Robocop (Blu-ray)

January 10, 2014 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Oh man…I’m getting old. I can remember seeing RoboCop in the theaters in 1987 and being aghast at the graphic violence in the film. Granted I’ve become so desensitized to it since, it’s a mere afterthought, but at the time I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t view the film as a “good” or even “great” movie, rather I was entertained and some of the images stayed with me for years. What images?  I’m speaking of Peter Weller’s arm getting blown off, ED-209 gunning down an executive during a board meeting or seeing a man who’d fallen into toxic waste get run over by a car. Those were images I’d never really seen in a movie before and they did stay with me.  Of course Director Paul Verehoeven is known for such things and after the success of RoboCop, he went onto direct the Arnold Schwarzeneggar version of Total Recall, Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct and the ever-popular Starship Troopers in 1997. Each film memorable in its own way, of course. But it was really RoboCop that put him on the map. Yes, all cliches aside – this is the one that started it all.

Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is a good cop. He’s transferred to a branch that’ll see him more action, though he’ll certainly earn more of his money. He and partner, Lewis (Nancy Allen) are on a routine patrol when they pursue a literal truckload of crooks. This leads them to an abandoned warehouse where Murphy is summarily gunned down and left for dead.  However Omni Corp, who just so happens to own the police in Detroit, comes to the rescue and transforms Murphy into RoboCop.  He’s state of the art, literally bulletproof and is set to end the reign of terror on the streets of Old Detroit. Murphy/RoboCop, more machine than human, is still plagued by memories of his family and those that killed him.  He starts to put two and two together and commences on a mission to exact revenge on those that ended his life.  Will RoboCop be able to bring his murderers to justice?

Truthfully there’s so much more to RoboCop than I surmised above. Having not seen the movie in more than a decade, I’d forgotten how much of a fan of it I was and how much enjoyment I got out of it.  Yes, at 27 years old it is a bit dated and make no mistake about it, the only reason we have this newly-remastered Blu-ray is that they’ve decided to remake the movie.  Peter Weller’s performance as Murphy/RoboCop is perhaps his best known work and Weller is still working today with roles in 24 and Star Trek: Into Darkness. The thing that might be most memorable about the film is Verhoeven’s direction and his essential middle finger to the establishment.  Verhoeven’s movies have had political undertones and RoboCop is certainly no exception. I highly doubt that anyone reading this hasn’t seen or at least heard of this movie, but if that’s the case then run – don’t walk – and pick up this newly-remastered edition. It’s worth every penny.

Video: How’s it look?

RoboCop was, is and always will be a low budget film. Yes, the special effects were good at the time, but it was limited to budget and the special effects of the late 80’s. Let’s face it – we’ve made a lot of headway with special effects in the last quarter century.  Having said that, this is the second installment of RoboCop on Blu-ray with the first edition coming out in 2007 to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. As previously mentioned, the only reason this exists is that the remake is soon to hit theaters.  Hey, I’m fine with it as we now have a very decent-looking edition of one of my favorite films.  The 1.85:1 AVC HD image has been digitally remastered with a new 4K scan. The term “4K” isn’t exactly a way of saying that it’ll look amazing, rather that it’s been meticulously restored from the original film elements.  Right off the bat, the opening news sequence had me cringing. “Will it all look like this?” I thought. Thankfully when the movie really began, I was relieved.  There will always be a layer of dirt and grain to the film and since they’ve re-scanned it, there’s actually more texture to the movie than ever before. That’s not a bad thing. If anything it breathes a bit more life into the film. Flesh tones look a bit improved and the entire palette used is more of a cold, corporate grey with darker hues prevailing. This isn’t  your shining example of anything and everything that Blu-ray can produce, but it’s far and away the best that the movie has ever looked and that’s all we can ask for.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Likewise the audio has been remastered and though the original Blu-ray release did feature a 5.1 lossless mix, this one sounds a bit more naturalistic.  I’d never really considered the film to be that heavy on the audio, though there are certainly plenty of opportunities for the movie to showcase its sound.  That said, the DTS HD Master Audio track found here finds the vocals to be crisp and sharp. I never caught any sort of distortion in any of the dialogue. Surrounds are active during some key moments, such as when ED-209 machine guns the executive or when some missiles are launched at cars.  Granted, today’s films would have the room shake, but there’s a subtle understated tone to the mix here and one that I appreciate.  The meat of the mix is focused squarely on the front stage, which handles it well.  Not to be left out, the LFE do make their presence known, if only a few times.  All in all, it’s a good step up from the previous Blu-ray and a perfect compliment to the improved video.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The previous Blu-ray only contained a trailer, but this new edition takes the features found on the previous standard DVD and even throws a few new ones in. Suffice it to say that if you needed any more reason and/or encouragement to pick this version up – here it is.

  • Audio Commentary – Director Paul Verhoeven, Writer Ed Neumeier and Producer Jon Davison join forces to give us a pretty lively commentary track. They’re not watching the Director’s Cut as we see it, but there’s enough information exchanged where it’s certainly worth a listen.
  • Q & A with the Filmmakers – The lone “new” supplement on the disc was taped in May 2012 and contains many questions by the audience. The original cast is back as is Verhoeven and some of the crew that helmed the original. It’s interesting to see what they had to say and it’s a must watch for any fan of the film. This alone might make a worthwhile supplement.
  • Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop – A now 13 year old documentary, this still packs a punch. This has been taken from the standard DVD but if you’ve not seen it, it’s worth a look. We get a lot of information about the troubled shoot and production design of the film.
  • Shooting RoboCop – A “vintage” featurette shot around 1987, we get some behind the scenes footage and the segment is narrated by Producer Jon Davison.
  • Making RoboCop – Essentially the same as the one above, this one has a bit more attention to the cast with Weller and Allen as well as some input by Verhoeven.
  • The Boardroom: Storyboard with Commentary with Animator Phil Tippett – Ever been curious as to the infamous boardroom scene came to be?  Look no further.
  • Deleted Scenes – Four are included: “Topless Pizza”, “OCP Press Conference”, “Nun in the Street” and “Final Media Break.”
  • Villains of Old Detroit – A look at some of the not so good guys of the movie, this focuses on Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer as they do their best impressions of Verhoeven and reminisce about the film.
  • Special Effects: Then and Now – Bear in mind the “now” is still a dozen years old, but Paul Sammon, William Sandell, matte painter Rocco Gioffre do their best to tell us now special effects have changed in the world of movies.
  • RoboCop: Creating a Legend – A twenty minute documentary that focuses on the character of RoboCop with some input by the cast and crew.  Clearly there was more to this than meets the eye.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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