Much has been made over the years about Frank Miller’s original draft of RoboCop 2 and the changes made between it and the screen version finally released. It is always tempting to see these changes as automatically negative ones, especially when the resulting film is something that many viewers consider to be a disappointment.
With Avatar Press’ release of Frank Miller’s Robocop we get a rare chance to see what his version of the movie may have been like. We also get to see if the changes made were for the better or whether they just ruined a masterpiece as some fan have always claimed.
After reading the nine issue series the first thing that has to come to mind is how little has really been changed. FM’s Robocop 2 feels like a cross between the movie versions of Robocop 2 and 3 with a little more breasts added. When all is considered the changes make very little difference to the actual plot or story.
Broadly speaking the only major change is that of the chareacter of Cain from the movie, in Miller’s version he is replaced by a psychotic Rehabilitation Officer (one of OCP’s hired guns) who has been deliberately added to the roster to “get” Robocop. In itself this seems rather unbelievable, I mean… Robo is Robo and why anyone should think that a normal man, even a psychopath, would have any more of a chance that the bunch in the first film is not a very satisfying idea.
What this leads to is interesting though, because this psycho “Johnny Rehab” is no more than a red herring and its the doctor herself (played in the movie by Belinda Bauer) who downloads herself into the new “peace officer” and goes on the rampage.
Though it has to be said that intuiging as this concept is there is very little done with it and she behaves no different from how Cain does in the movie version of events. In Miller’s version she becomes no more of a fully rounded character than any other female he has ever written. With the possible exception of Electra none of Millers female characters have ever risen above the role of male titilation, and have never actually become real people that a viewer could appeciate as a human being.
Which leads to a genuinely unpleasant aspect of Miller’s Robocop, the violence itself. The movies have always been known for their extreme violence and many people consider them to be excessive (thought personally I do not) but Miller’s Robocop take this to another level.
There is a sequence two thirds of the way through the book where Robo breaks in to the laboratory where Robocop 2 is being built. Here he meets the doctor responsible and forces her to erase the multitude of directives running through his systems. Not only is this scene slightly paradoxical (forcing an OCP executive to erase files that stops him harming an OCP executive, etc) but in this scene Robo beats the woman almost to death.
This, coupled with Miller’s symplistic (and, in many peoples opinion, mysoginistic) view of female characters makes for a scene that completely ruins any heroism in Robo. In one scene Robo becomes what he is fighting and the story changes into one of survival at all costs. Alex Murphy ceases to exist and the machine takes over, which ironically is the absolute opposite of what was supposed to happen with his directives being erased.
Later this leads to an encounter between Robo, who is now “human” in spite of the previous scene, and Officer Anne Lewis which opens up many possiblilities for Robos future. He is now free of OCP but is still an Officer of the Law and with the use of the Rehab Officers by OCP his mission in clear.
Dispite all the issues and problems the story has its ending is far more satisfying than that of the movies. It seems cleaner and Robo’s future seems both more clear cut while symultaneously being frought with uncertainty.