I like it. It's looking good. RoboCable lets them push the boundaries they daren't with RoboCop himself and this week they introduce an entirely new supervillain and make it work.
Just to recap, it's part three of the four-part Prime Directives mini-series. We have two RoboCops, various slimy OCP executives, a team of soldiers called Systems Support who've been sent to kill our heroes and now in addition a rogue tech genius played by Geraint Wyn Davies. He's that supervillain I mentioned. He wants to kill off mankind and wipe the slate clean for the planet Earth. This probably sounds fairly run-of-the-mill by supervillain standards, but I liked Davies. He's like the Antichrist, in that he's persuasive, he'll recruit you to his cause and half the cast owe him a debt (including RoboCop himself, if it's true that Davies played a part in drawing up his original blueprints). When we first meet him, we think he's a friend.
What's more, that religious metaphor I used comes from the episode. There's a showdown in a church. The plot is built around two self-teaching artificial intelligence networks called SAINT and LEGION, i.e. the demons that Jesus sent into the Gadarene swine. The RoboCops have died and been born again. They don't make a big deal out of this, but it's there if you care to notice.
RoboCable remains the best thing about this mini-series. It's not that he's particularly interesting in himself, although I do like him, but he's the RoboCop that you need to let this be RoboCop. The real one, played by Fletcher, is nice. He's old and tired. He actually wants to do good and you can sense a moral struggle taking place inside him. I really like this and I find Fletcher's take on RoboCop more interesting and subtle than I've ever seen anyone attempt before with the character... but you need RoboCable too. He's the one who goes too far. He's honestly trying to be a good guy, but he's also easily manipulated by the villains and his ultra-violence is more extreme. This isn't always deliberate, but does that matter? RoboCable's actions in this film include:
1. Punching a man to the ground and then, while he's lying there, shooting him.
2. Shooting a man in the throat for an unpleasant-looking death.
3. Shooting a man's hand off, going to get a sledgehammer and then beating him to death with it. The other two you could be forgiven for not noticing in the melee, but this is nasty.
We needed this. It's the whole point of RoboCop. The fact that they're managing to combine it with something more nuanced and human is just the icing on the cake. I also enjoyed the relationship between the RoboCops, which is polite and courteous even when they're blasting away at each other. "Nice shooting." "Thank you."
This time there's even comparatively little stupidity, which is nice. The only thing that made me roll my eyes was both Kevin Jubinville and Maria Del Mar doing crucial demos (to foreign buyers and to OCP's board of directors respectively) for which they hadn't planned, hadn't prepared and had no idea what they were showing. How did these people survive in business? I suppose the in-fiction reason would be that Jubinville's a megalomaniac idiot, while Del Mar had presumably been planning to throw Anthony Lemke to the wolves had anything gone wrong. It's still dumb, though. Oh, and "all died of simultaneous heart attacks"... come on, really? Was that the best excuse he could think of? I can only think that this is his way of posting a signpost saying "I killed them all, ha ha ha."
One curiosity, incidentally, involves the animated show we've seen in TV clips in the last two episodes. These are taken from real anime, made by Toei Company in Japan. They've done a couple of anime inspired by RoboCop. Mobile Detective Jiban in 1989 was a policeman revived as a crime-fighting cyborg, then Special Investigator Robot Janperson in 1993 had a RoboCop-like head design.
I like it. It's still going strong for me. The father-son stuff at the climax is more sentimental and hence less powerful than it might have been, perhaps because American scriptwriters can give me the impression of thinking that the words "father" and "son" have magical powers. Disney's Hercules, Joss Whedon's Angel... yeah, right. It's still a good scene, though. We'd been waiting for it and it's approximately what we'd been hoping for. It does the job. Overall, I'm far more impressed by this mini-series than I'd expected, seeing enough subtlety and power in it that I don't mind its occasional idiot hiccups. It's serving the franchise's themes well, but also bringing new ones that I hadn't expected and making them work. Assuming they don't mess it all up in part four
, this deserves to be much better known.
"Can we trust him?" "He's my friend."