Book Review: ROBOCOP: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY
It’s probably not my favorite movie of all time, but when people ask about such things (and most people eventually do) RoboCop supplies me with a great stock answer. It’s pulpy, violent, and grotesque, but it’s also smart, satirical, and important. Calling RoboCop my favorite movie not only paints an accurate picture of my filmgoing interests but also sets a trap for those who think they’re too smart for the film, letting me know right off the bat if I’m dealing with a smug jerk or not. Also, I really do love it enough to be in my top five at least, so it’s not like I’m lying or anything.
But all that RoboLove ends with the first film. The rest of the series, as much of it as I’ve been privy to, is garbage. RoboCop 2 makes some valiant attempts to deliver an interesting, worthwhile sequel, but it fails to hit that mark by quite a bit, and nothing else comes close.
So it’s curious that the most interesting stuff I found while reading RoboCop: The Definitive History all revolves around sequels, TV series, and comic books. In a way it makes sense. A large portion of the book is dedicated to the original film and its creation, but having read plenty about that already, there was very little for me to learn (though I did find out that Monte Hellman directed parts of the movie - somehow that little tidbit never got to me until now).
Once we get into RoboCop 2 and 3, however, there is a lot to learn simply because no one really writes about these films. This is even more true when it comes to RoboCop’s two live-action television series, which sound interesting enough that I might one day give them a shot. While celebrating the series as a whole, the book does not shy away from the failures of the theatrical sequels and does a good job examining how and why those failures came about. This is done largely through frank retrospective quotes from those involved, but also just comes through in the tone of author Calum Waddell’s writing.
With a book like this, I’m not sure the text is even the real draw anyway. This gigantic, hard to hold tome is really more of a coffee table book designed for guests to flip through, grazing the wealth of beautiful photos. From behind-the-scenes shots, to stills, to special effect tests, to storyboards, RoboCop: The Definitive History leaves little to be desired visually. If you ever wanted to make a RoboCop collage, this book will be your huckleberry and a half. And as with the text, the real interesting stuff in this regard tends to revolve around the sequels and television material.
Sadly a good chunk of the book also gets eaten up by last year’s RoboCop remake. I don’t hate the film, and I understand why it needs to be included, but a lot of the info and photos (lots and lots of CG model shots) comes off as just boring, especially this close to its release.
All in all, however, this is a pretty amazing artifact for any RoboCop fan. I don’t usually go in for merchandise type purchases and only own the book because I got a review copy for free. Nevertheless, when it showed up at my door, I can’t deny a tinge of pride at the fact that I have it now and can look at it whenever I want. There’s nothing wrong with casually displaying a big ass book with an image of your favorite movie on the cover. Nothing at all.