Talking Movies [RoboCop Day]: RoboCop 2

To celebrate the release of the dismal RoboCop (Padilha, 2014) on home media, June 3rd was declared “RoboCop Day” in the city of Detroit. While that movie wasn’t too impressive and had nothing on the original RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987), this does give us the perfect excuse to talk, and celebrate, all things RoboCop on a specific day each year.

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Released: 22 June 1990
Director: Irvin Kershner
Orion Pictures
$20 to 30 million
Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Tom Noonan, Belinda Bauer, Gabriel Damon, and Daniel O’Herlihy

The Plot:
Former police officer-turned-cyborg law enforcer RoboCop (Weller) becomes embroiled in a scheme by Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to bankrupt and take over the city. Faced with an identity crisis, and interference by psychologist Doctor Juliette Faxx (Bauer), RoboCop also comes into conflict with a vicious gang of drug dealers, led by zealot Cain (Noonan), who are spreading a highly addictive drug throughout the city.

The Background:
In 1987, Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner crafted a satirical take on 1980s commercialisation and media that director Paul Verhoeven turned into RoboCop. A modest hit, RoboCop was met with generally positive reviews and the studio urged Neumeier and Miner to pen a sequel. Unfortunately, mounting deadlines, a writer’s strike, and a breach of contract meant that their tentative plans to have RoboCop battle the complex, satirical politics of the future in RoboCop 2: The Corporate Wars never came to pass. Instead, writing duties passed to noted comic book writer Frank Miller; unfortunately, the gritty violence and scope of Miller’s script was deemed “unfilmable”, though he would cameo in the film and later turn his rejected ideas into a comic book. RoboCop 2’s production continued to be stressful; producer Jon Davison was already against the idea of sequels, and struggled to secure a director for the project since Verhoeven was busy making Total Recall (ibid, 1990). The studio announced a release date before the story was completed, resulting in a rushed filming schedule; even star Peter Weller was reluctant to return and critical of the script, but reportedly enjoyed the shoot and praised the director’s drive and enthusiasm.

Orin Pictures placed enormous pressure on the filmmakers to produce a sequel to RoboCop.

Both special-effects guru Phil Tippett and suit designer Rob Bottin returned to work on the sequel; Bottin gave the suit a sleek new colour scheme and made it much easier to put on and take off, drastically reducing Weller’s time in the make-up chair. RoboCop’s cybernetic antagonist was brought to life using tried-and-tested special-effects techniques such as animatronics, miniatures, and painstaking stop-motion; RoboCain even exuded emotion thanks to a rudimentary computer-generated face. Despite RoboCop infamously making an appearance at World Championship Wrestling’s (WCW) Capital Combat pay-per-view to promote the film, RoboCop 2’s worldwide gross of $45.7 million was noticeably less than its predecessor, and the film was met with mixed reviews. While some praised its allusions to classic sci-fi and horror classics and (like myself) consider it an under-rated entry, critics bemoaned its redundant plot, excessiveness, and the depiction of a child as a violent drug lord. Still, we did get the aforementioned comic book detailed Miller’s rejected ideas, a videogame adaptation, and (eventually) a third film that was way, way worse in almost every aspect.

The Review:
Picking up about a year after the first film, the first thing you might notice about RoboCop 2 is that RoboCop himself has taken a bit of a step back. In the first film, the bulk of the narrative was focused on RoboCop regaining his memories and his humanity, evolving from a preprogramed tool of the malevolent OCP and reclaiming his status as a free-thinking human. However, in RoboCop 2, much of his stoic, robotic demeanour has returned to the forefront; his partner and friend, officer Anne Lewis (Allen), still affectionately refers to him as “Murphy” and he continues to exhibit a modicum of personality in the way he confronts and addresses others, but it’s like he’s been factory reset to where he was about mid-way through RoboCop rather than being the confident, free-minded Murphy we saw at the conclusion of the last film. Haunted by Murphy’s feelings and memories, RoboCop has taken to passing by the home of his former wife and child, Ellen (Angie Bolling) and Jimmy (Clinton Austin Shirley), presumably out of the temptation to reveal himself to them, which results in Ellen being so emotionally tormented that she’s filing a lawsuit against OCP. Despite being fully accepted by Lewis, Sergeant Reed (Robert DoQui), and his fellow officers, all of whom treat him as Murphy reborn, OCP force (basically bullied) RoboCop into admitting that he’s unable to provide for his former family as a man and is “simply a machine”.

Still struggling with his humanity, RoboCop battles drug baron Cain, who’s transformed into a hulking cyborg!

Clearly heartbroken at having to admit this, he’s left with no choice but to lie to Ellen in order to spare her further grief and get OCP lawyer Holzang (Jeff McCarthy) off his back yet, despite his continuing struggles with his humanity, RoboCop continues to maintain order on the streets practically single-handedly. With the majority of the city’s cops on strike, RoboCop, Lewis, and a handful of uniformed officers find themselves continuously outnumbered and outgunned out on the violent city streets. Much of the violence is attributed to the spread of a highly addictive drug known as Nuke, which is manufactured and spread by the messianic Cain and his devoted followers (whom he refers to as his “flock”). Rather than simply being a gang of thugs and street punks, Cain’s inner circle is more like a cult; they hang on Cain’s every word, revere him as a leader and a father-figure, and are absolutely hooked on the “paradise” offered by Nuke. Cain is an enigmatic and alluring figure with a twisted sense of patriotism who exudes a subtle menace and showcases a sadistic streak when he’s wronged by others. Although he’s generally far more hands-off compared to Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), he clearly takes a perverse pleasure in overseeing the torture, dismemberment, and punishment of his enemies and even forces Hob to observe this without filter. However, Cain gets a leg up on his predecessor when he’s subjected to the RoboCop 2 program after being critically injured by RoboCop. Although he doesn’t consent to this procedure, conniving psychologist Julia Faxx is completely on the money with her evaluation that Cain’s twisted mind makes him a perfect candidate to mentally survive the trauma of literally having his brain ripped from his body and placed into a massive mechanical, tank-like cybernetic body commonly dubbed “RoboCain”.

Hob usurps Cain’s position and plans to pay off the bankrupt city to spread his drugs unopposed.

Indeed, RoboCop 2 has a stringent anti-drug message as the super addictive Nuke is so sought after that Cain and his lead scientist, Frank (Frank Miller), produce it in vast quantities. Interestingly, though, very little time is spent explaining what Nuke’s effects (or side-effects) are; Cain suffers some unsettling effects as a result of a mix-up in the ingredients of the “Blue Velvet” variant, and users are said suffer painful withdrawal symptoms but it doesn’t seem to cause hallucinations or manic episodes. Instead, Nuke seems to induce a state of euphoria that becomes incredibly addictive to the user and people are literally fighting each other in the streets to fund their habit. Not that I’m saying it isn’t dangerous, of course, but we’re never actually shown that it is inherently dangerous, and more time is spent establishing that there’s a far more tangible danger in Detroit thanks to the police strike. Despite their loyalty to their enthralling leader, Cain’s followers are quick to write him off after he’s put in the hospital thanks to the ambitions of Hob (Damon), a spiteful delinquent who is very much Cain’s second-in-command and quickly usurps Cain’s position as Detroit’s top drug lord. He blackmails and manipulates Cain’s devoted lover, Angie (Galyn Görg), into falling in line by threatening to cut off her Nuke supply and seeks to broker a deal with the desperate and bankrupt mayor, Marvin Kuzak (Willard E. Pugh), that will allow him and his gang to manufacture and distribute Nuke without fear of prosecution in return for paying off the city’s debts to OCP. Thanks to being a child, RoboCop is unable to act against Hob, allowing the vicious little brat to continually evade reprisals and he gleefully oversees RoboCop’s dismemberment after the gang subdue the cyborg cop at their hideout. However, Hob’s ambition leads to him being caught in the crossfire when Faxx sends RoboCain to assassinate Mayor Kuzak and Hob, Angie, and many of their cohorts are killed by their former leader. Despite all of the pain and trauma Hob caused RoboCop, Murphy comforts the boy in his final moments and is deeply affected by the misguided youth’s death as Hob is around the same age as his own son.

Thanks to OCP, Detroit’s on the verge of chaos and RoboCop is left screwed up by conflicting directives.

OCP remains a malicious and vindictive corporate entity but, this time around, the Old Man (O’Herlihy) has fully embraced his role as the head of a malevolent organisation; he’s more than happy to inform Mayor Kuzak that the city has defaulted on their contract and is eager to seize control of all of Detroit so that he can finally build Delta City on its ruins. To facilitate this, OCP continue to make life difficult for the city’s police; after numerous threats, the majority of the cops are on strike after having their pensions and salaries cut by their employers, causing chaos in the streets and leaving Detroit ripe for the picking. The Old Man is joined by Donald Johnson (Felton Perry) and Holzang, who advise and support his ambitious corporate takeover of the city, but has many of his decisions influenced by Faxx, who gets close to the Old Man (much to Johnson’s chagrin) and convinces him to screw around with RoboCop’s directives and programming to neuter his threat. When OCP’s efforts to replace RoboCop with a newer, more efficient model are met with constant failure, Faxx jumps in and suggests screening criminals rather than police officers as candidates for the RoboCop 2 program. While the Old Man is happy to keep RoboCop off the streets or otherwise disabled in order to push the city further into OCP’s hands, Faxx seems to get off on manipulating others and weaselling her way into a position of trust and power. While she’s largely successful and appears to have wooed the Old Man with her allure and impressed him with RoboCain’s slaughter of many of OCP’s opposition, her luck runs out by the end as Holzang and Johnson convince the Old Man to make Faxx a scapegoat for the death, destruction, and bad press caused by RoboCain’s rampage. However, little of RoboCop’s focus in the film is on confronting or opposing OCP; Holzang is continually dismissive of RoboCop’s humanity and he is solely concerned with the cost of repairing him and sorting out possible lawsuits caused by his actions, and Faxx is instrumental in screwing RoboCop up with over 250 contradictory directives, but RoboCop’s focus is squarely on Cain and the Nuke problem rather on exposing his creators as an unscrupulous corporate powerhouse concerned only with their own agenda rather than actually helping others.

The Nitty-Gritty:
RoboCop 2 does a decent job of replicating the dark satire of the original through its frequent cutaways to commercials and news program Media Break, which still casually comments on miserable local and worldwide news like it’s no big deal. Although Bixby Snyder (S.D. Nemeth) is sadly missing, the film opens with a particularly lethal solution to car theft, sells OCP Communications as the “only choice” to avoid office workers committing suicide over missed deadlines, and there’s an amusing commercial for “Sunblock 5000”, a product that protects against the destroyed ozone layer but causes skin cancer with frequent use! Although Basil Poledouris’ iconic RoboCop theme is absent, Leonard Rosenman’s new score isn’t anything to sniff at, punctuating RoboCop’s slick shooting and the film’s action sequences with a rousing, almost militaristic fanfare. One thing I do like about RoboCop 2 is how comfortable everyone is with RoboCop; he gets some odd looks of fear and awe from criminals, children, and everyday citizens, but he’s mostly just become a part of the city since the first film. All of his fellow officers refer to him as Murphy and he rallies them in an all-out assault on Cain’s main facility regardless of their money woes purely through the authority and respect his very being commands amongst them.

RoboCop is brutalised by Cain’s men and sapped of his violent edge in accordance with Faxx’s design.

In many ways, RoboCop 2 retreads much of the same ground as the first film; RoboCop struggles with his memories of a life that, arguably, was never his to begin with and has taken to stalking Murphy’s wife and son since he can’t quite let go of the ghosts of his past. When out on duty, RoboCop is all business and his personal issues never impede his duties; he busts up a Nuke production factory, beats information out of crooked cop Duffy (Stephen Lee), and confronts Cain and his followers alone all because that’s what he’s duty-bound to do (and, arguably, because of his three prime directives). However, when at rest, he’s a broken, distracted, confused man-machine who desperately wants to rediscover the love and affection Murphy felt but can’t because he’s simply the leftover echo of Murphy’s life trapped in a largely cybernetic shell. After he’s brutalised by Cain’s men, RoboCop is once again left torn to shreds and barely clinging to life in a startling call-back to Murphy’s vile execution in the first film; this is the perfect opportunity for Faxx to step in and load a whole bunch of nonsense directives into RoboCop’s program based on “consumer feedback” that the cyborg cop is too violent. Interestingly, Johnson actively speaks out against this, and Faxx’s decision to search for potential RoboCop 2 candidates, but more because of the “corporate image problem” than any sense of duty towards Detroit’s safety. Although Murphy initially resists Faxx’s programming thanks to clinging to his former life, she’s able to bypass his opposition by spoon-feeding him instructions, resulting in a far more chirpy, affable version of the cyborg cop who’s more interested in pleasantries and the Miranda Rights than busting heads. This leads to a ludicrous detour from the main plot as RoboCop, now more inclined to speak out against smoking, bad language (which “makes for bad feelings”), and youth violence and delivering impassioned speeches rather than gunning down criminals with his Auto 9. This doesn’t last very long, however, as RoboCop uses the last vestiges of his free will to subject himself to a near-lethal dose of electricity to, once again, erase all of his directives and clear his head of Faxx’s interference.

The film is punctuated by some impressive animatronics and practical effects.

Although RoboCop 2 doesn’t feature such brutal scenes as a man being shot to death by a group of thugs, it’s still gloriously violent and gory in its own right, just in a slightly different way; as such, blood squibs burst with entertaining frequency, it’s fun seeing RoboCop manhandle Duffy in the arcade, and it’s always a thrill to see Peter Weller moving like a slick, efficient machine during RoboCop’s firefights. One of the more alarming scenes in the film comes when RoboCop is subjected to a horrific dismantling by Cain’s cultists, who blast off his hand and then drill through his joints to leave him a mangled mess. As traumatic as this is for Murphy, though, it’s nothing compared to the poor souls selected to undergo the RoboCop 2 program prior to Cain, who are all driven to suicidal insanity by their experience, with one cop left little more than a screaming skull beneath a cybernetic helmet! One scene that always landed with me as a kid was the shot of Cain’s brain and eyeballs suspended in a jar of liquid prior to his transformation, and the casual way his doctor and Faxx handle the drug lord’s facial remains, making for a disturbing scene. Effects-wise, things have been vastly improved this time around; RoboCop’s suit looks better than ever thanks to a shining coat of chrome-blue paint, and seeing him rendered a twitching, quivering mess of wires and armour is particularly harrowing thanks to a highly detailed animatronic puppet. RoboCain is a vast improvement over his spiritual predecessor, the Enforcement Droid-209/ED-209 (which, sadly, is reduced to a mere blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo), being bigger, more versatile, and far more dangerous and capable. A huge, lumbering machine, RoboCain is brought to life through a combination of miniatures, stop-motion, and practical animatronics and, while some of the shot composition hasn’t aged too well, it’s pretty bloody glorious to see this hulking cyborg gun people down with its machine gun arm and crush skulls with its claw-like hands!

