“Robocop 3” should have been scrapped (or at least delayed) before a single frame was shot. Despite some really good cast additions and the long awaited on-screen implementation of OCP’s Delta City, there were too many floundering elements behind the scenes that doomed “Robocop 3” for failure.
First off, Peter Weller had a schedule conflict that did not allow him to reprise his role as Robocop. While it can be argued that since his face does not feature prominently, Weller was an easier lead to recast than most. Still, the fans of the franchise certainly noticed the difference, and that kind of change starts a sequel out on the wrong foot with the primary audience. Robert Burke, who filled in the role of Robocop, also wasn’t able to quite nail down Weller’s voice, which, if you ask me, was a key aspect of Robocop. To add to the nerd rage element, Nancy Allen only agreed to appear as Officer Lewis, Robocop’s partner, if her character was killed off in the movie. While I don’t necessarily have an issue with key characters dying at the end of a trilogy, the execution of her demise is really lackluster, which I am sure further miffed the fan base.
Apart from those key casting issues putting the film on the wrong side of the fan base, the unfortunate decision was made to keep “Robocop 3” at a PG-13 rating, meaning that the signature gore effects and violence of the first two films had to be passed on. I imagine this was misguidedly done in the hopes of bringing in more viewers from the teenage demographic, and thus raking in more money for the floundering Orion studio. Unfortunately, this decision made the film feel even more out of place in the franchise, and didn’t bring in the quantity of money the studio had hoped for either. There was an attempt to pull a “Star Wars” and make profits off of toy tie-ins to the movie, but that also backfired: it turns out that Robocop’s jet pack just looked ridiculous on screen, particularly when in use.
I mentioned earlier that there were actually a couple of good casting additions to Robocop 3: particularly, Bradley Whitford and Rip Torn make spectacular additions to the sinister bureaucracy of OCP. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like either actor got enough screen time to do much to help the film: Bradley Whitford’s character even kills himself off-screen only a fraction of the way through the film. A lot more time is granted to the less enthralling, nazi-esque John Castle, who does ham things up a bit. Still, his character feels really forced to me, and lacked any of the subtlety or satiric elements like the typical OCP brass villains, which is part of what I have always liked about the Robocop antagonists.
Worse yet, one of the biggest problems from “Robocop 2” is repeated in this movie: a major role is placed on a child actor. In this case, I would go so far as to say that the child is the lead of “Robocop 3”, and her acting is just atrocious. For reasons that are quite unclear, she is an expert hacker, and manipulates an ED-209 and japanese ninja robots with little to no effort at various points in the film. Other than that, she is just a precocious, unnecessary child character. At least the child drug lord in “Robocop 2” had some point to the character: it was clearly a statement of some kind about violence, drugs and youth. That just isn’t the case in “Robocop 3” at all.
One of the key plot points of this movie is part of a common xenophobic trope from movies of the era: wealthy Japanese are taking over OCP, and have their own superior version of Robocop. Given how closely tied this franchise is to the city of Detroit, this is a barely veiled statement about the rise of Japanese automobiles in the US. It all feels very forced and unnecessary, apart from adding a vague level of urgency to the construction of Delta City to the OCP characters. Also, the Japanese Robocop ninjas are absolutely ridiculous.
Last but not least, “Robocop 3” promises the long-awaited battle between OCP and the people of Detroit over the implementation of Delta City. Unfortunately, the battle is massively anticlimactic, and doesn’t live up to its potential in the slightest. This is when we first see the silly Robocop jetpack in action, and the conflict wraps up quickly afterwards. It just felt hokie, almost like a scene out of “The Warriors”. Worse yet, the PG-13 rating meant that the battle wasn’t particularly impactful or gorey: not how you want to close out the Robocop epic.
“Robocop 3” is not one of the worst movies of all time. It isn’t good, but it doesn’t compare to most of the other IMDb Bottom 100 entries. I feel like it was rushed, cheap, and poorly devised, but is overall a watchable film. It lacks any of the clever satire of the original movie, but there are a few tiny bright spots to enjoy. It also isn’t so bad as to be good, so unless you want to watch the entire Robocop franchise, there isn’t much reason to sit through “Robocop 3”.