3. Kid Sidekicks, Ninjas, and Jetpacks
By all rights, 1990's RoboCop 2 should have been the final nail in the film franchise, but somehow Orion was able to wrest one last indignity out of its cyborg lead in a movie so unwanted, that co-star Nancy Allen demanded that her character be killed off so she wouldn't have to do any more of them.
The third entry in the series was a series of bizarro compromises, attempts to make the series more appealing and toyetic in an effort that ended up rotting for years on the shelf before getting dumped on home video.
Directed by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad), with a story-by credit for Frank Miller, it involved a martial law crackdown on Detroit led by a now Japanese-led OCP and the ragtag group of rebels that drafts Officer Murphy to help them strike back.
In the attempts at humanizing a Lewis-less RoboCop, the film saddled him with kid hacker/sidekick Nikko (Remy Ryan) who helps him take down the nefarious mega-corporation and its ninja droid assassins with the finest technology no budget at all can allow.
Somehow, between the friendly, joking cast (which included Stephen Root and Rip Torn), Orion pooped out what felt like a "cuddly" RoboCop film.
If RoboCop 3 was "the one where they put a buncha accessories on him," then there was precedent thanks to a short-lived cartoon.
2. Old Detroit: The Animated Series
First off, kudos to this 12-episode series for not shying away from the violent fate of Officer Alex J. Murphy. But yeah, there was totally an animated series about a "mortally wounded" cop rebuilt by his corporate overlords to take down the criminal element in future Detroit.
The 1988-1989 series came out of Marvel Productions. At the time, the animation studio was cranking out feature-length movies based on G.I. Joe and Transformers, and would later become New World Animation.
And you know what? Dubious animation quality aside, a RoboCop cartoon wasn't exactly the weirdest idea in a decade that gave us short-lived animated series based on PTSD-suffering Vietnam vets (Rambo: The Force of Freedom) or mutated Troma heroes just trying to sex up their blind lady friends (Toxic Avenger).
No, if we're really going to scrape the bottom of the barrel for RoboCop's strange flirtation with going legit, look no further than December, 1987.
1. RoboCop's Other Dick
What better way to herald the home video release of your tale of corruption and overreach by the military industrial complex than by having Richard M. Nixon attend the video release?
The story behind this oft-shared image has been murky for a while, but a 2013 Mental Floss piece was finally able to connect some of the dots for this weird meeting, crediting the image to rock photographer Chuck Pulin:
Richard M. Nixon is escorted by RoboCop at a national board meeting of the Boys Club of America. The RoboCop character was on hand to call attention to Orion Home Video's RoboCop RubOut promotion. Sweepstakes tickets, packaged with each "RoboCop" cassette, offer a number of instant prizes for retailers as well as $25,000 in donations to the Boys Club. The sweepstakes is part of a $3 million promotional effort launched by Orion in conjunction with the action-adventure film's video release. The cassette will be available in video stores beginning Jan. 28 for a suggested list price of $89.98.
Keep in mind, at this point, Nixon was experiencing something of a resurgence among the then-current generation of Republicans, his Watergate legacy softened by time out of office and the spotlight. Somewhere up the Orion PR food chain, someone either sincerely thought pairing an off-model, non-Peter Weller RoboCop with Nixon would be synergistic gold, or someone was having a bit of slyly ironic fun matching the face of political corruption alongside an undead super cop who ends up killing sinister old men in suits.
We'd like to think that at some point during the meeting, someone said "Dick...you're fired!" but it's really unlikely we could get that kind of perfect slice of history.
Previously by Charles Webb