After a brutal brawl, RoboCop exploits RoboCain’s dependency on Nuke to end his threat.

With OCP having all but eliminated their opposition and set to seize control over Detroit, manufacture more cyborg cops, and begin construction of Delta City, the climax naturally features a final confrontation between RoboCop and his would-be replacement. Unlike RoboCop, RoboCain doesn’t appear to retain very much of his humanity; after his transformation, Tom Noonan completely disappears from the film and is represented only by a 3D representation and his hulking robotic body, meaning RoboCain is a much more monstrous figure than Murphy and is motivated solely by his need to consume Nuke. Since RoboCain is bigger and far tougher than RoboCop, Murphy opts to bring a Cobra Assault Cannon with him to even the odds and take out some of Cain’s high-powered arsenal. Unlike the shambling ED-209, RoboCain features a massive machine gun arm (which doubles as an extendable battering ram), his own shoulder-mounted assault cannon, a laser cutter, and a number of claw-like appendages that allow him to scale walls, right himself when dropped, and afford him numerous options in combat. In comparison, RoboCop is as clunky as ever and is forced to rely more on his wiles than directly attacking RoboCain, since the former drug lord’s armour is much too tough to be damaged by RoboCop’s standard firearm or base strength. Thus, their battle sees them crashing through the floor, setting off gas lines, collapsing from a rooftop, and involves Lewis charging into RoboCain with an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), all of which barely fazes the enormous cyborg. However, RoboCain has one glaring weakness that RoboCop doesn’t share: his dependence on Nuke. RoboCop is able to use this addiction to distract his foe and rip through the plate armour on his back to wrench out Cain’s brain and smash it into mush, ending the would-be messiah’s threat once and for all and reclaiming his position as the city’s resident cyborg.

The Summary:
Even now, I genuinely feel lie RoboCop 2 is underserving of the dismissal it is often met with. While RoboCop might’ve been lightning in a bottle in many ways, I honestly think RoboCop 2 is a more than worthy follow-up as it does a decent job of replicating the mixture of satire, action, and metaphysical commentary of the original. While it’s admittedly disappointing that RoboCop’s character is walked back a bit and essentially undergoes exactly the same character arc (beginning as a stoic law enforcer, regaining his sense of self, and ridding himself of his directives) rather than starting off in the same place we left him, I found the further exploration of RoboCop’s humanity to be fascinating and heart-breaking. Here we have a cyborg police officer with the memories and feelings of a dead man, whom everyone treats as Murphy reborn, but the fundamental question of whether RoboCop actually is Murphy or if Murphy is just a ghost in the machine is endlessly intriguing to me and RoboCop 2 explores that in interesting ways. I also enjoyed RoboCop’s increased screen time, which made the film a bit more action-packed than the original, and the traumatic call-back to Murphy’s violent death in RoboCop’s dismantling, but what really impresses me about the film is the slugfest between RoboCop and his would-be successor. An under-rated triumph in practical effects filmmaking, an impressive mixture of animatronics, stop-motion, and traditional filmmaking techniques makes this sequence a thrilling and exciting climax and I am continually impressed with the RoboCain effects, which really up the ante as far as cyborg-on-cyborg action goes. For those who have slept on RoboCop 2, I definitely recommend looking at it again, as the Old Man would say, with “a fresh perspective” as it’s a more than worthy successor to the first film and, at the very least, isn’t handicapped by trying to appeal to a younger demographic like the third film.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of RoboCop 2? Would you agree that it’s under-rated or did it retread too much of the same ground for you? What did you think to RoboCop’s character arc, his struggles with his humanity, and the influx of crazy commands he receives? Did you enjoy seeing him tangle with a more competent cyborg opponent and what did you think to the effects this time around? Which RoboCop movie is your favourite? How are you celebrating RoboCop Day today? Whatever you think about RoboCop 2, feel free to drop your thoughts below or leave a comment on my social media.

Talking Movies [RoboCop Day]: RoboCop: Director’s Cut

To celebrate the release of the dismal RoboCop (Padilha, 2014) on home media, June 3rd was declared “RoboCop Day” in the city of Detroit. While that movie wasn’t too impressive and had nothing on the original RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987), this does give us the perfect excuse to talk, and celebrate, all things RoboCop on a specific day each year.

Director’s Cut

Released: 17 July 1987
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Orion Pictures
$13.7 million
Peter Weller, Kurtwood Smith, Ronny Cox, Nancy Allen, Miguel Ferrer, and Daniel O’Herlihy

The Plot:
In the not too distant future, crime and corruption are rampant in Detroit, where Omni Consumer Products (OCP) are actively trying to cause civil unrest in order to schedule construction of Delta City. Violence rules the streets thanks to the efforts of notorious criminal Clarence Boddicker (Smith); however, when police officer Alex Murphy (Weller) is ruthlessly murdered by Boddicker and his gang, OCP turn what’s left of Murphy into the ultimate crime-fighting cyborg, RoboCop, and he sets out on a quest to regain his humanity and extract revenge on his killers.

The Background:
RoboCop was the brainchild of Universal Pictures junior story executive and aspiring screenwriter Edward Neumeier; inspired by science-fiction films, particularly Blade Runner (Scott, 1982), Neumeier eventually gained a partner in the form of aspiring director Michael Miner. Together, they crafted a satirical take on 1980s business culture, commercialisation, corporations, and the media with more than a little influence of Judge Dredd spliced into the mix. The script was eventually purchased by Orion Pictures but eventual director Paul Verhoeven initially passed on the project until he found a way to connect with the satire and the themes of identity and humanity. Orion originally wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role but Peter Weller was eventually cast thanks to his commitment to the part, lower salary, and good range of body language; Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox, by comparison, joined the film to shake off their type casting as “nice guys”. All of the work Weller did with Moni Yakim to develop RoboCop’s unique movements had to be scrapped in favour of slower, more deliberate movements once he put on the RoboCop suit. Designed by Rob Bottin, the expensive suit took six months to build from flexible foam latex, was supported by an internal harness during action-heavy scenes, and was one of the film’s most impressive practical effects alongside Phil Tippet’s monstrous Enforcement Droid-209 (ED-209), which was brought to life through both practical and laborious stop motion effects. Despite some difficulties with the film’s marketing, RoboCop was a modest hit for Orion; it made just over $53 million at the box office and was met with generally positive reviews. While filming was a gruelling experience for the director and main star, RoboCop went on to be an extremely influential movie, spawning a number of sequels, spin-offs, and ancillary media in the form of toys, cartoons, and videogames.

The Review:
RoboCop takes place in a semi-dystopian future that looks remarkably like the late eighties; in Detroit, crime and violence are so out of control that cops, understandably fed up of being killed on the streets, are close to going on strike! The very suggestion of leaving the already chaotic streets undefended angers Metro West Sergeant Reed (Robert DoQui), a hard taskmaster who delivers the iconic line: “We’re not plumbers! We’re police officers! And police officers don’t strike!” Still, Reed is exasperated by scumbag criminals and their equally sleazy lawyers who downplay the significance of crimes such as attempted murder, and the city cops certainly have the odds stacked against them; they’re under-staffed, under-paid, out-gunned, and out-numbered and their lot only gets worse day by day as OCP has made moves to privatise law enforcement in order to justify the construction of Delta City, a modern industrial utopia that is the lifelong dream of their chief executive officer, referred to simply as the Old Man (O’Herlihy).

OCP is determined to build Delta City, even if it means causing a crime wave and developing robots!

It is into this tumultuous situation that we are introduced to Murphy, a veteran officer transferring in from Metro South; partnered with the tough-as-nails Officer Anne Lewis (Allen), Murphy is just one of many officers moved over to more violent areas of the city at the direct order of OCP junior executive Bob Morton (Ferrer) specifically because they fit the physical and psychological profile for his RoboCop project. A devoted husband and father, Murphy is a simple family man and a good cop; he’s impressed with Lewis’ physicality and builds a fast rapport with her but their partnership is tragically cut short when they respond to reports of a robbery. OCP is the very definition of an untouchable, greedy, malevolent corporation; the very definition of eighties excess, even, as OCP has incredible influence across the city thanks to their power and military contracts. Comprised of a number of unscrupulous Board members who care only for profit and expanding their own ambitions, OCP have few qualms about sacrificing others in their quest for greater profits. After orchestrating the rising crime in the city, Senior President Richard “Dick” Jones (Cox) proudly unveils his mammoth ED-209 robot as the answer to “urban pacification”. Unlike in the later sequels, where the Old Man is seen as a strictly malicious figure, his motivations seem far more ambivalent here; while Jones is in league with Boddicker and actively murders those who get in his way, the Old Man seems to genuinely want to improve Detroit with the construction of Delta City. However, when ED-209 malfunctions and murders a junior executive, the Old Man’s focus is still, amusingly, more on the financial losses Dick’s “glitch” will cost the company.

Boddicker and his gang of sadists delight in torturing and blowing Murphy to pieces.

This violent incident sets the entire main plot in motion as, with Dick humiliated in front of the Board and the Old Man, Morton takes advantage of the situation to get approval for his RoboCop project, earning Dick’s ire in the process. Luckily for them, but not so much for Murphy, Boddicker and his gang (comprised of Emil Antonowsky (Paul McCrane), Leon Nash (Ray Wise), Joe Cox (Jesse D. Goins), and Steve Minh (Calvin Jung)), are in the middle of a desperate getaway after robbing a bank and Murphy and Lewis dutifully chase after them despite not having any back-up. Essentially a group of psychopaths and sadistic killers, Boddicker and his gang take immense pleasure in shooting it out with the cops and running rampant throughout the city and, while we don’t really learn a great deal about them, they are all very colourful, reprehensible, and larger than life villains thanks to being portrayed by some extremely talented character actors who all seem to be having the time of their lives in the roles. They delight in torturing and taunting Murphy, who is left defenceless and helpless when Lewis is cut off from him and, led by Boddicker, they systematically set about blowing him literally to shreds with their high-powered firearms in one of the most brutal and gut-wrenching scenes I’ve ever seen.

Murphy is reborn as RoboCop, a sleek and efficient cyborg cop with no memory of his former life.

With his hand and arm blasted off, Murphy is bombarded by a series of shotgun blasts and yet remains alive thanks to his body armour, until Boddicker executes him with a point-blank shot to the head. After a harrowing scene of Murphy’s death, he is subjected to a lengthy procedure by Morton’s team and reborn as RoboCop. We only see bits and pieces of this transition, and all from Murphy’s disjointed and fragmented perspective as he comes online in a cybernetic body and is unveiled in all his armoured glory. Sustained by a rudimentary paste and installed in the Metro West facility, RoboCop is a captivating and alluring presence for both criminals and cops alike. Bound by three “Prime Directives” (and a fourth, classified Directive), RoboCop is programmed to serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law, something he does with an unmatched efficiency. After acing the shooting range with his rapid fire Auto-9, RoboCop hits the streets and immediately stops an armed robbery (arguably causing more damage to the store than the robber would have), saves the Mayor from a mad gunman, and saves a woman from a couple of rapist punks by shooting one in the dick and this is all within the first thirty minutes of the movie! Having lost his identity and memories during the process, RoboCop initially has no recollection of his former life as a human cop; however, Lewis’ suspicions are almost immediately raised when she sees RoboCop performing Murphy’s signature gun twirl.

Tormented by fragments of his past, RoboCop hunts down those responsible for his death.

While at rest, RoboCop is tormented by fragmented memories of his murder and his memories are triggered by Lewis, who is convinced that he is Murphy reborn, and Emil’s horror at also recognising one of Murphy’s iconic lines (“Dead or alive you’re coming with me!”) This drives RoboCop to investigate the name Lewis addressed him as, “Murphy”, and paying a visit to his now-abandoned family home, and realising his true origins. Determined to avenge himself on Boddicker, RoboCop tracks the crime boss to a cocaine factory and, though fully intending to beat Boddicker to death, arrests him in accordance with his third Directive: “Uphold the law”. Enraged at Morton’s arrogance and disrespect, Dick is even more incensed at RoboCop’s presence, which not only completely undermines his ED-209 proposal but also leads to Boddicker implicating Dick in his (as in Boddicker’s) desperate pleas for mercy. To that end, Dick arranges for Boddicker’s bail, orders him assassinate Morton, and then cripples RoboCop when the cyborg police officer finds himself unable to arrest him due to Director 4 (which prevents him from acting against an OCP employee). After narrowly surviving a shoot-out with ED-209, RoboCop is set upon by the city Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) team, led by Lieutenant Hedgecock (Michael Gregory), and once again shot to shit. Saved by Lewis, RoboCop struggles with disparate memories of his former life and soon finds himself facing off against his killers, now armed with high-grade military weaponry and set on killing him for good.

The Nitty-Gritty:
For me, you can’t talk about RoboCop without mentioning Basil Poledouris’ iconic and memorable score; a combination of synthesisers and traditional orchestra, the main theme manages to be rousing, heroic, and tragic all at once and perfectly encapsulates one of the main themes of the movie (that of machine and man working in harmony). Murphy’s violent death is punctuated only by his agonised screams and the sounds of guns being fired but, when RoboCop is blasted but Hedgecock’s men, the harrowing scene is accompanied by an poignant series of horns that really add to the tragedy and helplessness of the moment. Similarly, when RoboCop awakens from his dream and begins to piece together the fragments of his former life, it is accentuated by Poledouris’ rousing score that works perfectly with Weller’s unparalleled body language to really sell the RoboCop’s inner turmoil. One of the most entertain aspects of RoboCop are its many instances of social satire and commentary on consumerism, both of which are used to great comedic effect because they’re simultaneously ludicrous and played completely straight and treated so nonchalant by characters in the film. For example, the film is interspersed by regular cutaways to Media Break, a regular scheduled news program whose hosts, Casey Wong (Mario Machado) and Jess Perkins (Leeza Gibbons), deliver reports of nuclear discord in other countries, violence on the Detroit streets, and a whole host of grim news with an unabashed enthusiasm that borders on disinterest.

The film is littered with poignant themes about humanity, identity, and even a subtle Christ allegory.

