Monday, January 13, 2014

RR:Quickies RoboCop: Prime Directives

You thought me finished with the RoboCop series? Here comes more adventures, darker, more mature, set in a not-so-distant future...

Back in the early 2000s, the RoboCop franchise was resurrected once again.

While the producers still had the rights to the franchise and wanted to produce some new material before they ran off.

But instead of going the easy route with a simple retelling (or "reboot") of the original movie, it was decided a continuation was in order for what director Julian Grant had in mind. A story about RoboCop being a tired obsolete machine now. And about finally getting a replacement for our old part-man, part-machine, all-cop hero.

Originally aired as a four-part TV series, RoboCop: Prime Directives is a Canadian spin-off of the original Paul Verhoeven classic. Composed of 4 distinct feature-length movies that never saw the big screen. Written by Brad Abraham & Joseph O'Brien.

These episodes are "Robocop: Dark Justice", "Robocop: Meltdown", "Robocop: Resurrection" and "Robocop: Crash and Burn" and by no means separate stand alone movies. They originally aired a week apart from each other in January 2001 and are now considered "direct-to-video" features.

While the story appears unrelated enough enough to distance itself from the previous material, I like to consider it a natural continuation, story-wise. The story takes place about a decade after the original film. Although a date on Alex Murphy's tombstones reveals the undefined setting of the original film to be 1992 (to set Prime Directives in the present at the time), I like to consider this a simple easter egg/goof and instead see the original two films taking place around the 2015, Robocop 3 and the TV Series in the early 2020s, setting Prime Directives in 2028-ysh (but that's just me..).

The story appears to take place after the events of RoboCop 3, RoboCop's first partner Officer Lewis is dead.

We now find an aging Robocop who has cleaned most of Detroit and made it one of the safest places to live in. Alex Murphy's original partner before he became RoboCop is moved to the Metro South's Police Department.

Several references are made to the previous films, including the sequels, and even the TV Series. Such as scientists mentioning the failed attempts to recreate RoboCop ("RoboCain" in RoboCop 2), how RoboCop cleaned up Cadillac Heights in RoboCop 3, and some footage from the series is shown in the "RoboCop's Greatest Moments" ad.

The production behind Prime Directives originally approached Richard Eden from the TV series to return as Alex Murphy/RoboCop, but he turned down the role actually. They finally casted Page Fletcher who originally auditioned for the same role back in the 1990s series. Fletcher took over the role without consulting any of the previous material. As such, he's a big departure from the fantastic work Peter Weller did in the original. RoboCop 3's Robert Burke was a "commendable" attempt and I've always been personally kinda fond of Richard Eden take on the role. Richard Eden certainly gave the character a new spin, showing a bit more emotions than what we've been accustomed to in the past. He also has a bulkier armor, but strangely most of the  Police Departement cast looks bigger in stature, which makes RoboCop far less imposing compared to his surroundings. But Fletcher really got more to play with as Alex Murphy, since there are a lot of flashback sequences.

After the PG-12 kid-friendly third movie and TV series, RoboCop: Prime Directives marks a return to a darker more violent RoboCop.

The entire mini was released on DVD as either a 4-movie Box-set or in single releases (of 90 minutes each!), but like I said those should be watched back to back in a specific order, they aren't really standalone features...

Name: RoboCop: Prime Directives - Dark Justice
Release date: Jan. 4, 2001
Genre Science-fiction/thriller
Format: 4-Part miniseries (movie 1)

RoboCop: Prime Directives begins with the TV movie "Dark Justice".

It has been thirteen years since RoboCop was activated to join the Police force. He has since made Delta City "The Safest Place On Earth!".

But RoboCop has also become kind of rusty, and the technology he runs on has since become obsolete.

His son James Murphy, now a young adult, is working as an OCP Executive. He has no idea his father is still alive.

Meanwhile Alex Murphy's former partner John T. Cable transfered to the preccint as the new Security Commander.

RoboCop and John Cable are partnered to face a sort of cyborg vigilante/criminal self-named Bone Machine.

It turns out a group of OCP executives named The Trust are behind all of the city's trouble. And one of their members Sara Cable is trying to get James aboard.

They reprogram Murphy (still doing that after all these films?) to kill John Cable...

Overall: This first instalment of the Robocop mini-series was not as good as a big movie production, of course, but it still is some good sci-fi.

Page Fletcher made absolutely no effort walking "as RoboCop". Instead he went for the script with his own impressions. It's a bit strange to watch such a familiar character not using the same mannerism and robotic movement you expect. He also gets to act as Murphy a lot more than past actors got the chance to.

The story is a nice progression, a natural evolution from the themes seen in the films. It actually doesn't really contradict previous sequels or the TV series, distant enough from past storylines.

It's a return to a dark violent RoboCop. The element of satire is still present albeit to a lesser extend.

