The Curator of Schlock #202 by Jeff Shuster
Sequelitis isn’t such a bad thing.
I don’t know what to say. I’m a bit tuckered out this week. Was tuckered out last week too. It’s been a long year, but it’s coming to an end. I still have yet to review a movie starring Michael Caine or a movie directed by Lucio Fulci. Unfortunately, a movie directed by Lucio Fulci and starring Michael Caine does not exist. But that’s okay, because I live in a world where Blade Runner 2049 does exist.
I’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 twice. I’m still processing it, still trying to figure out what level of great it is, but make no mistake that it is great. Greatest movie of the decade? Yes. I mean the decade isn’t over yet and we’ve seen fantastic films such Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Sicario, and The Wind Rises, but I don’t think anything will soar above Blade Runner 2049. Greatest sequel ever made? I don’t know that I’ve seen every sequel ever made, but of the ones I have seen, yes, Blade Runner 2049 is the greatest. It is the rare sequel that is better than the original.
I grew up in the age of the sequel. If a movie were popular, it would likely get a sequel. And then would come the avalanche of criticism about how the sequel wasn’t as good as the original. In fact, some sequels are downright hated. Growing up, I could remember one sequel so viscously maligned for reasons I couldn’t understand. That movie was 1990’s Robocop 2 from director Irvin Kershner. Kershner’s biggest claim to fame was directing The Empire Strikes Back, so everyone figured he could do no wrong in directing the follow-up to Paul Verhoven’s Robocop.
Kershner never directed another movie again.
The critics savaged it and fans of the original Robocop followed suit. Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at a percentage of 31% fresh for critics and 36% percent for audiences. I was unaware of just how much contempt critics and audiences had for this film back when I saw it in theaters at the age of 12, the same age as the character Hob, one of the henchmen of the megalomaniacal drug lord/cult leader named Cain (Tom Noonan).
The critics hated Hob, Roger Ebert in particular:
“Cain’s sidekicks include a violent, foul-mouthed young boy (Gabriel Damon), who looks to be about 12 years old but kills people without remorse, swears like Eddie Murphy, and eventually takes over the drug business. I hesitate to suggest the vicious little tyke has been shoehorned into this R-rated movie so that the kiddies will have someone to identify with when they see it on video, but stranger things have happened.”
As I said, I was a 12-year-old kid at the time. I didn’t identify with Hob, but I knew there were bullies and delinquents my age capable of turning into Hob. And Hob’s “All-American Boy” appearance only added to the idea that monsters can come in many forms.
But let’s not forget that everything in Robocop 2 is over the top, no doubt aided by the fact that Frank Miller wrote the screenplay. My favorite character in the film is Mayor Kuzak (Willard Pugh), who throws a raging, f-bomb infused tantrum when he realizes the evil corporation OCP will take over Detroit because of a bad loan agreement he signed. The movie is filled with these moments, like when OCP has a focus group decide what Robocop’s new directives should be, such as collecting for the Red Cross and roasting marshmallows with some Cub Scouts.
Time went by and I forgot about Robocop 2. I even started to believe the critics, chalking up my love for the film as my childhood self not having refined enough taste.
Then I watched it again this year, rediscovered my love for it. Past all the over the top violence and cynical humor is a true good-versus-evil story with villains rotten to the core and a hero able to hold onto his humanity no matter how much bad programming gets inserted into him.