Robocop [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - MGM Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (29th October 2007).
The Film

There was a time that the "RoboCop" production was one big joke among Hollywood insiders, the film was considered B-grade and pretty much went under the radar during production. Even the film's director Paul Verhoeven was originally going to pass on the project, but with the insistence of his wife he gave the script another look and eventually saw the film for what it was.
Back in the 1980's Orion Pictures Corporation was establishing what would become a considerable studio force and "RoboCop" was one of its many projects in development (Others would include "Dances with Wolves" (1990) and "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)) in a span of 6 years Orion would snap up three 'Best Picture' awards. But "RoboCop" wasn't exactly prestige Oscar bait, the unconventional sci-fi would end up costing the studio a considerable amount of money, an estimated $13 million, additional risks included a special effects heavy slate, a cast of largely unknowns including the lead and was helmed by a European director with no proven track record in the U.S. the odds where against them but the production persevered and the result is one of the most loved and highly coveted sci-fi action films of all time. "RoboCop" has earned a spot among a legion of fans as a bona fide cult classic.
"RoboCop" takes place in the near future in Detroit, where lawlessness is spreading and in an effort to rid the streets of crime the local authority has sold off the Police Force to Omni Consumer Products or OCP. In an audacious move, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) pitches the "RoboCop" program to create a cybernetic robot to effectively and efficiently Police the streets, his projects gets the green light and all they need is a volunteer, preferably one that's already dead. Meanwhile on the job Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is gunned down in a violent fashion by known Cop killer and career criminal Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his hoods. Unable to be saved, Murphy becomes the unwitting volunteer Morton needs and is soon brought back to life - part man part machine "RoboCop" takes the streets to eliminate crime from Old Detroit and more importantly brings Boddicker and his gang to justice but that proves a challenge when OCP higher up Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is involved in some dirty dealings with Boddicker, who both want "RoboCop" dead.
Although the film is set in the future it does feature a lot of familiar technology and also fashions, which places it in that sometimes kitschy 1980's version of the future and by today's standards seems dated and rather cheesy. But considering the film's tone it still works and some of the effects feel realistic considering they were done practically or with tricks such as stop motion by the master Phil Tippett (as is the case with the ED-209).
The film is essentially a satire with themes concerning commercial culture. It's very much a product of the 80's when big business was getting bigger, the faceless conglomerate and the excess of the 80's gave rise to the current consumer culture and "RoboCop" addresses this in an often humorous manner. The film has a sarcastic wit about it and unlike a lot of other sci-fi films it has a combination of thriller elements, there's comedy (although dark) and a family plot line where the hero tries to hold onto the past and his beloved memories as well as themes of resurrection. The film is so many things but not once do does it feel like it doesn't know what it wants to be. This is the balance that Verhoeven has managed to achieve which continually puts a smile on the faces of sci-fi fans and also features all the trademark Verhoeven elements we've come to love, including ultra violence so graphic the original cut was given an "X" rating and had to be cut down for an "R" and the over the top style of the film which includes the now iconic robot armor donned by out hero as well as his massive gun. The suit was a particularly challenging aspect of the production from the design to the practical use, Weller would go on to loose 3 pounds a day wearing the suit and would take around 11 hours to fit into it. And despite all that agony Weller still managed an excellent performance as the cybernetic cop working with a mine coach to get the movements down.
Just about everything regarding this film may appear outdated or even silly, but the fact is "RoboCop" is still a better sci-fi film than many others out there, it's gritty intellect and dark humor set it apart, matched with memorable set pieces, characters and dialogue it'll have you saying "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

Video

Presented in the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio this transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been created using MPEG-2 compression. The Blu-ray history of "RoboCop" is quite sketchy, originally released by Sony as part of its first slate of titles the disc was quickly recalled amid reports the transfer was sub-par for a high-definition release, marred by problems the disc never saw retail. And fans would have to wait for the high-definition release of this classic sci-fi film, and finally this Fox release has made its debut and the results are ok. Considering this film is 20 years old don't expect reference quality, but in saying that this transfer presents the film in a manner much better than any of the previous DVD release, which goes without saying. The image is occasionally sharp as some softness is present in a few close ups and also in effects heavy sequences, there's some dirt and specks but overall the image is clean and bright with solid colors including natural skin tones. Blacks are little flat and there's grain present. It's not the best and could be better but for the time being it's a noticeable improvement.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD 5.1 Lossless Master Audio presented at 48kHz/16-bit as well as a English track in Dolby Digital 4.0 and standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD soundtrack. This new soundtrack certainly does the trick although it could have been a bit more aggressive. Dialogue is solid and presented without distortion, while the action scenes are active and make good use of the surround channels. The score felt a little on the flat side and didn't add the necessary depth. Range was adequate and overall this is a very good track considering the film's age.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, Cantonese, and Korean.

Extras

Fox/MGM has released this film with only it's original theatrical trailer that runs for 1minute 23 seconds as well as a series of bonus trailers for:

- "To Live and Die in L.A." which runs for 2 minutes 6 seconds.
- "The Usual Suspects" which runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
- "Bulletproof Monk" which runs for 1 minute 47 seconds.

Overall

"RoboCop" has been released many times on DVD and this is its second outing on Blu-ray (event though the original Sony release was recalled) and I'm disappointed that this film was issued without any of the extras seen on the previous DVD's including the recently released '20th Anniversary' 2-disc edition.

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: D- Overall: C+

 


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