Indeed, this is a fictional world where death and violence are commonplace and treated as simply routine, resulting in an amusingly blasé approach to the bleakness that grips both the city and are a great way to quickly inform the viewer of what’s happening in Detroit. Alongside these are a number of ridiculous commercials for things such as Yamaha-branded artificial hearts, the hilariously ostentatious 6000 SUX, and a bizarrely popular television show whose womanising main character (S. D. Nemeth) just loves proclaiming: “I’d buy that for a dollar!” There are many themes at work in RoboCop alongside this biting satire, the majority of which are masterfully conveyed through the simple use of music, body language, and subtlety. Yes, the idea of a hulking cybernetic cop blasting scumbags with a massive firearm isn’t exactly the definition of the word subtle but the core concepts of identity and humanity are especially poignant. One that you might not have picked up on is a sly Christ allegory; Murphy suffers and dies, is resurrected, and even walks across (well, technically through) water by the conclusion. You can argue that this is a bit of a reach but there’s definitely enough evidence to delve deeply into this reading and the very fact that this is the case shows that RoboCop isn’t just some mindless eighties action movie. The movie asks audiences to consider the question of whether Murphy’s soul lives on in RoboCop or whether he’s simply a machine with fragments of a dead man’s memories and whether having those lingering memories and feelings are enough to say that Murphy lives in in his new mechanical body. By the end of the film, of course, RoboCop has fully evolved away from his cold, efficient programming and has accepted his humanity; he ditches his visor and proudly proclaims his name to be “Murphy” and, though the status quo is largely reset by start of the sequel, that doesn’t undermine the triumph of this character arc here as RoboCop is able to reaffirm his humanity while making his murderers pay for their actions.

The effects, especially RoboCop’s suit, look great and still hold up today.

Of course, that’s not to undermine the action that is on display here; thanks to Weller’s slick, fluid movements, RoboCop is an efficient and impressive screen character, able to blast his foes through a series of swift movements often without even looking! Not only that, the film is hilariously violent, especially in this Director’s Cut, where scenes such as ED-209’s violent introduction, Murphy’s unsettling execution, and Boddicker’s cathartic death are all expanded upon in gruesome detail. Honestly, if you’re tired of today’s modern CGI effects, you could do a lot worse than to pop in RoboCop for some proper old school, practical effects; blood squibs are everywhere, animatronics, puppetry, and traditional stop motion techniques are used to fantastic effect to bring ED-209 to life and make for an effective and exciting clash between it and RoboCop, and that’s not forgetting the RoboCop suit itself. Excuse me while I gush for a minute but this suit is a thing of absolute beauty and totally sells the idea that this is a machine-man thanks to how layered and intricate it is, to say nothing of the iconic thomp-thomp-thomp footsteps he makes. When RoboCop removes his helmet and gazes upon the remains of his face, it’s an especially touching scene (even though he randomly loses his chin guard in the process) thanks, largely, to a combination of Weller’s powerfully understated performance and the fantastically realised special effects. Finally, there’s the “melting man” effect used to show Emil’s well-deserved death; bathed in toxic waste, his skin melts and leaves him a gaunt, agonised figure that injects a real horror into this bombastic sci-fi action piece.

The Summary:
RoboCop is another of the quintessential, formative movies of my childhood; I grew up watching this, and other similar sci-fi and action movies of the eighties, and it’s had a profound influence on my likes, personality, and academic decisions over time. A brisk, action-packed sci-fi classic with a number of poignant themes regarding humanity and the nature of the soul, RoboCop is so much more than just a mindless action film. Having lost his humanity and his memories during the process of being resurrected, RoboCop sets aside his stringent programming in order to piece together his former life. Lewis is fully accepting of him once she realises his true identity, standing by him as he faces off with Boddicker and his gang and the underpinning message of the film seems to be that humanity is not defined by ones physical trappings. At the same time, RoboCop is an endlessly entertaining commentary on the consumerism and excess of the eighties and is full of amusing social satire that is perfectly realised to avoid coming across as slapstick or a parody. Similarly, the film is chock full of blood, violence, and hard-hitting action and some of the most impressive and ambitious practical and special effects ever put to film. Honestly, I could talk about this film all day and never get bored, but suffice it to say that RoboCop is an absolute classic of its genre and it still holds up to this day.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Are you a fan of RoboCop? Did you see the film when it first released or did you discover it on home video? Were you a fan of the film’s themes, social satire, and unapologetic violence? What did you think to the effects, particularly the RoboCop suit and ED-209? Which RoboCop movie is your favourite? How are you celebrating RoboCop Day today? Whatever you think about RoboCop, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Game Corner [MK Month]: Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (Xbox One)

To celebrate the simultaneous worldwide release of Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) on home consoles, 13 September 1993 was dubbed “Mortal Monday”. Mortal Kombat’s move to home consoles impacted not only the ongoing “Console War” between SEGA and Nintendo but also videogames forever thanks to its controversial violence. Fittingly, to commemorate this game-changing event, I’ve been dedicating every Monday of September to celebrating the Mortal Kombat franchise.

Released: 17 November 2020
Originally Released: 23 April 2019
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox Series X

The Background:
Mortal Kombat was a phenomenal success for Midway; thanks to its controversial violence and unique digitised graphics, the game stood out from the likes of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991). While the franchise went from strength to strength during the 2D era of gaming, Mortal Kombat struggled to really stand out amidst a slew of revolutionary 3D fighters and, following the lacklustre release of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the series looked to be in serious trouble after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. Thankfully, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the Mortal Kombat team was rebranded as NetherRealm Studios. Their first order of business was to get their violent franchise back on track, which they did with Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2009), a particularly well-received reboot of the surprisingly convoluted lore. This gritty, violent reboot again stirred controversy but sales of the game alone were enough to cover the costs of Midway’s acquisition and work on a follow-up soon began.

After the disappointing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Mortal Kombat made an impressive comeback.

Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015) instantly impressed and out-did its predecessor in every way, being both the most violent entry and having the biggest launch in the franchise’s long history at the time. Mortal Kombat X also scored very well and the success of the game earned it not just a host of additional downloadable content (DLC) but also an expanded version, Mortal Kombat XL, in 2016. Keen to capitalise on the good will they had earned back with these releases, NetherRealm announced the development of Mortal Kombat 11 at the Games Awards 2018, a game that saw the triumphant return of actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa to the role of Shang Tsung and sold over eight million copies by October 2020. Like its predecessors, Mortal Kombat 11 received an expanded addition that included all of its DLC fighters and even additional story mode content and was met with favourable reviews, though some criticised the randomisation of the game’s unlockables and the overreliance on grinding, mechanics that, for me, affected the appeal of Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017).

The Plot:
After the defeat of Shinnok at the conclusion of Mortal Kombat X, Raiden has become corrupted by the Elder God’s amulet and, angered at the Thunder God’s repeatedly meddling in the fabric of space and time, the keeper of time (and Shinnok’s mother), Kronika, plots to rewrite history to erase Raiden from existence. With past versions of classic Mortal Kombat characters showing up all over the place, and Earthrealm’s most dangerous and long-dead enemies forging an alliance to usher in Kronika’s “New Era”, Earthrealm’s Special Forces and allies face a battle against time itself to keep the realms from being torn asunder.

As you might expect by now, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is a 2.5D fighting game in which players can pick from one of thirty-seven characters and battle through the game’s single-player story mode, fight one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent, battle their way though a variety of arcade-style towers, or challenge other players to a variety on online battles. Battles take place in a best-of-three format and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, including the difficulty of computer-controlled opponents) from the game’s comprehensive menu to speed up gameplay or make it more accessible.

One of the things I love about Mortal Kombat is that gameplay and combos are generally easy to pick up.

As in the other 3D Mortal Kombat fighters, fights in Mortal Kombat 11 are extremely accessible and easy to master. You can attack your opponent with punches with either X or Y, kicks with A or B, block with RT, throw (again, this is more like a grapple) with LB or X and Y and a directional input, and interact with the game’s environments when indicated with RB. You can also dash towards and away from your opponent, jump in or crouch down to attack or avoid projectiles, and string together combos by pressing the attack buttons and using directional inputs quickly. The game features a comprehensive tutorial mode that teaches you all of the basics and intricacies of the game’s combat, which gets deeper and more complex depending on your skill level and who you play as but is still extremely easy for even novice players to pick up and pull off a few simple combos.

In addition to trademark special moves, characters can also pull off gruesome Fatal Blows.

Each character also boasts a number of special moves, also pulled off by a few simple button and directional inputs (back, forward, X, for example, or forward, down, B); these can be stringed together with combos and augmented with a well-timed press of RB (this will, however, drain a meter at the bottom of the screen but this will quickly refill in time). Unlike in the last two games, though, you can no longer build your meter towards a gruesome X-Ray move; instead, when your health is sufficiently depleted, you’ll have the option of pulling off a “Fatal Blow” once per fight (not per round) to mash your opponent into mush. While these are suitably impressive, violent, and gory, I have to say that I miss being able to build up to and pull off a momentum-changing special move whenever I want rather than when I’m near death. While special moves are pretty easy to perform, you can review them at any time from the pause menu and even “tag” team so they appear onscreen for easy reference, but I would have liked the option to pick and choose which ones are displayed for quick reference.

Fatalities are more visceral and gory than ever and see you dismembering and eviscerating your opponent.

As horrific as the Fatal Blows can be, though, the real star of the show is, once again, the game’s Fatalities, the trademark of the franchise. At the end of the deciding round (usually round two), you’ll be told to “Finish Him!!” (or her…) and given a short period of time to stand in a specific spot and enter another button combination to tear your opponent to pieces, usually resulting in their guts, brains, and eyes bursting from their body or them being shredded and blown apart. Every character has three Fatalities available to them: one that is readily available, one that is locked and must be unlocked in the Krypt (or looked up online…), and one that is assigned to pulling off special Fatalities in certain stages (“Stage Fatalities”, like the classic uppercut into an acid pit) and you can also find (or purchase) “Easy Fatality Tokens” to pull them off more easily and practice them in the Fatality Tutorial.

There’s more than one way to finish your opponent, including a couple of non-lethal options.

Fatalities aren’t the only way to finish your opponent, though; by following a specific set of instructions during a fight (such as not blocking or hitting a certain number of moves and ending the decisive round with a specific attack), you can once again end your foe with a “Brutality” (although, as Factions are no longer included, Faction Kills are also not present this time). You can also pull off a non-lethal “Friendship” if you don’t wish to eviscerate your opponent and even replenish a small portion of their health by showing “Mercy” to allow the fight to continue a little longer. There are benefits to finishing off your opponent, though, as this will award you Hearts, one of four different forms of in-game currency, additional Koins (the primary form on in-game currency), and contribute to your player level and allow you to unlock additional bonuses.

Once again, it’s going to take a lot of grinding to earn enough to unlock everything in the game.

One of the biggest complaints I had about Injustice 2 was the sheer abundance of different in-game currencies and the unfortunate emphasis on grinding for levels and unlockables and the randomness of the game’s loot crates. Sadly, Mortal Kombat 11 carries a lot of this forward; there are numerous customisation options available to you, from backgrounds and icons for your gamer card to individual gear and skins for each character but pretty much all of them are locked behind the game’s time-consuming grinding system. You earn Koins, Soul Fragments, Hearts, and Time Crystals by playing every single one of the game’s modes; while each of these can be spent in the Krypt to unlock chests and release souls (which will net you additional currency, skins, gear, augments, and Konsumables), Time Crystals can be spent in the in-game shop but, as items in the shop at so expensive, you’re encouraged to spend real world money to unlock additional stuff.

Battle through Klassic and online towers to earn rewards, see character endings, and unlock gear.

Unfortunately, while each character has a whole load of gear and skins and customisation options available to them, these are locked behind grinding; you can find many of these in the Krypt but others are unlocked by playing story mode, completing the character tutorials, or besting the game’s many towers. As in the classic 2D games, you can once again pick between three different towers (Novice, Warrior, and Champion); which tower you pick determines the amount of fighters you’ll face and the degree of the rewards you’ll earn from completion. You can also take on the Endless tower to face and endless number of opponents until you quit or are defeated and the Survival tower in which the damage you receive from each fight carries over to the next. Similar to Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2, you can also challenge a number of different online towers, the “Towers of Time”; these provide you with a variety of challenges but are only available for a set amount of time before they’re replaced with a fresh challenge. However, you even access this mode you first need to clear a number of tutorials first, which seemed a bit redundant, and you will need to pay and also perform certain tasks (such as a certain amount of attacks or specials) to complete each character’s specific tower and unlock more gear and skins for them.

Timelines collide in the story mode, which occassionally asks you to pick between two fighters.

A big part of the game is its story mode; once again, the story is broken down into twelve chapters, with each chapter assigned to at least one character but, every now and then, you’ll be given the option of picking between two characters. It doesn’t really matter which character you pick, though, as you don’t even need to tick off all of these options to 100% the story mode and it hardly affects the narrative at all. Despite the fact that you can’t finish off and kill your opponents, the story mode is a great way to earn Koins and gear and get to grips with each character; the story sees characters from the past return to life as Kronika attempts to rewrite history, which effectively undoes a lot of the development done to the series in Mortal Kombat X but it’s a good excuse to have classic characters return to the series. You can set the difficulty setting for the story mode whenever you like but there are no Achievements tied to beating it or any of the other mode son higher difficulties but you do generally earn better rewards for taking on more difficult challenges.

Graphics and Sound:
Mortal Kombat 11 looks fantastic; character faces still look a bit shiny and odd at times (particularly the females) but there’s even less distinction between the in-game graphics and the many cutscenes you’ll see as you play through the story. Every character is full of life and little quirks, such as Liu Kang constantly hopping from foot to foot in true Bruce Lee style, Kano nonchalantly spitting on the floor, and Skarlet cutting herself open. If the winning fighter is too close to their fallen foe when a round ends, they’ll back away with their own unique animation and voice clips and taunts can be heard throughout each fight as you pull of special moves, combos, and gain victories. Unfortunately, as always, the developers continue to render the character’s different endings using a motion comic aesthetic and voice over rather than utilise the full motion CGI cutscenes used to great effect in the game’s story, which continues to be a disappoint for me and I’ve never really understood this choice.

While environmental interactions seem limited, they’re still a great way to deal some damage.

Where Mortal Kombat 11 fails a little bit is in the stages; stages are a big part of any fighting game but especially Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm Studios’ recent efforts since they introduced the concept of interacting with various parts of the environment. This returns again, allowing you to skewer opponents with spears, throw bodies at them, wall run out of harms way, or toss or wield a variety of weapons (such as a chainsaw and a sledgehammer) to deal additional damage. These will often finally utilise the gruesome x-ray feature that was a big part of the last two games (which can also be triggered with certain special moves and augmented specials) but it feels as though there are a lot less opportunities to interact with the background and pull off Stage Fatalities than normal, making environments look and feel very alive but being disappointingly light on interactive elements despite all of the cameos and interesting elements at work in the background.

