The film received mixed reviews from critics and fans. In 2013, the film received attention from news media due to its plot predicting Detroit filing for bankruptcy in the future.
It was the final film directed by Irvin Kershner.
After the success of the RoboCop program, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has a new scheme to have Detroit completely under their control. They plan to have the city default on its debt, then foreclose on the entire city, taking over its government. They will then replace the old neighborhoods with a new city.
To rally public opinion behind urban redevelopment and Delta City construction, OCP sparks an increase in street crime. As Detroit Police Department is owned by OCP, they terminate police pension plans and cut salaries, triggering a police strike. RoboCop, due to his directives, is unable to strike and remains on duty with his partner, Anne Lewis. The two raid a manufacturing plant of Nuke, a new designer drug that has been plaguing the streets of Detroit. RoboCop kills all the criminals, except for a young criminal named Hob, who shoots him and escapes.
Meanwhile, OCP struggles to develop "RoboCop 2", which is expected to be mass-produced and completely replace police officers. To their frustration, all the newly resurrected officers immediately commit suicide. Dr. Juliette Faxx, an unscrupulous psychologist, concludes that Alex Murphy's strong sense of duty and his moral objection to suicide due to his Irish Catholic religion were the reasons behind his ability to adapt to his resurrection as RoboCop. Faxx convinces the Old Man to let her control the project, this time using a criminal with a desire for power and immortality. Despite executive Don Johnson's objection, Faxx is allowed to proceed.
Nuke's distributor, the power-hungry Cain, feels threatened by the Delta City plan. He fears that he will lose his market if the city is redeveloped into a capitalistic utopia. He is assisted by his girlfriend Angie, Hob, Catzo, and Duffy, a corrupt police officer and Nuke addict. RoboCop tracks down Duffy and beats Cain's location out of him. He confronts Cain's gang at an abandoned construction site, but is overwhelmed. The criminals cut apart his body and dump the pieces in front of his precinct. Cain has Duffy vivisected for revealing their location, and forces Hob to watch.
RoboCop is repaired, but Faxx reprograms him with over 300 new directives, severely impeding his ability to perform his duties. One of his original technicians suggests that a massive electrical charge might reboot his system. RoboCop shocks himself with a high voltage transformer. The charge erases all of his directives, including the original ones, allowing his human brain (Murphy) to be in complete control. Murphy motivates the officers to aid him in raiding Cain's hideout. As Cain tries to escape, RoboCop intercepts and heavily wounds him. Hob escapes and takes control of Cain's drug empire. Believing she can control him with Nuke, Faxx selects Cain for the RoboCop 2 project, and puts his brain in a towering and heavily armed body.
Hob arranges a meeting with the Detroit mayor, saying that the mayor needs to institute a "hands off" policy towards Nuke. In exchange, Hob presents the mayor with a truckload of cash and gold in order to retire the city's debt to OCP, which would nullify the Delta City project. Threatened by this move, OCP sends RoboCop 2/Cain to the meeting to kill Hob. Cain slaughters everyone in sight, except for the mayor who manages to escape. He kills Angie by breaking her neck and fatally wounds Hob. As RoboCop arrives, Hob identifies the attacker and dies.
During the unveiling ceremony for Delta City and RoboCop 2, the Old Man presents a canister of Nuke as a symbol of the current crime wave. Seeing Nuke, Cain goes berserk and attacks the crowd. RoboCop arrives and fights Cain. The two battle throughout the building, and the fight eventually extends to the street. The police force arrives and engages Cain, who opens fire at officers and civilians alike. RoboCop recovers the Nuke canister and has Lewis give it to Cain, who stops fighting to administer the drug to himself. As Cain feels the drug's effect, RoboCop leaps onto his back, shoots through his armor and rips out his brain. He crushes the brain, ending Cain's rampage.
The Old Man decides to scapegoat Faxx to escape blame, and leaves. As Lewis complains that OCP is escaping accountability again, RoboCop insists they must be patient because "We're only human."
RoboCop 2 was chiefly filmed in Houston in 1989. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Kershner mentioned that Houston was an ideal location due to the relative calmness of Downtown Houston at night. He also claimed that they were shooting in winter, and snow and rain would be an inappropriate climate for film production.
Jefferson Davis Hospital was used as the location for the Nuke manufacturing plant. The finale of the film was shot in the Houston Theater District near Wortham Theater Center and Alley Theatre. Cullen Center was depicted as the headquarters of Omni Consumer Products, while Houston City Hall was shown in a scene in which Mayor Kuzak speaks to the press. The George R. Brown Convention Center and the Bank of America Center were also included in the film. Additional footage was filmed at the decommissioned Hiram Clarke Power Plant.
To promote the film, RoboCop made a guest appearance at WCW's pay-per-view event Capital Combat, where he rescued Sting from The Four Horsemen.
