Last of the Monster Kids

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Friday, May 26, 2017

RECENT WATCHES: RoboCop: Crash and Burn (2001)

You probably think I watched all of “RoboCop: Prime Directives” in one day. That's how they were often shown on TV. Or at least one nightly until I was done. I wish that was case. In fact, it took me over a week to watch all of the “Prime Directives.” I guess there wasn't much incentive for me to actually watch these things. For all the clear effort that was put into making “Prime Directives” faithful to the original, it was difficult for me to become excited about the conclusion. So here we finally are, at “RoboCop: Crash and Burn,” the final installment of the mini-series. Would the story finally come together into a solid whole at its conclusion? Well, I don't want to disappoint anybody...

“Crash and Burn” begins with RoboCop, James Murphy, and super-thief Ann heading towards OCP head-quarters. There's only a few hours until SAINT, Damian Lowe's artificial intelligence, takes over the city. Unbeknownst to Lowe, SAINT has been infected with the matter destroying virus Legion. Dr. Kaydick, protected by the still brainwashed RoboCable, are also on their way to the tower. As the timer counts down, rivalries come to a head. The two RoboCops face off. Ann and her ex-husband fight to the death. And Lowe wars for control of OCP with Cable's own ex-wife.

Here's a big problem with “RoboCop: Prime Directives.” Throughout the mini-series, a number of subplots have been teased. Throughout each installment, we've gotten small updates about Lowe's corporate takeover of OCP, about SAINT, about Alex Murphy's son, and about Kaydick and Ann's war over their daughter. Instead of delivering a satisfying conclusion to these lingering plot points, “Crash and Burn” just tosses everything together. Lowe is awkwardly disposed of, literally getting pushed down an elevator shaft. Kaydick and Ann's fight takes place apart from the rest of the story. James Murphy is just shuffled from scene to scene. Only SAINT becomes a truly pivotal story point, as the corrupt AI drives the entire episode.

Throughout my previous three reviews, I've mentioned how the action sequences in “Prime Directives” were rarely very satisfying. This trend, unfortunately, continues into the final act. Far too much of “Crash and Burn” is devoted to the fight between RoboCop and RoboCable. The battle between them stretches on for so long, that I honestly forgot why they were fighting in the first place. The degree of free will Cable has seems to vary from scene to scene. The non-stop fight actually leads to the two RoboCops being knocked unconscious for a while. As underwhelming as that fight is, it's still better than the fight between Ann and Kaydick. The two jump, kick, and wrestle with each other for minutes on end. Julian Grant tries to spruce up this scene with slow motion and shaky-cam, which only emphasizes how lame the fight is. (This, combined with Ann's leather outfit and sunglasses, makes it clear that Grant was emulating “The Matrix.”)

As “Crash and Burn” nears its conclusion, the mini-series attempts to put a bow on Alex Murphy's character arc. RoboCop spends, more-or-less, the entire film getting the shit kicked out of him. This makes the conclusion, where he is knocked unconscious and someone else saves the day, even more disappointing. Cable's final fate is very easy to foresee and any meaning his actions might have had are undermined by some epically shitty CGI. In the final moment, RoboCop regains his humanity and reconnects with his son. Which would be fine, if the original movie didn't end on a similar point. I will give the writers credit for bringing the whole prime directives thing back around.

During these reviews, I haven't mentioned some of the weird, minor things about “RoboCop: Prime Directives.” Like the oddly fitting spaghetti western-style score or a scientist who walks with a cane literally being named “Hobley.” Having watched the entire mini-series, I can now roundly declare “Prime Directives” another mediocre “RoboCop” spin-off. The filmmakers' hearts were in the right place but a lack of money, time, and skill undid these intentions. I guess “Meltdown” was the best installment, with “Crash and Burn” being the worst, but they all rate about the same for me. Having said that, I suspect if I had seen this show as a teenager, during a lazy Sunday while munching on chicken wings and mozzarella sticks, I probably would've dug it. Which is to say: “RoboCop: Prime Directives” is great if you have nothing better to watch or nowhere else to go. Consider the show damned with faint praise. [Crash and Burn: 4/10] [RoboCop: Prime Directives: 5/10]

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