The game goes to great lengths to recreate iconic environments and locations from the first two games.

One thing I did like, though, was the return of some classic stages from past Mortal Kombat games, such as the courtyard and the dead pool; the best stage for this is, easily, the Retrocade stage, which randomly generates pixel-perfect recreations of classic Mortal Kombat stages complete with music. The game also goes above and beyond to recreate Shang Tsung’s island in immaculate detail in the Krypt; not only does it feature every stage from the first Mortal Kombat but it also recreates scenes and locations from the brilliant Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1995) and cameos and references to numerous Mortal Kombat characters, which makes it a fantastic area to explore that is sadly let down by how confusing the Krypt’s map system is. Not only that but Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa lends his voice and likeness to Tsung once again, adding his unmatched gravitas to the character, and you can even buy a skin pack that adds skins for Sonya Blade, Johnny Blaze, and Raiden that adds three more likenesses and voices from the film.

As gruesome and visceral as the Fatalities are, the Fatal Blows are gloriously rendered in macabre detail.

While the game does excel in its many cutscenes and does a great job of telling its story with just the right level of cheese and seriousness, the main draw of the game is in its violence and gore and Mortal Kombat 11 certainly delivers in that respect. Skin is literally peeled from the bones, eyeballs fly in geysers of blood, bodies are dismembered, split into pieces, dissolved, and shredded, and limbs are torn apart in a variety of ghastly ways and it’s always a joy to see the horrifying ways characters are going to mutilate their opponents. The Fatal Blows are sometimes just as good, if not better, as any of the game’s Fatalities, with characters being stabbed, shot, and blasted in ways that would surely kill them only for the characters to hop right back up afterwards. While character’s clothes and accessories don’t rip or tear during the fights, they do seem to get stained by blood at times and skin can be seen baring wounds and scars from battle.

Enemies and Bosses:
As a fighting game, every single character in Mortal Kombat 11 is your enemy and you’ll be forced to do battle with all of them at least once, at some point, as you play through the story mode and arcade towers. Because every character controls and fights a little differently, with some focusing on ranged attacks or brawling while others emphasis slow but hard-hitting attacks, it’s best to sample each for yourself and to get an idea of your favourite character’s different abilities and variations in order to achieve success. Also crucial is mastering a handful of the game’s combos; many are as simple as X, X, Y or X, Y, X but others require directional inputs, longer button presses, and the co-ordinated stringing together of frame-perfect attacks and special moves. Luckily, though, every character usually has one or two simple combos for you to master so it’s simple enough for players of any skill level to pick up and play.

Your attack strategy may have to change depending on who you are fighting or playing as.

Some characters, though, play a little differently to others and this affects not only how you play but also how you fight them. Shang Tsung, for example, can not only steal the soul of his opponent, which not only drains their health but also has him assume their form and moveset for a short period, but can also morph into various masked ninjas from the franchise; Shao Kahn primarily attacks with his massive hammer, which can make his attacks slower; Jax Briggs can charge up his metal arms with punches and other attacks, which allows him to pull off his projectile attacks; and Erron Black can whip out a shotgun, which allows him to fire at and melee attack his opponent but also needs reloading and to be manually put away. Other opponents can be a lot cheaper than others; Noob Saibot, for example, is always a bit of a pain because of his vast array of teleporting attacks and the same applies to Mileena, who’s capable of quickly teleporting about the place and launching sais at you. There are also some returning favourites you’ll have to watch out for, such as Sub-Zero’s ice ball, Scorpion’s kunai spear, and Liu Kang’s lightning quick kicks and fireballs but the new characters have their own tricks to watch out for, too. Geras, for example, loves to spam his little sand pit trap and Certrion will spawn elemental hazards out of thin air to trap and hurt you.

Cyrax and Sektor can only be fought in the story and you’ll face tough boss battles in the Towers.

When playing through the game’s story mode, you’ll also have to fight a couple of familiar faces in the form of Cyrax and Sektor. These cybernetic ninjas sadly don’t make the cut this time around so they essentially fill the role of mini bosses, in a way, despite appearing quite early on in the story mode. In addition, there will also be time sin the story (and in certain towers) where you have to face two opponents in a handicap match very similar to the “Endurance” matches from the first game, which see your opponents automatically tag into battle once their comrade has fallen while you’re forced to continue with whatever health you have left. When taking on the Towers of Time, you’ll get to battle against a character that has been augmented to “boss” status; this means that you can’t use Konsumables and that your opponent will be super tough, requiring multiple players to take on the challenge while its active to help bring them down and earn rewards.

After Kronika is defeated you must choose between facing Fire God Liu Kang or Shang Tsung.

When you play the story mode or battle through one of the other towers, your final opponent will be Kronika, an unplayable boss character who presents a unique challenge compared to the likes of Shinnok and Shao Kahn. The battle against Kronika takes place in one round but is split between three fights against her and three different locations and time periods, with each phase seeing you having to battle a randomly generated opponent. Unlike other characters, Kronika cannot be thrown, staggered, or hit with a Fatal Blow; when you try any of these attacks and certain combos, she’ll take damage but you won’t see the usual animations play out, which can leave you open to one of her devastating attacks. Kronika likes to teleport around the arena and summon energy balls and projectiles but her most lethal attack is a time warp that renders you helpless and drains a massive chunk of your health bar, which basically means that it’s best to reach her final phase with as much health as possible or else you have to replay the entire fight from the beginning. At the conclusion of the Aftermath story mode, you have the choice of facing either Shang Tsung (who has usurped Kronika’s powers) or “Fire God” Liu Kang (a merged form of Liu Kang and Raiden) as your final opponent. Unlike Kronika, though, these are standard battles and subject to all the normal gameplay mechanics, meaning you’re free to hit your Fatal Blows and augmented special moves and combos without fear of being left vulnerable. Indeed, as long as you’re proficient enough with a few combos and special moves, these fights should be noticeably easier than the one against Kronika though be wary as Shang Tsung and Liu Kang are also much more versatile in their attacks than Kronika, who favours bursts of temporal energy over combo strings.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like in Injustice 2, each character has a number of gear that can be equipped but, thankfully, unlike in that game, these do not affect the character’s stats or abilities and are merely cosmetic. As you battle with your character, their gear will level up and unlock up to three augment slots and you can then equip augments to their gear to increase their special attacks, defence, and other attributes to make them more efficient. Similar to Mortal Kombat X, each character has a number of variations available to them but, this time, it’s up to you to equip and assign these variations to each character; these are limited to three slots, which allow you to assign different special moves and abilities to each character to differentiate them (you can have Scorpion, for example, focus on flame or kunai attacks, or mix and match them). You can also assign different intros and outros for each variation (once you unlock these) and tweak their artificial intelligence (A.I.) stats to make them more focused on reversals or brawling, for example, or a more balanced fighter when taking part in A.I. Battles.

Equip Konsumables and augments to give you buffs and power-ups and make Towers a little easier.

To help you clear these modes, you can choose to have the computer battle through each tower on your behalf and also use up to four Konsumables to tip the odds in your favour. These allow you to flick the right analogue stick and call upon assistance from other characters or effects (such as a brief acid rain, missiles, or similar projectiles) and/or earn additional rewards from battle or performing finishers. Other times, especially in the Towers of Time, your opponents will have access to similar Konsumables and augments, which essentially recreates the Test Your Luck feature from Mortal Kombat (2009), and you’ll again have the option of teaming up with others to take on super tough boss battles.Each time you take on a tower, you’ll be asked to take on a number of “Dragon Challenges”; these appear at the bottom of the screen and ask you to do such tasks as switching stance, ducking, jumping, or performing (or not performing) a certain number of actions throughout the fight and the more you complete, the more additional Koins you can earn so I recommend drawing the fight out so that you can pull off as many as possible.

Additional Features:
There are fifty-eight Achievements on offer in Mortal Kombat 11 and, unlike most games, most of these are tied to repetitive actions rather than playing though the story mode. You’ll earn an Achievement for pulling off a certain number of Fatalities and Brutalities, one for performing two Fatalities with every character who isn’t a DLC fighter (which is a good way to test out each fighter), using a certain number of Konsumables, and opening a certain number of chests in the Krypt, for example. You’ll also earn Achievements for clearing the Klassic Tower with first one and then ten characters (why not all of them is beyond me), running five miles in the Krypt, and for taking part in A.I. and online battles and clearing half of (and all) of the main story mode.

All of the DLC is included as standard but, sadly, there are no additional Achievements tied to these.

Sadly, however, the Achievements do not extend to any of the DLC fighters or story content; there are no Achievements to be earned from clearing Aftermath or specifically tied to any of the DLC fighters, which is a real shame when you’ve got RoboCop and the Terminator in your game and when you consider that Mortal Kombat XL had sixty Achievements to earn, with an extra thirteen added with its DLC fighters. On the one hand, this does mean that it’s a lot easier to get Achievements in Mortal Kombat 11 since there are far less devoted to online play but, on the other, I was disappointed that the Achievements didn’t encourage more replayability and variety; instead, it’s all repetitive actions and nonstop grinding and I’d be pretty pissed off to have paid £40-odd for the Aftermath DLC and all those fighter packs only to find that they don’t come with any extra Achievements.

Some familiar faces and movie icons feature as guest fighters…and also the Joker, who I could live without.

Speaking of which, Aftermath and all of the DLC fighter packs and skins are included in Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (…except for those released after the game) but you should be aware that your previous save data from the base Mortal Kombat 11 is not compatible with Ultimate. This means that you can play Aftermath right away, if you want, and thus complete the actual story since the main story just kind of ends unresolved. The additional fighters include the likes of Spawn, RoboCop, the Terminator, and even John Rambo (with Keith David, Peter Weller, and Sylvester Stallone all lending their voice talents (and likeness, in Rambo’s case) to the game. You can also play as returning characters such as Sindel, Fujin, and one of my favourites, Rain though I question the inclusion of the Joker as I really think Pennywise the Dancing Clown would have fit a lot better. There are also a number of cheeky DC Comics skins and gear to equip that turn Cassie Cage into Harley Quinn, Geras into Darkseid, Kitana into Catwoman, and Baraka into Killer Croc and you can even dress Jacqui Briggs up in Spawn’s costume.

The Krypt is full of Easter Eggs and references to both the 1995 movie and the franchise’s long histor.y

Aside from fighting, much your time is also spent exploring the Krypt and spending all of your hard-earned currency on skins, gear, augments, and the like. The Krypt is the biggest it has ever been, encompassing the entirety of Shang Tsung’s island and is full of treasure chests, death traps, and references to the videogames and movies. Unfortunately, though, as great as the Krypt is for Easter Eggs and such, it’s a bitch to navigate; you can create shortcuts by smashing through walls and pulling levers and such but the map is dreadful and it can be extremely difficult to get to where you need to be as it relies on an awkward coordinate system. It’s also ridiculously expensive to open the chests, which can lead to you spending over 10,000 Koins just for some useless icons and concept art and it’ll cost you 100 Soul Fragments and 250 Hearts every time you want to open one of those chests. There’s a lot to see and do, though, with new areas to stumble across and fun little Easter Eggs to find but, again, no Achievements really tied to this; when I find the statue of Reptile’s reptilian form from the movie or examine Drahmin’s mask or find Goro’s corpse, I’d expect at least a fun little 5G Achievement but…nope.

The Summary:
I knew that we would eventually be getting Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate and specifically held off from purchasing the base game or Aftermath while waiting for this release, which bundles 99% of the game’s content all onto one disc (well…technically it’s two…) for you to play at your leisure (after the lengthy download and installation process, of course). In many ways, I wasn’t disappointed; Mortal Kombat has never looked better, with blood and guts and gore being rendered in exquisitely visceral detail and the recreation of Shang Tsung’s island for the Krypt is stunning, full of little details and references that really reward my many years of fandom. Equally, the story mode and fights are brought to life fantastically and the scaled back approach to gear and customisation is appreciated since it means I don’t have to worry about my character being underpowered if they look how I want.

Mortal Kombat has arguably never looked better but the emphasis on grinding lets the game down.

Unfortunately, though, there are a few things that let it down. The Fatal Blow system is great but seems catered more to new players and a defensive playstyle; tying so much of the game to online servers results in a lot of dodgy slowdown and loading on the menus at times; locking everything behind the towers and such is fine but forcing players to grind for in-game currency to spend on even challenging those towers is not; the handful of Achievements might be pretty simple to get but there’s not a lot of variety or fun to them; and I question some of the choices made for the roster. First of all…why thirty-seven fighters? Why not go all-in and bring it up to a nice, even forty? Where are Takeda Takahasi and Kung Jin, the actual descendant of the Great Kung Lao? They weren’t exactly my favourite characters from Mortal Kombat X but they were just as important to the “new generation” of fighters as Cassie and Jacqui but they’re missing yet that lumbering oaf Kotal Kahn is still there. In the end, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Mortal Kombat 11 but it’s notably more finite and time-consuming than in the last two Mortal Kombat games; it’s not as bad with the randomness and loot boxes as Injustice 2 but some of the better skins and gear and such is still annoying locked away and will take a lot of time and effort to unlock, which is especially aggravating when the game uses four different types of in-game currency and yet your options for actually purchasing new stuff in-game are severely limited.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What are your thoughts on Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate? Did you wait for this version to come out or did you buy the base game and DLC separate? Either way, do you think there was enough value for your money or, like me, were you disappointed to find the DLC didn’t have any new Achievements to earn? Which fighter in the game (or the franchise) is your favourite and why? What did you think to the story mode and the use of competing timelines to bring back classic characters? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? What did you think to the online options and the different towers the game had to offer? Which Mortal Kombat game, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Mortal Kombat 11, or Mortal Kombat in general, leave a comment down below.

Game Corner [RoboCop Day]: RoboCop (Arcade)

To celebrate the release of the dismal RoboCop (Padilha, 2014) on home media, June 3rd was declared “RoboCop Day” in the city of Detroit. While that movie wasn’t too impressive and had nothing on the original RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987), this does give us the perfect excuse to talk, and celebrate, all things RoboCop on a specific day each year.


