on January 21, 2014
The 1987 classic "Robocop" is one of my top ten favorite films of all time as well as my favorite Paul Verhoeven film to date as well. I can't say much more about this excellent film that hasn't already been said but if you are one of the very few that hasn't checked out this amazing film yet that has aged like a fine wine, then the new remastered blu-ray is the perfect way to do just that.
MGM originally released Robocop as a bare bones blu-ray all the way back in 2007 in the unrated director's cut form. There had been a previous blu-ray prepared by Sony I believe that actually got released to some DVD/blu-ray review sites but the picture quality was horrible and that led to MGM releasing their own blu-ray with better picture quality. While that 2007 blu-ray did look better than the last DVD, it was lacking in a lot of areas not the least being that it had none of the extras from any of the prior DVD special editions. They eventually released Robocop 2 & 3 in a trilogy box set along with the original film but that set also featured that original MGM blu-ray while Robocop 2 & 3 looked considerably better as they were much newer HD masters done at that point and time. A year or two ago, it was announced that a new fully restored & remastered at 4K resolution print had been prepared under direct supervision of director Paul Verhoeven and the original cinematographer. This new print of the unrated director's cut made the rounds to various major cities in which cast & crew Q&A's occured after the film was shown. It is this same restored print that made its way to this new blu-ray.
How does it compare to the older blu-ray? In a nutshell, it blows it away without even trying. I saw Robocop in theaters back in 1987 and even though my memory might not be the best it used to be, I don't remember this movie looking this amazing during its original theatrical run. It's very obvious that a lot of care and attention went into this new HD remaster and restoration of this classic film. The film retains a very nice filmic grain structure and I saw no instances of any digital noise reduction (also referred to as grain scrubbing) done to the film. The flesh tones in particular are much warmer and the colors (in particular the copius amounts of blood) have greatly improved as well. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This might upset purists a bit as director Paul Verhoeven has stated that his preferred aspect ratio for the film is 1.66:1. The old non-anamorphic Criterion DVD is the only release so far to present the film in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. In Europe back at that time, 1.66:1 was considered the normal matted theatrical exhibition aspect ratio while in the U.S., 1.85:1 was the norm. Even though the 1.85:1 matting is just a wee bit tighter, at no point did I notice any information on the top or bottom seeming cramped or cut off. Essentially, the film looks absolutely breathtaking on this new blu-ray and I doubt that we'll ever see it look any better than it does here. One thing though that I do need to mention is that some of the additional unrated violence footage does look a bit softer and more washed out compared to the rest of the film but this has always plagued the unrated version even going back as far as the non-anamorphic Criterion DVD. I'm not sure if the original negative elements were lost for these additional shots that the MPAA forced them to trim out to avoid an X rating at the time but while the change in quality is noticeable, it isn't drastic enough to pull you out of the film and only amounts to less than a minute of footage.
I compared it to the older blu-ray (as well as the even older 2 disc special edition DVD) and in my eyes, it was like night and day. The audio is presented in multi-channel lossless HD audio too and will really shake your housing foundation if you have a great sound setup.
MGM this time saw fit to port almost every single extra from the previous DVD sets with the only exception being a photo gallery that I could notice. That means you get the commentary from the 2 disc MGM DVD special edition, all of the excellent making of documentaries and some deleted scenes. There is a great new extra that was added to this release in the form of a cast & crew Q&A from 2012 that runs a little over 42 minutes. There's a ton of great information contained in this new extra and it's great that MGM saw fit to add something of great value to this release in addition to porting over the majority of the prior extras from the DVD sets.
At the time I am writing this review, Amazon and retailers like Best Buy are selling this new blu-ray for only 7.99. That is a steal as I would have happily paid 15 bucks for it. This is easily one of the best HD restorations of a classic film done to date and is the best that Robocop has ever looked or sounded. I can't recommend it enough. I'd buy that for a dollar!
Anytime a remaster is done for an older film you run the risk of disaster. It's about choices you make in the process from sources, decisions to restore the film, transferring, compressing the files for DVD or Blu-ray and others.
Although the item pictured (at the time of this review) doesn't list this as the unrated director's cut on the cover, I can confirm that this IS that edition. This was released early via Best Buy (1/7/14). The final cover states just below the title that this is the unrated director's cut. The early releases come with movie money for the remake of "Robocop" on the back of a sticker on the cover. You have to go online to get the ticket for this.
The plot, for those who haven't seen the film. is as follows:
Murphy (Peter Weller)a police officer terminally injured in an attack by a gang of criminals (Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise among them), is given a second chance at life as a cyborg. With his memories wiped, Murphy seems like the perfect cop now--a combination of machine and human compassion-- but his memories of his wife and son (as well as his brutal killing) begin to break through causing emotional confusion. Partnered with his former partner as a human (Karen Allen), Murphy uncovers a plot to drag the city of Detroit further under the influence of a criminal by the very company that made him forcing him to fight his own "programming" NOT to bring the people to justice that need to be taken down.
END OF SPOILERS:
Weller gives a marvelous performance in a difficult role where he can't use the bulk of his face to express emotion. His performance is anything but robotic. Allen gives good support as his former partner who suspects that Robocop IS Murphy (the company refuses to disclose his former identity at first)while Miguel Ferrer is marvelously oily as an executive at the company (as is Ronny Cox who seems to have missed his calling at playing bad guys--he's great here and in "Total Recall" as well). The real stand out, though, is Kurtwood Smith best known for "That 70's Show" as Clarence J. Boddicker a sociopath with a dark sense of humor.
