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RoboCop 3
  • Composed by Basil Poledouris
  • Varèse Sarabande CD Club / 2016 / 70m

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop was essentially a comic book movie for adults, with its withering social commentary set against the backdrop of a futuristic corporate-controlled police force in Detroit.  It was surprisingly successful and so Orion Pictures, going through difficult financial times, leapt at the chance of exploiting the character further even though he had received a complete arc in the first movie.  Despite the first sequel (which is in some ways even grittier) not being successful, a third film was put into production, with a decision mystifyingly taken to make it kid-friendly.

Director Fred Dekker (of The Monster Squad) came on board and immediately recognised the need to bring back Basil Poledouris, whose music was integral to the first film but who didn’t score the first sequel.  He approached the score as an opportunity to revisit various themes from his first one, but it rarely feels like a retread, and there’s a wealth of new material on offer too.  The lighter tone of the film results in a different kind of score even though it has the familiar elements in it.

Basil Poledouris

Basil Poledouris

The most significant new theme is an heroic one for the resistance of the film, introduced immediately after the main title in “The Resistance” – it’s full-bodied and very satisfying, though it never really gets an extended, fully-developed treatment in the body of the score which is a bit of a disappointment, usually saved for brief bursts, but I do love the warm string-led version in “The Refuge”.  Of the returning themes, the “Home” theme from the first score is heard first, as early as the prologue, used this time as a warm motif representing the family life of the young girl at the heart of the film, Nikko.

I love the driving energy of “Van Chase I” with its dynamic central motif which passes between trumpet and horn, all the while with a battery of percussive accompaniment.  There’s some much darker action music too – “RoboCop in Pursuit / RoboCop Saves Lewis” offers some very deep rumblings and arresting jabs from the brass before finally bringing in the famous RoboCop theme for the first time, around 15 minutes in.  The three short cues combined to form “Flame Job / Nikko Remembers / Kanemitsu Building” all offer something different – first there’s an interesting action device as Poledouris takes the rhythm of his main theme but leaves the melody away, then a gorgeous reprise of the “Home” theme before the first signs of Japanese music for the film’s new villains.

“Death of Lewis” is an aggressive track, lots of martial percussion and moody synths leading up to a soaring reprise of the villain theme from the first score before everything is dialled-down again, some of the keyboards now having a somewhat ethereal air.  There’s a calm, string-led version of the main theme in “The Map / Unfinished Business” which is surprisingly lovely, one of my favourite moments of the score, and then it returns in its more familiar guise in a full-on reading in the first part of “Robo Torches Rehabs / It’s Not a Robo Knock / Robo Visits McDaggit”.

As well as the “Home” theme, Poledouris also gives Nikko a fresh theme of her own, with simplistic Japanese stylings, not fully heard until very late in the score in “Nikko to OCP” – it’s lovely.  After that, the highlights are two big action cues, “Cops Help Rebels / Robo vs Otomo” and “Sayonara McDaggit”.  In the former, a rousing version of the Resistance theme leads into a tender oboe version of RoboCop’s before abrasive synths signal the start of the fight, a sweat-soaked heroic version of the RoboCop theme used a bit like Rambo’s was at times in First Blood before the most fully-realised version of this score’s villain theme takes over and plays against the hero’s.  The latter is the best cue in the body of the score, a great action piece with a barnstorming rendition of the RoboCop theme.  The album does have one last treat though, which is the eight-minute end title piece which looks back at most of the major material from the score and does it in some style.

RoboCop 3 is an entertaining score and (to state the obvious) there’s much more of it to explore on this deluxe edition than the very short original release from the time of the film.  The new material is high-quality and it’s great to hear the old themes again.  It does have a core issue though that means it’s not as satisfying as it might have been, which is that structurally the demands of the film forced Poledouris into writing very short cues.  They’re generally combined into longer ones on the album, and that’s done well, but it can’t prevent the very bitty feel (there are nearly 50 individual cues on the album, edited down to 26) – you’re just aching for the composer to be able to really unleash extended treatments of these themes which are uniformly fantastic but only in certain cues is he able to (and, except the end credits, those cues are the ones that were put on the original album).  Still, of course the release will be welcomed by the composer’s fans and it’s certainly an enjoyable album.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. connor (Reply) on Thursday 20 October, 2016 at 02:20

    Curious what you think of Rosenman’s score to the second. I’m hoping that gets the deluxe treatment soon!

    (Also wondering if you’ll get around to the Starship Troopers expansion)

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Thursday 20 October, 2016 at 07:51

    I just did Starship Troopers before this!

    I enjoyed Rosenman’s score a lot more than others seem to, but it’s been a while since I heard it.

  3. na na NA NA na na BATMAN (Reply) on Friday 28 October, 2016 at 10:39

    Can somebody tell me what “barnstorming” sounds like?

  4. Aidabaida (Reply) on Friday 28 October, 2016 at 14:23

    It means the action music is relentlessly exciting, but in a hog-wild type of way, like you want to grab your swords and just cut stuff to pieces.