Released: 1988
Developer: Data East
Also Available For: Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Game Boy, MSX, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), PC, Tandy Color Computer 3, ZX Spectrum

The Background:
In 1987, director Paul Verhoeven brought us RoboCop, a delightfully over-the-top science-fiction action film punctuated by copious amounts of gore, strong performances by all involved, a kick-ass score that alternated between synthesised and orchestral music, a unique perspective on themes of masculinity and humanity, and a tongue-in-cheek analysis of corporations and the power of deceptive media. Produced on a budget of a mere $13 million, the film grossed over $50 million of that in the United States alone, making it the fourteenth-highest grossing movie of that year, and eventually made over $50 million worldwide. This success, obviously, led to a number of sequels and spin-offs in other media and a slew of merchandising including comic books, action figures, and videogames. Ocean Software, a British software development company famous for purchasing the rights to make videogame adaptations of numerous film and television franchises, secured the RoboCop license and sub-licensed it to Data East, a Japanese developer known for creating arcade games, for the creation of a coin-op arcade adaptation of the sci-fi hit. Generally quite well-regarded amongst stiff arcade competition, the game’s various home console ports (also released by Ocean) received similarly-favourable reviews, with the game’s title theme later being licensed for use in a number of advertisements.

The Plot:
After police officer Alex Murphy is brutally gunned down, he is rebuilt by Omni-Consumer Products (OCP) as an unstoppable cybernetic cop and charged with bringing law and order to the streets of Detroit.

RoboCop is a 2D, sidescrolling action shoot-‘em-up in which players are cast in the role of Alex Murphy, now reborn as a cybernetic police officer and tasked with cleaning up the streets of Detroit and the corruption within OCP. If you’ve ever played a game with RoboCop as a playable character before, you probably won’t be too surprised to find that Robo is a sluggish, clunky character to play as. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some RoboCop but the guy doesn’t really make for the most dynamic playable character and games often struggle as a result of his inherent weight and awkwardness.

RoboCop plods along while enemies whittle his health to nothing in seconds.

As a result, RoboCop plods along at a steady, but cumbersome pace, walloping thugs in the face and blasting at them with his iconic Auto 9, all while hopping around with one of the most unwieldy jumps in videogame history. Your choices for movement and attacking are extremely limited; RoboCop can go left or right, duck (though a lot of enemies shoot at you from above or from an angle, rendering this largely ineffectual), or awkwardly jump  around the place and that’s about it. RoboCop is one of those videogame characters who also suffers a bit from the inherent need for him to have a health bar; realistically, RoboCop should be able to shrug off the small arms fire and melee attacks he has to endure in this game but, in an effort to keep kids dropping their change into the arcade cabinet, RoboCop’s health will whittle down pretty quickly thanks to an abundance of enemies, most of which run face-first into him or swarm the screen. To further drain your pocket of change, each of the game’s nine stages comes with a time limit; thankfully, the stages are quite short so this doesn’t really become an issue until the game’s later levels where the screen is filled with so many enemies and onscreen hazards that the frame rate slows to a crawl and you’ll find yourself dying every few steps.

Replenish RoboCop’s health with baby food or scoring well at the shooting range.

Luckily, when you choose to continue, the game restarts you right where you fell, though this can lead to you quickly dying again soon after restarting as you can respawn right in the middle of a crossfire or at the feet of a boss. RoboCop can also replenish his health by finding jars of baby food sporadically throughout the game; these are few and far between, however, and you’ll generally take more damage (or die) trying to collect one and replenish your health. The damage you’ve taken carries over to the next stage, as well, for added cheapness but you can also replenish it by getting a decent high score in the handful of shooting range segments that mix up the gameplay.

RoboCop mixes things up with a few stage hazards and hostage situations.

As for the gameplay, it’s as basic as you could want; you simply guide RoboCop from the left to the right, or from the bottom to the top, taking out enemies, smashing crates, and battling a number of bosses as you go. There are also a couple of occasions where you’ll be dodging hazards, using elevators, or when enemies will take a hostage, similar to that iconic scene from the movie, and you must shoot quickly to rescue the victim. Generally speaking, you’ll be taking out enemies with RoboCop’s piston-like punches but, about halfway through most stages (and, later, right from the start of some), RoboCop will pull out his Auto 9 and the game becomes decidedly more like Contra (Konami, 1987). Now, you can blast enemies from afar with infinite ammo or pick up other, limited ammunition to make short work of Detroit’s loathsome scum. Oddly, RoboCop can’t shoot through the numerous crates that block his way and it can be a little tricky to get the right angled shot but it’s a fantastic moment when RoboCop finally pulls out that gun and you can start blasting away!

You’ll burn through your pocket money thanks to an abundance of enemies and hazards.

The game isn’t especially difficult in the early going; as long as you’re quick to hit the attack button, you can take out most enemies before they drain your health away but, as you progress, more and more enemies and hazards begin to fill the screen, pretty much guaranteeing that you’re going to go down and have to put in another coin to continue. It’s a fun, action-packed game but there is a definite challenge there because of this; these days, thanks to emulators and ROMs, this isn’t really an issue and you can just continue as often as you like but the sheer number of enemies, hazards, and bullets can get frustrating and I can imagine kids wasting a lot of their money on this one back in the day.

Graphics and Sound:
RoboCop is a very attractive game with lots of big, expressive sprites and backgrounds. Oddly, unlike other RoboCop titles, Robo doesn’t have an idle animation, which is a bit of a shame, but he does dramatically pull out and holster his Auto 9 at various points; unfortunately, though, while RoboCop is a big and well-detailed sprite, he doesn’t really have too many frames of animation going on.

The graphics are big and detailed if lacking a little in variety and animations.

This is the same for most of the game’s enemies, too, who are quite generic and exist mainly to tick a box; while many are modelled after the thugs seen in the film, they’re largely indistinguishable from each other. However, the game’s environments are quite large, considering how short most of them are, and detailed, ranging from the streets of Detroit to a steel mill and construction yard to the futuristic offices of OCP itself.

A few cutscenes do a good job of retelling the film’s plot.

A few static images are used to convey the game’s story, with a bit of text for good measure; it’s not much but it does the job and, as an added bonus, there’s even a couple of in-game cutscenes to advance the game’s plot and express the game’s ending. As you play, a fantastically catchy remix of Basil Poledouris’ iconic RoboCop theme plays pretty much non-stop; it is, thankfully, mixed up with a few other remixes of the film’s memorable tunes and never outstays its welcome. Even better, the game features numerous voice clips from the film to punctuate RoboCop’s war against crime and corruption and help to immerse yourself in the game’s simple, but entertaining, action.

Enemies and Bosses:
The streets of Detroit are filled with generic thugs and criminals, most of the them modelled after the gang seen in the movie; many of these will run face-first into you, causing you damage and killing themselves at the same time, or take shots at you from a distance or from windows above you. You’ll also come up against a few more formidable enemies who toss grenades at you, wield chainsaws, drive at you on motorcycles, or buzz around in jetpacks. Some are armed with flamethrowers or the Cobra Assault Cannon and you’ll also have to contend with sentry guns and spider-like robots which fill the screen with bullets in the OCP building.

Thugs will try to smash and crush you to pieces in heavy machinery.

These thugs will pose a greater threat when they double up as end of stage bosses; you’ll battle them in an armoured van and in construction vehicles that swing a wrecking ball or pincer-like clamps to cause massive damage. Sadly, there’s no real showdown with Clarence Boddicker; you do grab one particular boss (which I assume is meant to be Clarence) and force him to take you to Dick Jones but you never get that chance to enact vengeance on Clarence in the same way as Robo does in the film.

ED-209 gets bigger, badder, and tougher each time you face it!

By far the game’s most persistent boss is the unforgettable ED-209; this massive, tank-like machine greets you at the end of the first stage where it poses the first real challenge of the game but pales in comparison to the different-coloured variants you’ll encounter as you progress further. You’ll have to battle ED-209 five times in total (with one particular boss battle pitting you against two at the same time!) but, while ED-209’s attacks and aggression increases each time, the strategy remains the same: try your best to duck, jump, or stay away from ED-209’s shots and hit box and blast at its head until it is destroyed.

The game ends with you anti-climatically rescuing the President from Dick Jones.

When you finally reach the top floor of the OCP building, you’ll have to contend with the final ED-209 and, afterwards, recreate the ending of the movie by shooting Dick Jones and rescuing “the President”. The context of the videogame changes this scene slightly, making it seem as though you’re rescuing a helpless authority figure from a corrupt businessman (or possibly even the President of the United States) and it offers very little challenge (especially compared to fighting ED-209) but its fidelity to the source material is admirable, regardless.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Unlike many arcade titles at the time, RoboCop is surprisingly lacking in its power-ups; they’re pretty much limited to a handful of health-restoring items and a few different types of ammo for your Auto 9. You’ll pick up a double shot and a spread shot to help you clear the screen of enemies and do additional damage to bosses; even better is the ability to pick up the Cobra Assault Cannon for maximum damage. Be wary, though, as all of this ammunition is limited (with the Cobra, especially, being severely limited), so you can’t just mindlessly blast away like you can with the regular ammo and you’ll also lose these power-ups if you die.

Additional Features:
As an arcade game, the main aim of RoboCop (beyond completing the game) is to get your initials entered into the high score table, preferably at the top. Beyond this, there isn’t much else on offer here besides a turn-based two-player mode if you fancy playing alongside a friend.

The Summary:
RoboCop is a pretty simple, action-packing coin muncher of an arcade game. RoboCop is surprisingly fragile, dropping to his knees in the blink of an eye when faced with the game’s massive bosses or swarms of enemies, hazards, and bullets and, as always, he is a clunky and awkward character to play as. Yet, thanks to some large, detailed graphics, a catchy theme, and tight controls, there’s a lot to like about RoboCop. Taking inspiration from Contra was the right way to go as RoboCop excels when it is adapted into a run-and-gun shoot-‘em-up and, while these genres have been done better in other games and the movie might have benefitted from being an auto-scrolling first-person shooter rather than a sidescroller, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a fun way to spend an hour or so of your life.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you ever play RoboCop in an arcade? Which RoboCop videogame is your favourite? Would you like to see a new RoboCop game; if so, what genre do you think would best fit the source material? Which RoboCop movie is your favourite? How are you celebrating RoboCop Day today? Whatever you think about RoboCop, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

10 FTW: Comic Book Crossovers We Need To See

If there’s one thing comic books allow, it’s the grandiose crossover between characters. Ever since Barry Allen met Jay Garrick all the way back in 1961 and introduced the idea of multiple parallel universes, comic book characters have existed in both isolated shared universes and travelled across a near infinite multiverse. However, while it’s relatively common to see Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman interact with the Justice League or the Teen Titans, or to have Peter Parker/Spider-Man randomly join forces with the Fantastic Four or the X-Men, we’ve also seen the characters of DC and Marvel Comics interact with each other. We’ve seen Superman and Batman both cross paths with Spider-Man, the X-Men team with the New Teen Titans, and both publishers’ greatest heroes go head-to-head in the epic DC Versus Marvel Comics (Marz and David, et al, 1996) crossover.

There have been some weird crossovers in comics.

In addition, Dark Horse Comics snapped up multiple science-fiction and horror film franchises, giving us crossovers such as RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Miller, et al, 1992) and a whole slew of Aliens vs. Predator (Various, 1989 to present) comics. It doesn’t end there, either; we’ve seen Batman cross paths with Judge Dredd on multiple times and Frank Castle/The Punisher team up with not only Eminem but also pop up in Archie Comics, and it was thanks to such comic book crossovers that we finally got to see the three-way mash-up between Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Ash Williams! Yet, as many and varied and seemingly limitless as these crossovers can be, it seems like we’ve missed out on a few seemingly-obvious crossovers. Maybe it’s because of licensing issues or the fact that DC and Marvel Comics don’t tend to do a lot of business together lately, but, either way, I figured I’d talk about ten crossovers I’d love to see in comic books.

10 Justice Society/Watchmen

After DC Comics finally put an end to the largely-awful New 52 run, they teased Alan Moore’s seminal work, Watchmen (ibid, et al, 1986 to 1987), becoming part of DC canon when Edward Blake/The Comedian’s iconic smiley-face button turned up in the Batcave. Cue the extremely delayed publication schedule of Doomsday Clock (Johns, et al, 2017 to 2019), a storyline that revealed that Doctor Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan had been influencing DC canon for decades. While this, obviously, brought the characters of Watchmen (or, at least, versions of them) into conflict with Superman, Batman, and other versions of the Justice League, it’s the older, more seasoned members of the Justice Society of America (JSA) I’d like to see have extended interactions with the Crimebusters. The JSA were at their peak around the time of World War Two, meaning they are decidedly more optimistic and pragmatic about their approach to crimefighting. The Crimebusters, meanwhile, existed in a largely dystopian version of the 1980s that was pretty bleak and constantly on the verge of another World War, meaning this team up could produce an interesting clash of styles and philosophies that would probably be more in keeping with Moore’s more reflective text rather than an all-out brawl. Plus, who doesn’t want to see who would win a battle between Jim Corrigan/The Spectre and Doctor Manhattan?

9 Pulp Heroes United

Before Batman and Superman, there were the pulp heroes of the 1930s to 1950s. Names like the Phantom, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Rocketeer, and Green Hornet may have faded from mainstream relevance in recent years, but they live on thanks to publications from Dynamite Comics and crossovers with DC Comics. Speaking of Dynamite Comics, they came very close to this crossover with their Masks (Various, 2014 to 2016) series, which saw the Shadow teaming up with the Green Hornet and Kato, a version of Zorro, and the Spider but this crossover has so much potential to really pay homage to the heroes of yesteryear. Ideally, such a comprehensive team up would be similar to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Moore, et al, 1999 to 2019) in its scope and legacy; hell, I’d even have the Phantom, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Rocketeer, Green Hornet and Kato, Zorro, Doc Savage, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and the rest of their ilk butting heads with the Martians from The War of the Worlds (Wells, 1897) at the turn of the century. A proper sepia-toned, steampunk-filled piece that sees these wildly different pulp heroes begrudgingly working together to save the world could be a great way to thrust these overlooked classic heroes back into the spotlight.

8 Red Hood/Winter Soldier

If the comic industry was like it was back in the mid-nineties, we would surely have already seen this crossover, which is as obvious and as fitting as the team up between the Punisher and Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael during his brief tenure as Batman. Speaking of which, a team up between Jason Todd/Red Hood and the Punisher is just as enticing but, in terms of thematically complimentary characters, you’re hard pressed to find two more fitting that Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes. Both characters were well-known sidekicks to greater heroes whose deaths shaped, influenced, and affected their mentors for years, and both even returned to life as violent, broken anti-heroes around the same time.

Jason and Bucky’s deaths weighed heavily on Bat and Cap for years.

