RoboCopMaria del MarAnthony LemkeLeslie Hope
RoboCop: Prime Directives 4 - Crash and Burn
Medium: TV, film
Year: 2000
Director: Julian Grant
Writer: Brad Abraham, Michael Miner, Edward Neumeier, Joseph O'Brien
Keywords: SF, RoboCop
Country: Canada
Actor: Page Fletcher, Maurice Dean Wint, Maria del Mar, Geraint Wyn Davies, Leslie Hope, Anthony Lemke, Rebeka Coles-Budrys, Kevin Jubinville, David Fraser
Format: 90 minutes
Website category: SF
Review date: 17 January 2012
It's excellent. I think I love it and it's easily the only RoboSequel I've seen worth watching. That doesn't make it perfect, of course, but you can ignore the fanboys who just wanted bullet-spraying RoboCarnage, i.e. a tin-suited Schwarzenegger movie.
To begin with the negative points that are valid, it has a pacing problem. This shouldn't be a surprise. Four 90-minute episodes is a restrictive format and there was a similar issue with episode one. I like Prime Directives, but here it again sometimes drags and I'm sure even the filmmakers would admit that this would have been a stronger movie had they trimmed it a bit.
There's also a creaking Chekhov's Gun, on a par with Warriors of the Deep's hexachromite. In the end they make strong use of it, but it's still not best to know within five minutes how they're going to take down the bad guys at the end.
That's it, I think. In fairness there are those who call the action scenes and special effects cheap and/or TV-level, but personally I neither noticed nor cared about either of those. In my opinion this isn't an action movie. It's often trying to be, mind you, and it does contain car chases, thousands of bullets, fist fights and people getting cut in half with lasers, but nevertheless I see it more as a drama set in the RoboCop universe. RoboCop himself is almost irrelevant to this movie, although he becomes more important if you regard him as half of the Fletcher-Wint duo. RoboCop isn't even the most important RoboCop in this film, let alone the main character. He gets cool stuff to do early on, when they're heading back to Delta City to stop SAINT and LEGION, but after that he's merely one of a decent-sized cast who all have their own agendas and points of view.
He's important, yes, but he's absent from a lot of the action and I didn't really miss him. He's a high-tech zombie. He's a corpse on his feet and it's cool to see him turn up spraying bullets, but you wouldn't exactly call him a conversationalist.
Instead we have, you know, drama. Characters with motivations. That stuff that retards call "boring". Kevin Jubinville's self-delusions are almost hypnotic, for instance. "Who did all the work?" He thinks being an executive makes him the most important person in the room. By this point he's clearly mad and I derived great enjoyment from his double death. The only thing I slightly regretted there was SAINT's punchline. "I never did like you, Damian." It had already become clear that SAINT knew exactly what it was doing when it said, "Goodbye, Mr Lowe," but I suppose it more clearly underlines the irony of Jubinville's catchphrase, "technology is your friend." Um, not necessarily. The exact opposite, in fact.
Besides, the slow pace yields one odd gem. There's a cameo from a maintenance man who's unhappy about being in a RoboCop movie. It's not quite as blatant as that, but nearly.
Some of the time, this looks like gun-toting SF nonsense. Characters look macho and get ready to do what they have to do. After all, this is a story about a supervillain trying to infect the world with a virus that infects both humans and computers (eh?) and will wipe out all sentient life on Earth but apparently isn't dangerous if you haven't uploaded it. It will spread across the entire world, but two people die of it and no one seems to worry that the room might now be infectious. This must sound bad, but they get away with it with special effects. No, really. When you see it in action, it looks like Logopolis's block transfer computations or something. This clearly isn't a regular biological virus, so for now I'm happy not to look too closely at the technobabble.
There's strong theme of families, by the way. Almost everyone is someone else's parent or child, even if metaphorically, or else once had a child and lost it. Even an artificial intelligence has a creator, while OCP apparently likes to think of itself as a family. RoboCop's son is merely the most central example of this. Oh, and the character names are sometimes groan-worthy, but I like Kaydick being a homage to Philip K. Dick.
It's also capable of being funny. "Do you think you could have tried something a little quieter?" "No."
I take back anything negative I might have said about the flashbacks to when Murphy and Cable were still alive. They're the heart of the mini-series. Overall I think my favourite thing about this mini-series is exactly the thing that will have enraged the neanderthals... its characterisation of RoboCop himself. He's not Rambo. We have one of those in RoboCable, but the antiquated original is tired of all that. The character's purpose is no longer to rack up a body count. What's more, that's not a flaw in the movie, but instead the whole point. He doesn't particularly want to commit ultra-violence and, in his mechanical way, he's trying to do good. Even I groaned when RoboCop seemed to become Batman with the line, "Nobody dies tonight," but then a few minutes later the movie turned that into a cool moment.
The finale is moving and, of all unlikely things, RoboCop becomes noble. Ignore this mini-series's reputation and watch it.
"Serve the public trust. Protect the innocent. Uphold the law."