Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) from an early John Carpenter script. Kershner gained a huge boost to his career when George Lucas sought him out as the director of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), which became the most successful sequel in history. Kershner subsequently went onto make the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983) and RoboCop 2. Though the last three of these showed Kershner with a fine grasp of the mechanics of big-budget genre filmmaking, he announced his retirement in the mid-1990s at the age of 70, only briefly returning as producer of the psycho-thriller American Perfekt (1997) before his death in 2010.
Despite Frank Millers unhappiness with the finished product, enough of his material remains to make RoboCop 2 well worthwhile. The script for the first RoboCop was intended as a satire of 1980s corporate economics but Frank Millers script travels far beyond that. Miller wields the idea of a private enterprise police force that the first film didnt quite know what to do with with considerably more conviction, while darkly escalating the satiric vision. The evil corporation plots a foreclosure on the city in one wonderful scene, Mayor Willard Pugh is reduced to holding a telethon to raise the money to pay for the police bill and in a moment of cheerful arrogance Gabriel Damons pre-adolescent drug kingpin steps in offering to pick up the tab. Some of the funniest scenes are when Belinda Bauer sets up a citizens committee to ask advice on how they can improve Robocop. Most of all, the film gets into an exploration of Robocops humanity aided by Peter Wellers affecting performance, one feels for Murphy through the cold-blooded legal debates dismissing him as property and ordering his feelings deprogrammed, or the scene where he insists to his wife that Murphy is dead and he is only a machine.
Trimmed of Paul Verhoevens campier excesses, RoboCop 2 is a darker, leaner vision. The jokey satire is still there like an opening commercial for a car that electrocutes anyone who tries to steal it. Particularly amusing is a tv ad for Sunblock 5000, which comes replete with a warning from the Surgeon General that prolonged sunbathing can cause cancer: They say that two minutes in the California sunshine is too much these days after we lost the ozone layer. But that was before there was Sunblock 5000. Just apply a pint to your body, and youre good for hours, says the bikinied babe coating herself from head-to-toe in blue-and-green lotion.
Irvin Kershner marshals an impressive array of artillery one scene where a gang demobilise Robocop with an electro-magnet and then start dismantling him with buzzsaws and jackhammers is pretty funny. Robocop 2, presented as a giant stop-motion animated Transformer, is an formidable piece of hardware Kershner even creates an affecting pathos for it in one moment where it encounters former girlfriend Galyn Görg, and she touches hand to armoured pincer before it rips her head off. The climactic battle between the two Robocops is a magnificently staged and still holds up well today, especially when one remembers it was conducted before the prevalence of CGI effects.
There are good performances particularly from Belinda Bauer in a sexily villainous turn where she steals much of the show. Tom Noonan gives a weirdly messianic performance as the drug kingpin Cain where he, as always, plays like an alien trapped in human skin. The films most adventurous creation is that of the sublimely confident adolescent crime kingpin Hob played by Gabriel Damon.
The RoboCop saga was continued with the terrible RoboCop 3 (1993) where Peter Weller was replaced by Robert Burke. RoboCop (2014) was a cinematic remake of the original starring Joel Kinnaman. RoboCop was later expanded into a disappointing tv series RoboCop (1994-5) starring Richard Eden in the title role, which lasted for 23 episodes. RoboCop: Prime Directives (2000) was a six-hour tv mini-series sequel, starring Page Fletcher. There were also several animated tv spinoffs RoboCop (1988-9), which lasted for twelve episodes, and RoboCop: Alpha Commando (1998-9), which lasted for 40 episodes.