Yet, while Bucky has gone on to not only redeem himself and assume the mantle of Captain America (and is largely far more mainstream thanks to his prominent inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Jason Todd has floundered a little bit. It didn’t help that Jason’s resurrection was directly tied to DC’s latest reality-shattering Crisis for years (even though there have since been far less convoluted explanations, and he really should have been Hush all along) but, even ignoring that, Jason’s place is skewed as one minute he’s a sadistic killer, then he’s a violent anti-hero, then he’s wearing the Bat embalm and is an accepted (however begrudgingly) member of the Bat Family. However, both characters have carved a name out for themselves as being willing to go to any lengths to punish the guilty; each has blood on their hands, a butt load of emotional and personal issues, and a degree of augmented strength, speed, and skill thanks to their training or resurrection. While both are similar, Bucky is far more likely to be the bigger man and take the more moral ground, which would be more than enough to emphasise the differences between the two (provided Jason feels like being more antagonistic in this theoretical crossover).

7 Judge Dredd/RoboCop

It’s no secret that RoboCop exists almost solely because of Judge Dredd; without 2000 A.D.’s no-nonsense lawman, we’d likely never have seen the excellently gore-and-satire-filled sci-fi action that is RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). While Batman has had more than a few run-ins with Judge Dredd, Detroit’s resident cyborg supercop has yet to meet his cinematic counterpart. The story is so simple is basically writes itself; you could have RoboCop awakened from suspended animation or reactivated after decades of being offline in the war-ravaged dystopia of Mega City One and briefly come into conflict with Dredd. I’d wager that RoboCop would be the more likely of the two to be more morally inclined; RoboCop generally operates based on very specific, law-abiding directives (or, depending on the version, his own conscience) that justify violence in service of protecting the innocent. Dredd, meanwhile, is just as likely to arrest victims of crimes as those who perpetrate them and is generally more an example of totalitarianism and uncompromising brutality in the name of the “law!” Yet, just as Dredd and Batman were able to work together despite coming to blows over their methods and philosophies, these two would make quite the formidable team once they’d ironed out their differences…though RoboCop may need an upgrade or two to survive in the future.

6 Deadpool/The Mask

DC Comics have had many crossovers with Dark Horse over the years, resulting in numerous interactions between DC’s finest and the Xenomorphs, Predators, and Terminators. Similarly, both companies worked together on a number of crossovers revolving around the violent, big-headed cartoon anti-hero “the Mask”. It stands to reason, then, that if the Joker acquiring the magical mask and gaining its powers is a natural fit, a crossover between the near limitless power of the mask and everyone’s favourite fourth-wall breaking Mutant, Wade Wilson/Deadpool, would be just as fitting. Both characters are known for their over-the-top, cartoony violence, springing weapons out of thin air, directly addressing the reader, and busting heads with a maniacal glee. Hell, DC and Dark Horse had Lobo team up with “Big-Head” and even acquire the mask in another crossover and, given Lobo’s similarities to Deadpool, it wouldn’t bee too hard to imagine a crossover between these two being little more than a non-stop bloodbath as they tried in vain to damage each other, before Deadpool inevitably acquires the mask for himself and, in all likelihood, reduces all of conscious reality to a cheesy puff.

5 RoboCop vs. Terminator vs. Aliens vs. Predator

Speaking of Dark Horse Comics, they really have brought us some great crossovers over the years; RoboCop Versus The Terminator and Aliens vs. Predator were natural stories to present in comics, videogames, and toys that were (arguably) too big for movies. They also merged three of these franchises together in Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator (Schultz, et al, 20000), though that story was more a sequel to Alien: Resurrection (Jeunet, 1997) and a continuation of the Aliens vs. Predator comics than anything to do with the Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) films. Instead, this four-way crossover would give Dark Horse a chance to take the time-hopping, action-packed story of RoboCop Versus The Terminator and merge it with their complex Aliens vs. Predator comics. RoboCop would probably be best served as the central character of the story; a member of the human resistance could travel back in time to try and eliminate RoboCop, only to run into a T-800 right as Predators come to clean up a Xenomorph outbreak in Detroit. A time dilation could transport them to the war-ravaged future, where RoboCop could team up with a reprogrammed T-800 (or John Connor) against the aliens, or perhaps the future war would be changed by the reverse-engineering or Predator technology. There’s a lot of potential in this crossover but, for me, it only really works if you include RoboCop. Without him, you end up with a poorly-executed concept like Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator, which really didn’t utilise the Terminator franchise enough. But imagine a Terminator/Xenomorph (or Predator) hybrid exchanging plasma blasts with a Predator-tech-upgraded RoboCop and tell me that doesn’t sound cool!

4 Hellboy/Constantine

We’re scaling back a bit with this one. Honestly, I am very surprised we’ve never seen these two team up before, especially considering the amicable relationship DC and Dark Horse Comics have had over the years. Hell, we did get a brief team up between Hellboy and Batman but, arguably, this is the far more fitting choice. In this concept, I would go with the idea that John Constantine and Hellboy co-exist in the same world and have them cross paths when investigating the same supernatural threat or mystery. Obviously, they’d have to fight before teaming up (or, perhaps, they’d just rub each other the wrong way after being forced to team up), but can you imagine the quips and taunts and insults Constantine would have for Hellboy all throughout this crossover? Toss in guys like Swamp Thing and Etrigan, or even the Justice League Dark and the rest of Hellboy’s buddies (and absolutely have Mike Mignola provide his distinctive art style to the piece alongside co-authoring the story with either Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman) and you could have a very dark, moody, and entertaining paranormal crossover.

3 Batgirl/Spider-Gwen

This one is more of a light-hearted pick but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of unapologetic fun amidst all the big action set pieces and violent action. After her debut in the “Spider-Verse” (Slott, et al, 2014 to 2015) storyline and prominent inclusion in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Ramsey, and Rothman, 2018), this alternative version of Gwen Stacy has gained quite the fan following over the years and has become firmly entrenched in Marvel canon as Ghost-Spider. Meanwhile, since the New 52, DC have returned Barbara Gordon to the role of Batgirl; this wasn’t without some controversy as, for years, Barbara had operated just fine as a paraplegic and the Batgirl mantle had been assumed by other, far more suitable candidates. Yet, DC have continued unabated, largely changing Barbara from a smart and capable tech and information wizard, to a far more catty, athletic, and socially-conscious young lady. Despite this, this has the potential to be a really fun crossover between these two; while Babs should really be the older and more mature of the two, they’re both around the same age these days (somewhere between fifteen and twenty-one, depending on DC and Marvel’s sliding timelines), meaning there would be a lot of common ground between the two. No doubt they would have plenty to say about each other’s costumes, hair, and ex boyfriends (throw Nightwing in there and have that cause a bit of tension between the two) and I would even have them team up against C-list villains, like the Vulture, Chameleon, Shocker, Mad Hatter, or Killer Moth, just to keep the focus on fast-paced, witty action rather than getting all sour and bleak.

2 Spider-Man 2099/Batman Beyond

I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t this be a crossover between Batman Beyond (1999 to 2001) and Spider-Man Unlimited (1999 to 2001), considering both cartoons aired at the same time and both characters wore similar, futuristic costumes? Well, you might be right, but Spider-Man Unlimited really should have been based on the initial Spider-Man 2099 (Various, 1992 to 1996) comics as that cartoon is largely remembered for being a poor follow-up to the superior Spider-Man (1994 to 1998) animated series and for featuring a pretty neat new costume for Spidey. Instead, I’d go with Spidey’s futuristic counterpart, Miguel O’Hara, who is more famous for operating in an alternative future of Marvel Comics. Again, the easiest way for him to interact with Terry McGinnis would be to have them exist in the same world but there’s a bit of an issue with that: Batman Beyond was set in 2039 when Terry was sixteen. The Justice League Unlimited (2004 to 2006) episode “Epilogue” (Riba, 2005) jumps to fifteen years later and Terry is a thirty-one-year-old Batman but the story would probably need some kind of time travel plot to bring these characters together at their peak.

Both characters come from similar futuristic worlds.

Luckily, neither character is no stranger to time-hopping adventures; perhaps the best way to do this would be to have two similar villains in each world experimenting with time/reality-bending technology and cause a dilation that threatens to merge both timelines unless Miguel and Terry can stop them. I’d even have them both swap places; have Miguel wake up one morning in Neo-Gotham, running into the aged, grouchy Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and battling some of Terry’s foes, while Terry randomly finds himself dumped in Nueva York and running afoul of Alchemax. After two issues of them exploring each other’s world, the third issue would be the obligatory fight between the two before they agree to team up for the fourth and final issue and sort out the problem. Both characters’ futuristic costumes have very similar traits and exist in visually interesting futuristic worlds, making a potential clash and eventual team up between them an exciting prospect for the art work and banter alone.

1 Batman/The Crow

Easily the top choice for me, and the genesis of this list, I literally cannot shake how perfect a crossover between Batman and Eric Draven/The Crow would be. Neither are strangers to inter-company crossovers but, while the Crow has had to settle for teaming up with the likes of Razor, The X-Files (1993 to 2018), and Hack/Slash (Seeley/Various, et al, 2014 to 2018), Batman has met Al Simmons/Spawn, Spider-Man, Judge Dredd, and even Elmer Fudd and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yet, this crossover provides the opportunity to get Batman back to the gritty, noir-inspired style of stories like The Long Halloween (Loeb, et al, 1996 to 1997) utilising an art style that is part Dave McKean and part James O’Barr. As for the plot, I’d have Eric return to his undead life once again after it is revealed that there was another figure pulling the strings of Top Dollar’s gang. This would, of course, bring Eric to Gotham City, where he’d start killing members of this extended gang of thugs with his usual brand of violence and poetic justice. Naturally, this would lead him into conflict with Batman but, rather than the two descending into a poorly written, childish brawl as in Spawn/Batman (Miller and McFarlane, 1994), it would probably be better to focus on Batman’s detective skills as he investigates Eric’s murder, those behind the murder, and Eric’s violent actions on the streets of Gotham. In fact, I probably would only have the two interact right at the conclusion of the story, just as Eric is about to kill his final target; they could have a discussion on morality and the meaning of justice but, ultimately, Eric would fulfil his mission and return to the grave regardless of Batman’s protestations, leaving Batman to ponder the line between justice and vengeance.


What comic book crossover would you like to see? Which comic book crossover has been your favourite, or most reviled? Whatever you think about comic book crossovers, leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Under-Rated Sequels


Sequels are funny things; you have to get the balance just right between providing everything people enjoyed about the first moving but expanding upon the plot and characters in a natural way. If it’s difficult for a lot of sequels to get this right, it’s even harder for third, fourth, or other sequential entries to hit the mark. There’s a few prime examples of sequels done right (Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991), and The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) spring to mind as some near-undisputed examples of sequels that were everything their predecessor was and more) and even fewer examples of completely perfect movie trilogies as most stumble by the third entry due to one reason or another. I can’t tell you, though, how often I’ve seen people talk shit about some sequels that are actually not that bad at all and, arguably, criminally under-rated. When movies, comics, and videogames produce remakes or other ancillary media based on these franchises, they either always complete ignore these films or openly criticise them for absolutely no reason. Today, I’m going to shed some light on ten under-rated sequels and, hopefully, try to show why they’re actually not as bad as you might think…

10 Saw II (Bousman, 2005)

While the Saw (Various, 2004 to present) noticeably dipped in quality as Lionsgate milked the series for all its worth with sequel after sequel after sequel (most of which were actually interquels as they foolishly killed off John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) way too early in the series), I feel like a lot of people don’t give Saw II enough credit. Saw (Wan, 2004) was an intense, terrifying experience that saw two people trapped in a room with the only option of escape being death or sawing a foot off with a rusty hacksaw. It kick-started a whole “torture porn” sub-genre of horror, despite most of its terror coming from the horrific situations rather than copious amounts of gore. Saw II, however, put the focus on Jigsaw, who was an almost mythic figure in the first movie and wasn’t fully revealed until the film’s dramatic conclusion. Here, we delve deep into his motivations for putting people through his gruesome “tests” and this film is a worthwhile watch simply for the subtle menace exuded by Tobin Bell.

Saw II has some gruesome traps.

Not only that, Saw II ramps up the gore and the desperation by having seven shady individuals all infected with a deadly, slow-acting nerve agent and trapped in a horror house, of sorts. The film’s tension comes from the desperation of Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who is frantic to save his son from Jigsaw’s trap and to bring Jigsaw in by any means necessary. Yes, there’s more gore and more onscreen violence and, arguably, Saw II set the standard for the myriad of sequels to come by ramping up Jigsaw’s traps and plots to an absurd degree, but this was before the series fell off a cliff. Here, minor characters from the first film are expanded upon, the lore of this world is fleshed out beautifully, and we have some of the franchise’s best traps ever.

9 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991)

For many of us back in the nineties, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was the first time the “Hero” Turtles were depicted as being as violent and nuanced as in their original Mirage Comics run. Up until the release of this movie, the Turtles were cute, cuddly superheroes who we watched foil the Shredder (James Avery) week after week and whose toys we bought with reckless abandon. However, given how dark and violent the first film was, this sequel does a massive course correction, increasing the silliness and reducing the onscreen violence and decreasing the Turtles’ use of their weapons in an attempt to align the live-action movies more with their more kid-friendly, animated counterparts. Yet, that doesn’t mean this sequel isn’t good in its own right. The Turtle suits (once again brought to live by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) look amazing and are probably better and more expressive than in the previous movie; the film also stays relatively close to its source material by focusing on the mutagenic ooze that created the Turtles, and it also introduced two mutant antagonists for the Turtles to fight.

Tokka and Rahzar are surprisingly formidable.

While they’re not Bebop (Barry Gordon and Greg Berg) and Rocksteady (Cam Clarke), Tokka (Rock Lyon and Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Gord Robertson and Mark Ginther) are a fun, welcome addition. It’s great seeing the Turtles kick the snot out of faceless members of the Foot Clan but Ninja Turtles has always been about the crazy mutated characters and these are two of the most impressive looking and formidable, especially considering their childlike demeanours. The Shredder (François Chau) also returned in this movie and is a lot closer to his animated incarnation, being decidedly more theatrical than in the first movie but no less intimidating. Probably the only thing that lets this movie down for me (no, it’s not the Vanilla Ice rap scene) is the final battle between the Turtles and the ooze-empowered Super Shredder (Kevin Nash) in which Shredder is unceremoniously defeated by being crushed under a pier due to his own foolishness. Apart from that, though, I feel this movie is the perfect balance between the dark, violent Mirage Comics and the light-hearted animated series and this balance is where the Ninja Turtles (a ridiculous concept to begin with) shine the brightest.

