Iron Man 2 is a remake of RoboCop 2. Let that sentence sink in for a few seconds… Now someone please tell me why would anyone want to remake RoboCop 2? I’d really like to know. I can understand wanting to recreate the success of a good movie like RoboCop… but RoboCop 2? Seriously!?
What went wrong with Iron Man 2? It had so much going for it. It had all the momentum from the first film, it had a lavish budget, it had… a truncated production schedule to coincide with the glut of Marvel characters hitting the big screen in preparation for The Avengers. But still, why did the filmmakers feel it necessary to base their sequel on one of the most notoriously botched sequels of all time?
Let’s find out. I should point out that this article has been in the works since I first started the Deja Reviewer website nearly a year ago. My very first article was entitled Movie Matchups: Iron Man vs. RoboCop. I chose that as my first article because it showed how Hollywood could reuse stories in a good way. However, the follow-ups to those two great films were both equally terrible, and for the same reasons. I’m amazed that a new generation of filmmakers didn’t learn the lesson from their predecessors, and they felt it necessary to make the same mistakes 20 years later.
Here are all the similarities between Iron Man 2 and RoboCop 2:
- The hero reverts back to the way he was near the beginning of the first film.
- A company tries to duplicate the first Iron Man/RoboCop suit, with no success.
- There are many subplots that don’t go anywhere.
- The hero acts like a buffoon after a traumatic experience.
- The hero defeats the villain the first time in an anticlimactic way.
- The villain is enlisted by a businessperson to do their bidding.
- Evil robots rise through the floor at a press conference.
- The villain rebels against his masters and goes on a tirade that can only be stopped by the hero.
- The last line in both movies pretty much sums it all up.
Now let’s talk about each of these points in depth.
Back to the Status Quo
Tony Stark went through some big changes through the course of the first Iron Man film. He became obsessed with stopping the spread of war and destruction through the illicit uses of his company’s weapons. He wanted to avenge the death of his friend who gave him a second chance at life. Most of all, he was trying to be good, despite spending his whole life being self-centered. But we don’t see any of that in Iron Man 2. Stark pays lip service to doing things for others at the start, but the rest of the movie he’s always demanding to be the center of attention. It’s too bad because I really wanted to see how he would continue to learn and grow in the sequel.
By the end of the first RoboCop film, Alex Murphy had come to terms with his new life. He was mostly a machine and he was forced to obey the leaders of OCP, but he also found creative ways around his programming. Like getting the President of OCP to fire Dick Jones so he could eliminate the Directive 4 problem. Or refusing to arrest Clarence Boddicker again after seeing him get released from prison just a few hours after he arrested him the first time. But most of all, when the OCP President asks him what his name is, rather than saying “RoboCop,” he responds, “Murphy.” I was excited to see how Murphy would continue to find his humanity in RoboCop 2. But, instead, the first time we see RoboCop he’s acting more mechanical than he did the last time we saw him, and his voice has lost the human tinge it had before. The sequel spends a lot of time trying to beat the humanity out of him in sharp contrast to the predecessor’s attempts to bring out his humanity. That’s one of the biggest reasons why both of these sequels failed. They don’t continue the main characters’ journey. I wanted to see more Iron Man and RoboCop doing what they do best, and less corporate posturing and random side characters slowing everything to a crawl.
I couldn’t help but think of RoboCop 2 during the scene in Iron Man 2 when Stark appears before a Senate Committee. At one point, he presents a video of a bunch of comical attempts by Hammer Industries to make their own version of the Iron Man suit. Hammer Industries is a competitor to Stark Industries. All of these attempts at creating a better suit end in brutal fapilure. This is directly lifted from the scene in RoboCop 2 when the OCP President is shown footage of a few attempts at duplicating their initial success with RoboCop. All of the cyborgs wind up killing themselves.
In both cases, we don’t see the tests live. We’re shown them only after they’ve occurred. They’re meant to be funny, but I found them to be macabre. Also, I never understood why OCP kept coming up with different suits than the one RoboCop has. Why not at least retry the original suit before branching out into other versions? I guess they didn’t want to confuse the audience by showing countless RoboCop lookalikes kill themselves.
I know this section is called “Pointless Subplots,” but I honestly wish the films had focused on these subplots instead of on the main plots they actually followed. There are so many missed opportunities in these films. The elements were all there for cinematic greatness in Iron Man 2. At the start, they introduce the idea that the very thing that is keeping Stark alive (the mini arc reactor in his chest) is also slowly poisoning him. Now that’s a great idea! I was expecting Tony Stark’s illness to eventually cripple him, and he would have to rely on War Machine as his bodyguard for a time as James Rhodes literally filled his shoes. That would have been dramatic and suspenseful. Instead, he’s healed by some kind of magic hypospray. What an anticlimax! Then he invents a new element to change his power source from a circle to a triangle. What a waste of time all of this turned out to be.