Very low-budget down-to-earth simple special effects after the huge spectacle from past films. If it's a bit low on action scenes, it can rest on a neat little production.

This first film starts a bit slow, with more emphasis given on the backstory and has almost a noir crime-vibe.

It's a captivating well told story.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Name: RoboCop: Prime Directives - Meltdown
Release date: Jan. 11, 2001
Genre Science-fiction/thriller
Format: 4-Part miniseries (movie 2)

Officer John T. Cable was killed by RoboCop after having his system hacked.

After the death of his old friend and partner, RoboCop is haunted by more memories of his part.

After protecting the innocent and upholding the law for so long, Alex Murphy finds himself on the crosshair of what he fought so long to preserve.

The new crime bosses at OCP are as corrupted as ever.

Murphy is soon going to be replaced, the old "Robocop Model 01" is discarded for is old friend turned into an "evil" RoboCop nicknamed RoboCable! Sent after Murphy for crimes he didn't commit...

RoboCop is disgraced and made a fugitive. Haunted by Alex Murphy memories he goes to his own grave site.

Meanwhile OCP is on the verge of bankrupty, they want to launch an artificial intelligence to automate the entire city (where did I hear that before..?).

Overall: "Meltdown" was a much better well put film. With a tighter plot and an overall better structure.

This second film has also some (light) humor, some sadder scenes and present a more human side to RoboCop.

Our hero has more heart this time than shown in past stories (he even cries! I only saw this in Frank Miller's RoboCop before).

All in all, a decent follow-up/movie.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Name: RoboCop: Prime Directives - Resurrection
Release date: Jan. 18, 2001
Genre Science-fiction/thriller  
Format: 4-Part miniseries (movie 3)

RoboCable changed his own directives and is now partnered up with Murphy again.

The Rehab Team is sent after both RoboCops.

A certain Dr. David Kaydick has developed a virus, called "Legion", in order to wipe life off the surface of Delta City, and the entire world! It can infect both computers and people alike.

Murphy's system is going down, RoboCable takes on the soldiers after them. They meet with a group of tech thieves led by a woman named Ann R. Key.

James Murphy is assigned the destruction of the original RoboCop.

RoboCop still needs some fixing and is getting more memories flooding back.

OCP takes RoboCable back in control, Cable is forced to do their bidding a chip controlling his brain...

James uses a EMP device to stop RoboCop which has some unexpected side effects... Will that unleash the Legion virus stored in RoboCable's CPU?!

Overall: This one was probably the biggest letdown of this entire mini-series... despite such an interesting storyline!

"Resurrection" has some characters jump around decisions and their positions... Cable is back a good guy.. and a bad guy.. James manages to do some unlikable choices for such an important character, Murphy barely does anything...

On the good side, there are some great gory practical effects in use.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Name: RoboCop: Prime Directives - Crash & Burn
Release date: Jan. 25, 2001
Genre Science-fiction/thriller  
Format: 4-Part miniseries (movie 4)

RoboCop is rebooted without any of his previous restrictions (his "prime directives" - hence the title actually!), fully restored now back as "Alex Murphy" instead of a mere machine.

RoboCop returns back on active duty as we follow the results of the EMP causing a city-wide black out in Delta City.

Murphy decides to follow his original three directives on his own from now on.

RoboCop has to battle both the Police force and OCP's security measures to put a stop to Dr. Kaydick for good.

OCP only originally planned to use this "SAINT" technology to run the city "for the people", but it has backfired, infected by the Legion virus. And it might jump from infected machines to harm humans as well via nano-technology...!

RoboCop must face the all-new "RoboCop" John T. Cable, now repaired and with memories completely erased. And this RoboCable is not going down without a fight!

The grand finale turns into an epic confrontation between the two Cop Robots!

Overall: This was a pretty decent conclusion, the nice final mini-film!

While the violence varied between R-Rated and PG material between the features, they kept a nice action packed finale for the end.

The producers originally wanted to use two ED-209 protecting the OCP offices, but they apparently couldn't get the right back to the character... Too bad..

It's a pretty decent and entertaining ride. In what was, in the end, not a really necessary addition to the series but nice enough.

What like to call "RoboCop Vs. RoboCop". There's plenty of RoboCop around these four movies to make it a recommended enough mini-series for any fans of the franchise.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that was it for these "Prime Directives" TV movies...

I miss good old serials...

In the end, these four movies were decent enough, but "serviceable" more than anything. You need to be familiar enough with the character or a fan to want to invest in these four full feature "mini-films". They do run for a total of about ~375 minutes (all four episodes, back to back).

I do wonder why they didn't use the name of each of RoboCop's directives for these four movies' title? Just a nitpick really...

No more RoboCop was produced after that, no more TV series or movies... before the unevitable Hollywood-style gritty reboot we're about to get this February(!).

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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