8 Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)

Now, admittedly, Batman Forever has its fan-base; there’s plenty of very vocal people out there who rate this quite highly among the many Batman (Various, 1966 to present) movies, especially after viewing the special edition and a lot of the deleted scenes which, had they been implemented, would probably have elevated this movie even higher. There’s a couple of reasons why this film is often unfairly attacked: one is because of how God-awful its sequel, Batman & Robin (ibid, 1997) was. That film’s over-the-top camp, painful performances, and nipple-suits are often considered so bad that both of Schumacher’s Bat-movies are unfairly lumped together and judged as a failure, when this just wasn’t the case.

McDonald’s had Burton’s weirdness replaced with over-the-top camp.

The second reason is because of how dramatically different it is from the previous Bat-movies; after Tim Burton brought us a dark, brooding, serious interpretation of Batman (Michael Keaton) in 1989, he was given free reign on the sequel, Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). While this made for one of my personal favourite Bat-movies thanks to Burton’s Gothic sensibilities, it upset a lot of parents (…and McDonald’s) and, similar to Turtles II, Schumacher was brought in to make Batman more “kid friendly”.

It’d be some time before Robin would truly fly again.

And yet despite the gratuitous neon lighting, the slapstick elements, and an incredibly over-the-top (and massively unsuitable) performance by Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever not only brought us a physically imposing Bruce Wayne/Batman (Val Kilmer) for the first time but it actually had the balls to include Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell). Schumacher smartly uses Robin’s origin as a parallel to Batman’s so that the film can tread familiar ground but in a new, fresh way while also bringing us one hell of a bad-ass Robin suit. Thanks to the blinkered, narrow-minded opinion that Robin (a character who has been around basically as long as Batman) is somehow “not suitable” for a Bat-movie, it wouldn’t be until the recent Titans (2018 to present) series that we would finally see Dick Grayson realised in live-action once again (though we came so close to seeing another interpretation of the character in the DC Extended Universe). Also, sue me, I grew up in the nineties and have always been a big fan of Jim Carrey’s. His performance as Edward Nygma/The Riddler might be over-the-top but his manic energy steals every scene he’s in and he genuinely looks like he’s having the time of his life channelling his inner Frank Gorshin and chewing on Schumacher’s elaborate and impractical scenery.

7 Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

Okay, I’m just going to come out at say it: Terminator Salvation was, hands down, the best Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) sequel after Terminator 2 and always will be, no matter how many times they force Arnold Schwarzenegger to throw on the shades and the jacket.

Salvation focused on the future war, as all Terminator 2 sequels should have.

After how perfectly Terminator 2 ended the series, the only smart way to produce further sequels was to have Terminators travel to other times and target other key members of the resistance (a plot point touched upon in the Dark Horse Comics, the dismally disappointing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Mostow, 2003), and threaded throughout the semi-decent Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 to 2009) television series) or to make prequels that focused on the war against the machines in a post-apocalyptic future. This latter idea would be my preference and, as such, I absolutely love Terminator Salvation. Is it perfect? Well, no, but it’s a different type of Terminator movie…and that is a good thing, people! Rather than making yet another lacklustre retread of Terminator 2, Salvation is, ostensibly, a war movie depicting the last vestiges of humanity driven to the brink of extinction by increasingly-dangerous killer machines.

Christian Bale always makes for fantastic casting.

Not only that, we got Christian Bale as John Connor! After the pathetic casting and portrayal of Nick Stahl (remember him?) in the third movie, we got freakin’ Batman as the last, best hope of humankind! And he gives a great performance; stoic, gritty, hardened, this is a Connor who is on the edge of accepting his true destiny and is desperate to do anything he can to stay one step ahead of Skynet. Add to that we got a pretty decent battle between Connor and the T-800 (Roland Kickinger). People like to shit on this sequence because Kickinger has Schwarzenegger’s likeness digitally laid over his face but, honestly, it isn’t that bad an effect and, if you can’t get Arnold back, this was a great way to utilise him. The only faults I have with this movie are that Connor shouldn’t have received such a clearly-mortal wound from the T-800 (I know he was originally supposed to die but, after they changed the ending, they really should have re-edited this scene to make his wound less deadly) and that the franchise has largely ignored it with subsequent sequels rather than continuing on from its open-ended finale, meaning we’ll forever be denied the bad-ass visual of an army of Arnold’s marching over a field of human skulls!

6 Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lucas, 2002)

Okay, just hear me out…Attack of the Clones is not that bad, especially after Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (ibid, 1999) focused way too much on boring shit like “trade disputes” and politics, insulted our intelligence with the dreadful Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and sucked all of the menace and intrigue out of Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) by portraying Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) a whiny, annoying little brat.

The banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan was a highlight.

Arguably, the Prequel Trilogy would have been better if Lucas had opted to have Anakin discovered as a young adult and cast Hayden Christensen in the role from the start as this would be a far better parallel to his son’s own journey to becoming a Jedi. Christensen is a decent enough actor and he was simply handicapped by Lucas’s dreadful script; if Lucas had opted to let someone else take another pass at his dialogue, we could have seen a bit more of the snarky banter Anakin shares with his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Despite the copious amount of green screen and computer-generated characters thrown at us here, Attack of the Clones has a lot of visual appeal; from the city planet of Coruscant to the rain-swept Kamino and the dry lands of Geonosis, the only location that lets Attack of the Clones down is its return to the sand planet Tatooine but even that is used as a pivotal moment in Anakin’s turn towards the Dark Side.

I would’ve preferred to see what Boba Fett was capable of.

And let’s not forget the fantastic Lightsaber battles on display here; every battle is as good as the final battle from The Phantom Menace, featuring some impressive choreography and setting the stage for one hell of an epic showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the next movie. While I don’t really care for Yodi (Frank Oz) being a CG character, or wielding a Lightsaber, there is a perverse pleasure to be gained from seeing Yoda flip about like a maniacal spider monkey. Oh, and this movie has freakin’ Christopher Lee in it! Unfortunately, Lee’s Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus is criminally underused in this movie and killed off all-too-soon in the sequel. Another misfire for me was Lucas wasting time introducing Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison); I’ve never really understood why people love Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) so much as he’s a bit of a klutz and doesn’t really do anything, but he does have a rabid fan base and, since we never see his face in the Original Trilogy, I would have instead cast Temuera as Boba so that we could see him actually do something.

5 Hellraiser: Bloodline (Yagher (credited as Alan Smithee), 1996)

Hellraiser (1987 to present) is a horror film series that seems to have struggled to be as successful as some of its other peers. I’ve already talked about how the original Hellraiser (Barker, 1987) really hasn’t aged very well and this applies to every sequel in the series as well as they seem to immediately age to moment they are released thanks to the decision to release every sequel after the third movie direct to video. Admittedly, a lot of my fondness for Hellraiser: Bloodline is based on two things: it was the first Hellraiser movie I was able to sit through from start to finish and was responsible for me becoming a fan of the series, and Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) is one of my favourite science-fiction/horror movies. Arguably, Event Horizon is a far better version of Bloodline’s core concept (that being “Hellraiser…in Space!”) but there’s an important thing to remember about that: Bloodline isn’t set solely in space! Instead, Bloodline takes place in three different timelines and follows the descendants of Philippe Lemarchand (Bruce Ramsay), an 18th century toymaker who was unwittingly responsible for creating the magical Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that, when solved, summons Cenobites from a dimension where the lines between pleasure and pain are blurred.

Pinhead has lofty aspirations in Bloodline.

Cursed for this act, Lemarchand’s descendants are driven by an inherent desire to create the Elysium Configuration, a means to forever seal the Cenobites from our world forever Dr. Paul Merchant (also Ramsay) is merely the latest in a long line of these toymakers to encounter the demonic Cenobite dubbed Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his acolytes; unlike his predecessors, Merchant actually succeeds in his mission and destroys both Pinhead, and the portal to Hell, forever using a massive space station. There’s a few reasons I think people misjudge this movie: one is that it was absolutely butchered by Miramax, who demanded all kinds of reshoots and changes, meaning that the film’s original director’s cut has never been seen. Another is a holdover from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Hickox, 1992), which saw Pinhead ape Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and become just another slasher villain with a twisted sense of humour. Similarly, in Bloodline, Pinhead goes from being a representative of the Order of the Gash (…lol), to wanting to unleash Hell on Earth permanently like some kind of invading force, to the point where he takes hostages and transforms people into Cenobites whether they have opened the box or not. Yet none of this changes the fact that Bloodline is a pretty decent film; we finally get to see some background into the mysterious puzzle box, there’s multiple times when the structure and history of Hell is hinted at, and there’s some really disgusting kills and gore. Personally, I rate this film higher than the second (because that film is boring) and the third simply because it doesn’t have a Cenobite with CDs jammed in its head!

4 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009)

This one is gonna cost me a lot of credibility but I honestly do not get why X-Men Origins: Wolverine gets so much shit, especially considering how incoherent and screwed up the timeline and continuity of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) movie series became after this film. Sure, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is poorly represented, some of the CG is a bit wonky, and there are a lot of flaws in the plot, but there’s also a lot to like about this film. First, and most obvious, is the film’s opening credit sequence, which many have cited as being their favourite moment of the film. Seeing James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) racing through various wars is stunning and I do agree that the film really should have based around this premise and their slow degeneration into bloodlust, with Logan overcoming it and Victor giving in to it to become Sabretooth. Yet, often, I see a lot of criticism about how the X-Men movies tend to always focus on Wolverine at the expense of other Mutants…yet people still hate on this movie, which puts the spotlight entirely on Wolverine and still manages to feature some new Mutants and fill in a few plot points along the way. We get to see Logan’s time in Team X, the full extent of the procedure that gave him his Adamantium skeleton (although we miss out on the feral Wolverine showcased so brilliantly in the otherwise-disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016)), and even how unknowingly pivotal he was in bringing the original X-Men together.

The cast for Origins was pretty much perfect.

The casting really makes this movie shine: Jackman is at his most jacked as Wolverine and, while he’s a little too tame compared to what you’d expect from this point in his life, he always brings a great intensity and charisma to his breakout role. Schreiber was an inspired choice to portray Logan’s brother, who (it is strongly hinted) eventually succumbs to his animalistic ways to become Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), bringing a nuanced menace and sophistication to what is normally seen as a feral character. Danny Huston is always great as a smug, scenery-chewing villain (though he doesn’t exactly resemble Brian Cox) and Reynolds gave a great tease at what he was capable of as everyone’s favourite “Merc with a Mouth” (…until it was sown shut). We also get some new Mutants, which I appreciate even more after subsequent sequels could never seem to let go of having teleporting demons involved in their plots; Fred Dukes/The Blob (Kevin Durand) is fantastically realised in the movie and has a great (and hilarious) boxing match with Logan and everyone’s favourite card-throwing Cajun, Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) also makes his one (and, so far, only) film appearance here. I only expected a brief, unsatisfying cameo from Gambit but he actually has a surprisingly substantial role. Could it have been bigger? Sure, but I’d say he was treated a lot better than Deadpool (who, it should be remembered, was still planned to get a spin-off from this film).

3 RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). It told an easily self-contained story of Detroit City police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) being rebuilt from death as a bad-ass cybernetic enforcer of the law and rediscovering his humanity. It’s a classic film, with some amazing effects, hilarious commentary on consumerism, media, and corporate greed, and would be a tough act for anyone to follow. Yet, call me crazy, but RoboCop 2 succeeds far more than it fails. RoboCop has a fresh coat of paint and has (literally) never looked better onscreen; he’s just as efficient and pragmatic as before and, though he seems to have regressed back to a more mechanical mindset, he still exhibits a great deal of humanity but in new and interesting ways. First, he is routinely referred to as “Murphy” by other officers (particularly Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), his partner) and struggles so badly with reconnecting with his wife and son (who believe that Murphy is dead and buried) that he routinely stalks them, which contributes to his superiors deciding to reprogram him. This results in a deliciously over-the-top sequence where RoboCop, his head full of insane, politically correct directives, tries to calm situations with talk rather than bullets. It eventually becomes so maddening that he is forced to electrocute himself just to clear his head enough for him to focus on the big bad of the film, Cain (Tom Noonan).

RoboCain is an impressively ambitious inclusion.

Now, Cain and his psychopathic gang of untouchable drug dealers are great, but they’re not Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith); instead of Clarence’s manic energy, Cain brings a quiet, intellectual approach to his menace. He also manages to dismantle RoboCop’s metallic body, just as Clarence destroyed his human one, and is eventually able to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop as the frankly fantastic RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”). If you liked ED-209 from the last movie, RoboCain is bigger, badder, and better. A combination of animatronics and stop-motion, RoboCain was an ambitious choice for the film and actually works really well considering the technological limitations of the time. The fight between Cain and RoboCop also holds up surprisingly well and is far more interesting than Robo’s encounters with ED-209 thanks to the villain being far more versatile than his clunky counterpart. I think what brings this movie down, for many, is that Cain’s gang aren’t as charismatic or memorable as Boddicker’s (I can only name two of Cain’s guys off the top of my head, whereas I can name at least five of Boddiker’s), some of the plot is a bit redundant (Robo’s story arc is, essentially, a truncated version of the same one from the first), and the awfulness of subsequent RoboCop movies leaving such a sour taste that people assume all RoboCop sequels are terrible…and that’s just not the case.

2 Predator 2 (Hopkins, 1990)

Okay, full disclosure: as a kid, I was not a fan of this movie. I loved Predator (McTiernan, 1987); it was over-the-top, filled with massive action heroes, and featured a tense build-up to one of cinema’s most memorable alien creatures. The sequel just seemed to be lacking something; maybe it was because we’d already seen the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) in its full, gruesome glory and didn’t really need to go through the suspense of its eventual reveal all over again. Replacing Schwarzenegger is Danny Glover’s Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, a hardened, smart-mouthed loose cannon who plays by his own rules (as was the tradition for any cop worth a damn in cinema back then). I was in awe at Schwarzenegger as a kid so it was disappointing to go from him to Glover but, honestly, Glover is probably better in many ways: his anti-authoritative, roguish nature makes him more relatable as a character and the fact that he actually gets hurt and struggles to physically prevail makes him far more human. He’s a much more believable protagonist in a lot of ways and, thanks to his more developed acting chops, is more than a suitable replacement for Arnold. Predator 2 also takes the titular hunter out of the jungle and places him in the next most logical place: the concrete jungle. Now, a lot of people hate this change; even Arnold hated that the Predator would be in Los Angles for the sequel but…surely doing the sequel in the jungle again would have just resulted in exactly the same movie as before?