The other subplot that could have become something great is Ivan Vanko’s relationship with Stark. Their fathers used to be partners, but then Stark’s father turned on Vanko’s father and supposedly stole his design for the arc reactor. That’s really interesting. What if your fortune and family name was all based on a lie? Stark would need to do some deep introspection like he did in the first film, but this time it would be about his father. Unfortunately, such serious emotions have no place in a farcical film like Iron Man 2. The film forgets about that awesome storyline almost as quickly as it brought it up.
I would like to make one thing perfectly clear about RoboCop 2. If it had focused on Murphy’s family, it would have been awesome! Maybe even better than the first film. I sincerely mean that. In RoboCop, when Murphy removes his helmet and tries to remember his wife and son, we get a real sense of just how tragic it is that he is both living and dead. To everyone he loved, he is no more. But he continues to experience vague memories of the life he had before. That’s maddening! If the makers of the sequel had any understanding of what they had placed in their laps, they would have jumped at the chance to include Murphy’s family in the plot as much as possible. Maybe Cain (the main villain) would learn RoboCop’s true identity and hold his family hostage. In the process of saving them, RoboCop would give away his identity to Ellen and James, who would then have to cope with having Murphy return to their lives. Imagine all the dramatic directions this film could have taken from there! If only.
Acting Like a Buffoon
There is a lot of idiocy that’s supposed to pass for comedy in these films. During Stark’s birthday party, he puts on his Iron Man suit and proceeds to make a fool of himself. He even starts putting his guests in danger by recklessly firing his weapons. His friend Rhodes finally decides he’s had enough, so he puts on the War Machine suit and fights Stark for a while until they end in a draw. Then he steals the suit. How does Stark react? He flies into the middle of a giant donut and sits there eating fast food. Is that supposed to be funny? Because I don’t get the joke. Isn’t Stark dying? Shouldn’t he be resting or trying to find a cure or… something at all!? Instead, he’s acting like an imbecile for no reason.
After attempting to break up a drug ring, RoboCop gets destroyed by a group of criminals. When OCP puts him back together, they give him hundreds of new directives in addition to his original three. Unfortunately, all that excess psychological baggage makes him do silly things like attempt to interrogate a dead man, give a stern lecture to some kids who are robbing a store, and nearly kill a man for smoking a cigarette. None of this is particularly humorous. In fact, most of it is in bad taste.
It’s like these two films decided the audience didn’t want to see great action and drama like what was in the first films. No, what we really want to see is pointless comedy that isn’t funny. They should have learned their lesson from Superman III and Spider-Man 3. Comedy should only be used lightly in comic-book movies! And it should make people laugh instead of cringe or scratch their heads in confusion.
Stopping the Villain
The villain is temporarily put into prison after an uninspired action sequence. The first 30 minutes of Iron Man 2 feels like it’s waiting to get started. It’s just a bunch of forgettable scenes and dialogue. Thankfully, Vanko (who apparently calls himself Whiplash when he’s in his costume) finally arrives at a racetrack where Stark, for some reason, decided to join a Formula 1 race. Sadly, Vanko is quickly defeated after Stark dons his Iron Man suit. And I’m left thinking what a poor choice Whiplash is for a villain. Iron Man needs an opponent who can take more than a couple punches and keep posing a threat.
In RoboCop 2, RoboCop electrocutes himself to remove all of his inane directives. I’ll keep that in mind the next time my computer gets a virus. Then he joins forces with Detroit’s police force to take down Cain and his drug dealers. In an odd sequence, Cain takes off in a big rig while RoboCop gives chase on a motorcycle. I’d just like to point out that the Terminator looks ridiculously awesome on a motorcycle while RoboCop just looks ridiculous. Anyway, RoboCop somehow manages to propel himself through the big rig’s windshield, and he nearly kills Cain in the process. As it turns out, Cain is about as weak as Clarence Boddicker, but much less charismatic.
The Villain Works for Another Villain
The villain gets recruited by a businessperson who’s up to no good. In Iron Man 2, that businessperson is Justin Hammer. He wants Vanko to make him an army of high-tech suits that are superior to the Iron Man suit. But Vanko doesn’t do as he’s told and he builds an army of drones. They’re kind of like the ones in Star Wars Episode I, except they can fly and they don’t fall apart with a little shove from Jar Jar Binks.