The film score was composed and conducted by Leonard Rosenman, who did not use any of Basil Poledouris's themes from the first film; the soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande. It was not well received by fans or film music reviewers, many of whom complained about Rosenman's use of a choir chanting "Robocop."
The glam metal group Babylon A.D. released a song called "The Kid Goes Wild", written by members Derek Davis, Vic Pepe, and Jack Ponti. The song is played in the background in the middle part of the film, and it was also used to promote the film. The group created a music video featuring RoboCop targeting the band and having a shootout with some bad guys (footage of the film was also used).Track listing
- "Overture: Robocop" – 6:02
- "City Mayhem" – 3:37
- "Happier Days" – 1:28
- "Robo Cruiser" – 4:40
- "Robo Memories" – 2:07
- "Robo and Nuke" – 2:22
- "Robo Fanfare" – 0:32
- "Robo and Cain Chase" – 2:41
- "Creating the Monster" – 2:47
- "Robo I vs. Robo II" – 3:41
RoboCop 2 debuted as the second-highest-grossing film at the box office in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $45.7 million at the US box office and additional $22,505,000 from video rentals.
It received mixed reviews from critics. While the special effects and action sequences are widely praised, a common complaint was that the film did not focus enough on RoboCop and his partner Lewis and that the film's human story of the man trapped inside the machine was ultimately lost within a sea of violence.
In his Chicago Sun Times review, Roger Ebert wrote, "Cain's sidekicks include a violent, foul-mouthed young boy named Hob, who looks to be about 12 years old but kills people without remorse, swears like Eddie Murphy, and eventually takes over the drug business... The movie's screenplay is a confusion of half-baked and unfinished ideas... the use of that killer child is beneath contempt."
Additionally, the film "reset" RoboCop's character by turning him back into the monotone-voiced peacekeeper seen early in the first film, despite his reclaiming his human identity and personality by the end of that film. Many were also critical of the child villain Hob; David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews stated, "That the film asks us to swallow a moment late in the story that features Robo taking pity on an injured Hob is heavy-handed and ridiculous (we should probably be thankful the screenwriters didn't have RoboCop say something like, 'Look at what these vile drugs have done to this innocent boy')."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "Unlike RoboCop, a clever and original science-fiction film with a genuinely tragic vision of its central character, Robocop 2 doesn't bother to do anything new. It freely borrows the situation, characters and moral questions posed by the first film." She further adds, "The difference between Robocop and its sequel, [...] is the difference between an idea and an afterthought." She also expressed her opinion about the Hob character, "The aimlessness of Robocop 2 runs so deep that after exploiting the inherent shock value of such an innocent-looking killer, the film tries to capitalize on his youth by also giving him a tearful deathbed scene." The Los Angeles Times published a review panning the film as well.
Jay Scott, of the Toronto Globe and Mail, was one of the few prominent critics who admired the film calling it a "sleek and clever sequel. For fans of violent but clever action films, RoboCop 2 may be the sultry season's best bet: you get the gore of Total Recall and the satiric smarts of Gremlins 2: The New Batch in one high-tech package held together by modest B-movie strings. RoboCop 2 alludes to classics of horror and science-fiction (Frankenstein, Metropolis, Westworld), for sure, but it also evokes less rarefied examples of the same genres–Forbidden Planet, Godzilla, and that Z-movie about Hitler's brain in a bottle. It's ironic that the directorial coach of the first RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven, went on to Total Recall; couldn't he see that the script for Robo 2 was sleeker and swifter than Arnie's cumbersome vehicle? His absence in the driver's seat is happily unnoticed because Irvin Kershner, the engineer of sequels that often zip qualitatively past the originals (The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of a Man Called Horse, and the best Sean Connery–James Bond of all, Never Say Never Again), has tuned-up the premise until it purrs."
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected 34 reviews to give the film a score of 32%, with average rating of 4.5 out of 10.
The plot element of Detroit filing for bankruptcy received attention from the news media after this actually happened in 2013.
The film was first released to VHS on December 13, 1990, and was later released to DVD in June 2004. The film first received a Blu-ray release on September 13, 2011.
A mass market paperback novelization by Ed Naha, titled RoboCop 2: A Novel, was published by Jove Books. Marvel Comics produced a three-issue adaptation of the film by Alan Grant. Like the novelization, the comic book series includes scenes omitted from the finished movie.
Frank Miller's original screenplay for RoboCop 2 took on an almost legendary status, and was later turned into a nine-part comic book series titled Frank Miller's RoboCop. Critical reaction to the comic adaptation of the Miller script was mixed. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the comic a "D" score, criticizing the "tired story" and lack of "interesting action." A recap written for the pop culture humor website I-Mockery said, "Having spent quite a lot of time with these comics over the past several days researching and writing this article, I can honestly say that it makes me want to watch the movie version of RoboCop 2 again just so I can get the bad taste out of my mouth. Or prove to myself that the movie couldn't be worse than this."