Predator 2 established almost all of the Predator’s lore and society.

It’s so weird that people rag on the city setting as it makes perfect sense, is realised really well, and even set the ground for a lot of the Dark Horse comics. No other sequel around this time repeated the first in this way; Aliens (Cameron, 1986), Terminator 2, Batman Returns, Lethal Weapon 3 (Donner, 1992), just to name a few, all fundamentally alter the concept of the first movie rather than rehashing it so why does Predator 2 get such a hard time for doing it (and doing it well, I might add)? To make matters worse, Predator 2 has been criminally overlooked in subsequent sequels; there was no mention of the film’s events at all in the otherwise-excellent Predators (Antal, 2010), a film that went out of its way to reference (both through homage and direct mention) the first movie, and it only gets a passing mention in the disappointing The Predator (Black, 2018). Jake Busey, son of Gary Busey, even featured as an expert on the Predator species but there was no mention in the film of his relationship to Busey’s character, Peter Keyes, despite the two being father and son! I’ll never understand this; it’s a real insult, to be honest. Predator 2 brought so much to the table; it defined the honour system of the Predator species, introduced a whole bunch of the alien’s iconic weaponry, and laid the foundation for comic books, videogames, and sequels and spin-offs to follow for years to come. Subsequent movies have no problem reusing the weaponry or the culture of the Predator introduced in this movie but when it comes to actually directly referencing the film’s events they shy away and why? It’s a great film! Great kills, great action, great tension, some fantastic effects, and a super enjoyable chase sequence between the Predator and Harrigan across the streets and rooftops of Los Angeles! I just don’t get the hate, I really don’t.

1 Ghostbusters II (Reitman, 1989)

Man, if you thought I was mad about Predator 2, just wait until you hear this one. Ghostbusters II suffers from a lot of the plagues of Predator 2, and other films on this list: it’s unfairly criticised for not being exactly the same as the iconic first film, it’s overlooked time and time again, and direct references to it are few and far between. Just look at the majority of Ghostbusters-related media; be it toys, videogames, or otherwise, the characters almost always look exactly like the first movie rather than this one. And why? Because it doesn’t have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in it. Give me a fuckin’ break! As much as I love him, and that entire sequence, it wouldn’t make any sense of Mr. Stay Puft to appear in this movie! The Ghostbusters destroyed it when they defeated Gozer the Gozerian (Slavitza Jovan and Paddi Edwards) and this movie revolves around an entirely different villain and plot so why bring it back? I guess audiences were just used to antagonists returning ins equels at that time but to judge this movie just for not having Mr. Stay Puft is not only unfair, it’s down-right stupid.

The river of slime always freaked me out as a kid.

After all, it has the Statue of Liberty coming to life instead! Sure, it doesn’t match up to Stay Puft’s rampage, but it’s still pretty decent. Also, the film’s antagonist, Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg), is voiced by Max von Sydow, who is an absolute legend. Vigo’s threat is arguably much higher than Gozer’s in a way as his mood slime has been brewing under New York City for decades and is the direct result of all the animosity in the world (…or, just New York, which is bad enough). It’s powerful enough to cause ghosts to go on a rampage again and turn the Ghostbusters against each other, and is a far more grounded threat than Gozer’s plot to destroy the world. The stakes are raised in Ghostbusters II through the fact that the titular ‘Busters have been forced to disband and go their separate ways. Through this, we see something that is also often overlooked about this movie: character growth. Would you criticise Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) character growth in Aliens? Well, yes, probably; you are the internet after all but this plot point allows Ghostbusters II, like RoboCop 2, to retread the familiar ground of the disgraced Ghostbusters being called upon to save the city in a new way. The characters are all a bit more haggard after how badly the city burned them so seeing them rise up regardless, to the point where they’re even able to resist the mood slime, is a great arc.

There are some really horrific scenes in this film…

Add to that the film’s consistent and enjoyable special effects, the truly gruesome sequence in the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system, and a creepy performance (as always) by Peter MacNicol and you’ve got a film that, like Turtles II, is more than a worthy follow-up to the original. And, yet, like I said, this film is often overlooked, almost with a vendetta. It doesn’t help that co-star Bill Murray despised the movie, which is always bad press for any film; his cantankerous ways also constantly held up the long-awaited third movie to the point where we had to suffer through that God-awful reboot before a follow-up would be approved. Despite Murray’s opinions, Ghostbusters II has managed to endure in some respects, though; characters and events were directly referenced in Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters (1988 to 1991) and Vigo’s portrait was prominently featured in the true third entry, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009). Yet I wouldn’t at be surprised if Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Reitman, 2021) completely ignores this movie, or at least brushes it off or lampoons it, especially considering the trailers seem more focused on calling back to the first film.


Do you agree with my list? I’m guessing not and you think most of these movies are terrible but why do you think that? Are there any other under-rated sequels you can think of? Write a comment and give me your thoughts below.

Game Corner: RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Mega Drive)


Released: May 1994
Developer: Virgin Games USA
Also Available For: Game Gear, Master System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Game Boy

The Background:
One of the greatest things about comic books published in the nineties was that the sky was, seemingly, the limit for plots, crossovers, and all kinds of stories to be told. Thanks to Dark Horse Comics snapping up the rights to some of the biggest science-fiction/horror franchises of the time, we got to see not only the likes of Aliens vs. Predator but also the cybernetic clash you always wanted to see in a movie but never got, RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Miller, et al, 1992). Given that the comic was written some time before Frank Miller flushed his reputation down the toilet with The Dark Knight Strikes Back (2001 to 2002), the RoboCop Versus The Terminator was relatively well-written, action-packed fun. The general premise was that RoboCop’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) formed the basis of the world-killing Skynet, which sent Terminators back through time to protect him and ensure its survival. Cue a time-line hopping, reality-bending story that sees RoboCop reduced to his digital consciousness, construct a fully robotic body, and travel back in time to destroy Skynet once and for all. It’s a pretty mental comic but, like Aliens vs. Predator, a fantastic concept that, apparently, had enough legs to warrant a videogame released on a number of consoles. I had owned and played the Master System version for years but, once I set my literal come corner up in my cabin, I knew that I had to track down the superior Mega Drive version.

The Plot:
Unwittingly responsible for the creation of Skynet, RoboCop must battle from the streets of Detroit, to the offices of Cyberdyne, to a war-ravaged future eradicating the Terminator threat and freeing hostages as he goes to ensure a future free from Skynet’s influence.

Like the majority of videogames based on the RoboCop (Various, 1987 to present) and Terminator (Various, 1984 to present) movies, RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a side-scrolling action shooter with light platforming elements. Unlike the Alien vs. Predator (Capcom, 1994) arcade game, this is a strictly one-player experience that sees the player control RoboCop, who must blast his way through about ten levels taking out the likes of regular street thugs and Terminator alike. As much as I love RoboCop, he’s always a terrible character to control and play as; even in the excellent RoboCop (Data East, 1987) arcade game he was a slow, plodding hunk of metal and it’s more of the same here. RoboCop lumbers his way through levels at a steady pace, hopping half-heartedly to platforms (and, amusingly, monkeying his way across lines and pipes) and struggling to dodge incoming fire. While this is obviously a realistic way to portray RoboCop (who, despite being a massive efficient combat shooter, has never been the most versatile of sci-fi cyborgs), it does mean you can’t just plough ahead guns blazing.

RoboCop has a real weight to him.

Instead, it’s best to hang back and keep an eye on enemy projectiles, ducking and hopping out of the way as best you can considering RoboCop’s massive hit box. Thankfully, many of the game’s environments are destructible and will yield all kinds of goodies, from baby food that will restore Robo’s health to extra lives and weapons. There are also loads of secret rooms to be found that hold similar rewards, encouraging exploration. RoboCop is armed with his trademark Auto-9 handgun and can fire in multiple directions; this alone is more than enough to take out most of the enemies he’ll come up against but, if you get up close to enemies, you can also punch them, and you can acquire bigger, better weapons as you make your way through the game’s levels. You can switch between these with a button press but, once your health is drained and you lose a life, you’ll lose one of your weapons until you return to the default Auto-9. the good news is that RoboCop can take a fair amount of damage and will return to action right on the spot where he fell, but the bad news is that it doesn’t take much to drain Robo’s health and there are a few occasions where environmental hazards (like vats of toxic waste or flaming pits) will instantly kill RoboCop.

Rescue hostages to refill health and score points.

While RoboCop is generally given simple objectives (like cleaning up the streets or destroying the Terminator threat), some levels will see him having to rescue a number of hostages. Upon being rescued, a portion of Robo’s health will be restored, which is helpful; also helpful is that it doesn’t appear to be a requirement to clearing the level to rescue these hostages; when you see them, you can touch them to rescue them but I never reached the end of a level and was told I’d failed or was forced to go back and save any hostages I’d missed, so it’s more about gaining health and points than a level-clearing obligation. Yes, like pretty much every videogame ever made, there’s a nice little score tally at the bottom of the screen that’ll increase as you take out enemies, rescue hostages, and collect items. Earn enough points and you’ll gain an extra life, which you’ll need as the game ramps up in difficulty as you progress from the thug-infested streets of Detroit to the robot-infested headquarters of the killer A.I. known as Skynet. It’s around this point that you’ll struggle a bit with RoboCop’s controls, hit box, and clunkiness; Terminators of all shapes and sizes (from the traditional T-800s, to the robotic endoskeletons, to spider-like drones and wall-and-ceiling-mounted cannons) will unleash a hailstorm of projectiles your way and you’ll need all of your best weapons and skills to make it through the game’s bullet sponge of a final boss.

Graphics and Sound:
Coming off of the Master System version (which, honestly, isn’t too and compared to some Master System ports), RoboCop Versus The Terminator boasts some gorgeous in-game graphics. RoboCop and his various enemies are big, fantastically-detailed sprites; while this does mean they have large hit boxes, it makes for some impressive, arcade-quality graphics.

Come for the cyborgs, stay for the gore!

One of the most enjoyable things about RoboCop Versus The Terminator is the copious amounts of gore it contains; when you blast away thugs, they explode in a bloody mess and it’s absolutely glorious. You’ll miss these effects once the Terminators begin to take precedence as the game’s primary enemies but, even then, you’ll see the T-800’s skin degenerate until only the endoskeleton is left, which is a nice addition. Alongside a few choice sound bites from the first RoboCop movie, the game features a techno-inspired soundtrack with a lot of beats and rocking bass; there’s some odd choices, like a sultry voice blurting out “Terminator!” every ten seconds or so but, while the game doesn’t feature either of the iconic themes from the two franchises, its techno-inspired beats seem heavily inspired by both.

Enemies and Bosses:
RoboCop will initially face little resistance from the street thugs of Detroit; they’ll shoot at him, sometimes from behind windows, and get in his way but they’re small fry and easily dispatched with a single shot.

The T-800’s façade can be destroyed, revealing the robotic endoskeleton.

At the end of the second level, though, RoboCop comes face-to-face with a T-800 Terminator modelled closely on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance from the end of the first film and the majority of the second. As a boss, this guy obviously takes more hits, degenerating from a fully clothed and skinned appearance to the iconic Terminator endoskeleton as the battle progresses. After this, similar Terminators will begin to appear as regular enemies; the Arnold models will take around three hits to put down (one to blast away the façade and two to destroy the endoskeleton) while the endoskeletons will take around two. Smaller Terminator drones also show up to spew projectiles at you as you journey deeper into the future and Skynet, but you’ll also encounter red Terminators, which are endoskeletons that take even more hits to put down.

You’ll also battle some classic RoboCop enemies, though Skynet is a giant floating skull…

You’ll also battle some iconic RoboCop bosses, such as ED-209 and (rather inexplicably) RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”), each of which are guarding the facilities and offices or RoboCop’s megalomaniacal creators, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). Once RoboCop travels to the war-torn future, he’ll battle bosses such as Terminator-controlled gatling guns, super-powered endoskeletons, and Skynet itself. Skynet is represented as a giant floating endoskeleton head that tosses small drones and projectiles at you while endoskeletons march in from either the left or the right side of the screen. This final battle is, honestly, a little underwhelming (though, honestly, most of the game’s bosses are after the first few and you’ve finished with RoboCain and Ed-209); you’ll have your work cut out for you to dodge all of the projectiles it throws at you and to unload enough bullets to finally do it in but I can’t help but feel the game missed out by not including a T-1000 battle or a final boss more reminiscent of the giant liquid metal T-1000000 spider from T2-3D: Battle Across Time (Cameron, Bruno, and Winston, 1996).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned, there are a variety of power-ups RoboCop can collect as he explores (and destroys) each level; baby food will replenish his health, little RoboCop heads will grant an extra life, and shields will grant RoboCop a generous period of invincibility.

RoboCop can even fire ED-209’s arm cannon!

Most notably, though, RoboCop can acquire a variety of bigger, better guns which will dramatically increase his odds of survival; we’ve got everything from a traditional three-way spread to a grenade launcher, to homing missiles and a laser pistol. You can also grab one of ED-209’s arm cannons from a rapid fire burst, which is a pretty great little bonus; you can grab one of these during the boss battle with ED-209 but they do crop up in secret rooms and other areas of the game, too,

Additional Features:
There are three difficulty settings to pick from, each one carries a different set of lives, continues, and affects the amount of damage RoboCop can take. If you play on the hardest setting, enemies will be much more aggressive and the arrows that show you the way to go will also be missing. Aside from that, the only real incentive to replay again is to find all the secret rooms. As with all great old school games like this, there are a variety of cheats you can input that will grant you a whole bunch of lives and let you pick from all the available weapons. Unfortunately, though, you can only play as RoboCop; the narrative is geared in a way where Robo is the hero and the Terminators are the enemy but it might have been nice to see a mode where you play as a reprogrammed T-800.


The Summary:
RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a blast to play; while RoboCop is a clunky and cumbersome videogame protagonist at the best of times, you really get the sense that you’re playing as RoboCop and his quick-firing weapon and variety of additional armaments more than makes up for his heavy, stilted control. It also helps that there’s not many cheap deaths here; projectiles can come at you quickly but each enemy has a specific pattern that you can learn and exploit and, given the generous amount of health and power-ups on offer, there are instances when it’s okay to plough ahead guns blazing. Some levels can be a bit of a maze but, other than that, it’s worth it for the gore and the joy of seeing RoboCop punch a Terminator right in the face.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of RoboCop Versus The Terminator? What is your favourite RoboCop or Terminator videogame? What did you think of Frank Miller’s comic book? Do you think we missed out on seeing these two sci-fi icons clash on the big screen? Whatever you think, feel free to leave a comment below.