Cain is taken off life support by an OCP executive so he can be transformed into RoboCop 2, a bigger and stronger version of the original RoboCop. However, it turns out that trusting a psychotic criminal with heavy machinery and advanced weapons is a bad idea. While RoboCain performs the tasks that OCP sends him to do, he turns out to be much more brutal than they expected, murdering a child and a number of government officials.
Having the villain of the film become a lackey for another villain takes away his power in the eyes of the audience. The first Iron Man and RoboCop managed to pull this off nicely in their own way. In Iron Man, we thought that the terrorist who captured Stark at the start was the real villain, but we were surprised to learn that he had been working the whole time for Stark’s right-hand business partner. In RoboCop, we were also surprised to learn that Boddicker had been working for OCP’s second-in-command, Dick Jones. But Boddicker was such a scene stealer that it didn’t matter who he was working for; he was still an amazing villain. The sequels’ villains just feel lazy and dull. Their personalities are never developed enough for us to feel at all interested in them or what they’re going to do.
Through the Floor
This might seem like a minor detail, but at the start of the climactic final battle, robots come up through the floor at a big event. In Iron Man 2, Vanko’s drones rise through a stage to impress the audience at Stark’s technology expo. In RoboCop 2, RoboCain makes his appearance during a news conference the OCP President is holding.
This is just another example of direct copying. Watching Iron Man 2, I knew that it wasn’t just a coincidence that so many aspects of these films were similar. It felt like they were trying to mimic RoboCop 2 in every way possible. But why would they want to do that? I still don’t know.
Bad Robot Takes Over
Surprise! The villain can’t be trusted. Who would’ve known? Vanko reprograms all of his drones to start attacking people and causing chaos. Iron Man shows up and saves the day once again through another boring action sequence. Vanko dresses up in his Whiplash suit again and he’s just as ineffective against Iron Man. He dies, and Iron Man wins. What a shock.
RoboCain realizes that his weapons are disarmed, so he grabs the controller from an OCP executive and enables all of his deadly weapons. You know, OCP might want to work on its security protocols – like adding simple password protection. This leads to a surprisingly decent action sequence in which RoboCop fights RoboCain in an elevator shaft, on top of a building, underground, and on a city street. He distracts RoboCain long enough to pull Cain’s brain out of the machine and pounds it until Cain finally dies for good. Yuck.
I actually sort of enjoy the climax of RoboCop 2. It’s over the top, and it certainly doesn’t match the intensity of the ED-209 fight scene in the first RoboCop, but it’s exciting to see RoboCop getting up close and personal with a stronger piece of hardware that has his same basic advantages, like his creative mind. But in Iron Man 2, the climax was too little, too late.
The Last Line Sums It All Up
Both films have a fitting last line. In Iron Man 2, a Senator is giving Stark a medal for bravery, I guess, and he accidentally pricks him while pinning it on his shirt. The Senator retorts, “Sorry, it’s funny how annoying a little prick can be.” Um… yes, I have to agree. Stark became an incredibly annoying character in this film. The filmmakers took every bad quality he had in the first film and amplified it while removing most of his endearing qualities. By the way, there might be some dialogue that comes after that line, but I don’t care. That’s the last line that leaves any impression on me, and that’s all that matters.
RoboCop 2 ends with RoboCop’s partner Anne Lewis lamenting that OCP is getting away scot-free from the disaster they created. But RoboCop simply replies, “Patience, Lewis. We’re only human.” Nice job covering yourself there, movie. RoboCop 2 is mediocre, at best. I suppose both of these movies are mediocre. And that’s a real shame because the first films deserved much more than these for their follow-ups.
For the Love of Peter Weller
After watching both of these films, I’m left with a simple question: why? Why did anyone involved in the making of Iron Man 2 think it was a good idea to remake RoboCop 2? The similarities between the first Iron Man and RoboCop are obvious to a trained eye, but I can see how they could have been overlooked by the makers of Iron Man. However, there is simply no excuse for the sequel. They must have known what they were doing. The films are so similar, and they follow an almost identical path to the same lame conclusion. I don’t believe in coincidences, especially after two RoboCopies.
I sincerely hope that they learn their lesson for Iron Man 3, and they don’t remake RoboCop 3. But I am a little concerned. RoboCop 3 had robot ninjas from Japan facing off with RoboCop. And I just learned that Iron Man 3 is filming in China. That’s too close for comfort. There better not be any martial arts in that movie or I might just have to return to the Iron Man series a third time. And I really don’t want to have to do that.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All images from Iron Man 2 and RoboCop 2 are the copyright of Paramount Pictures and MGM, respectively.