Be warned that the "Director's Unrated" cut IS much more violent and explicit than the original "R" rated version. The director had to tone it down for the MPAA and this is the version that he originally submitted to them (they came back with an "NC-17" or "X" rating at the time if I recall correctly). Strangely enough, Verhoeven, his producer and co-writer seem to think they are watching the "R" rated version of the film in the commentary track for the film. I'm not sure if that's because the commentary was originally recorded for that version, they were shown a different version or were just mistaken.
Luckily, this MGM/Fox catalog reiissue turned out right. "Robocop" looks marvelous. You need to keep in mind that "Robocop" has ALWAYS looked grainy--that was the intentional look of the film to begin. The transfer remains as true as possible to the original look of the film. While there are occasional compression artifacts that briefly crop up, but, on the whole, the film receives a marvelous looking transfer. Keep in mind the film is over 25 years old and the transfer reveals the limitations of the original source. Without going overboard with digital noise reduction this s the best the film has ever looked and likely will ever look.
The audio is presented with a nice sounding 5.1 lossless DTS HD track.
The special features are also quite nice as well.
We get a new group interview done at UCLA with the director, co-writer and main actors for the film. It runs nearly 40 minutes.
The commentary track on this edition featuring Director Paul Verhoeven, Writer Ed Neumeier and Producer Jon Davison. I haven't completely listened to this yet but the bits and pieces that I sampled prior to writing this review featured a pretty good discussion on the making of the film.
There's also a featurette on the bad guys in the film with new interviews of actors Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise and Miguel Ferrier. This runs about 15 minutes.
We also get a 2001 half hour documentary on the making of the film including that doesn't shy away from issues including the problems between Rob Botten and director Paul Verhoeven.
A pair of 1987 featurettes are also included which are nice to have as well.
We also get "The Boardroom: Storyboard with Commentary with Animator Phil Tippett" a vintage piece.
Finally we get deleted scenes and various trailers for the film.
Verhoeven's unrated version finally receives a top notch Blu-ray transfer and release.
on August 28, 2007
On the cusp of HD, RoboCop gets re-released as a 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD that portends quick obsolescence but you shouldn't let that dissuade you from purchasing this standard def DVD to tide you over until the HD format war has ended. However, it appears that there is a "glitch" more severe than a malfunctioning ED-209 present on Canadian versions of disc 2 with a duplication of disc 1 onto disc 2 and the first copy I purchased here in the US had an authoring glitch that would not allow me to select the DTS or alternate audio tracks on Disc 2. I can already hear the Old Man yelling "You call this a glitch!?" If you own the legendary Criterion release featuring the "Extended Cut" you will be pleased to know that the upgrade is well worth getting, though you will probably want to hold on to your original Criterion disc for some of the extras that didn't make the migration over to the new 20th Anniversary disc.
Disc 1 features the original theatrical cut in anamorphic 1:85:1 widescreen (The Criterion release was presented in 1:66:1 which is Paul Verhoeven's "preferred" aspect ratio) and Dolby 5.1 and DTS sound but the real treat on this disc is the excellent documentary "Flesh & Steel: The Making of RoboCop" featuring interviews with Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, Ed Neumeier, Basil Poledouris, and Peter Weller. There's also a couple of 8-minute 1987 featurettes: "Shooting RoboCop" featuring Miguel Ferrer in character as Bob Morton introducing RoboCop like an OCP publicity gimmick and "Making RoboCop" with a behind-the-scenes look at the production and interviews from back in the day. "The Boardroom" is a storyboard-to-film comparison of ED-209 accompanied with Phil Tippet commentary, 4 deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer with music from, appropriately enough, "The Terminator," another cyborg sci-fi smash from Orion Pictures.
Disc 2 features the "Extended Cut" in anamorphic widescreen 1:85:1 and Dolby 5.1 and DTS sound which is a phenomenal enhancement over the old Dolby surround mix on the Criterion release and restores :23 seconds of graphically violent shots of ED-209 gunning Mr. Kinny into hamburger in the OCP executive board room, Murphy's hand getting blown-off and his stump spurting blood, and Clarence Boddicker's jugular squirting blood after Robo stabs him in the throat which were edited from the theatrical version to garner an R-rating and have been seamlessly restored back into the film. Why they couldn't just make this a seamless-branching feature on the same disc as the theatrical version like the Commando Director's Cut DVD and put all of the bonus features on the second disc is puzzling though. Disc 2 also features another outstanding featurette: "Villains of Old Detroit" with new interviews with Kurtwood Smith, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, and Ray Wise and is a terrific follow up after watching the film. "Special Effects: Then and Now" talks about the advances in digital compositing versus the in-camera matte shots and stop-motion animation employed on creating ED-209. "RoboCop: Creating a Legend" features interviews with Peter Weller, Paul Verhoeven, Rob Botin, et al. about designing and engineering the suit and took between 10-11 hours each day to fit Peter Weller into before shooting.
As Murphy's Law would have it, ironically, I ended up having to return my first copy to the store I purchased it from because I was not able to select the DTS track on disc 2. The department manager and I tested this on different players and on another copy and confirmed the problem. Since originally writing this review I have recently obtained another copy from a different retailer and it did not have any of the problems selecting the audio tracks so I must have got one from a bad batch and hopefully it is fairly isolated. This is also going to be released on Blu-Ray but too bad it won't be a combo disc. I'd buy that for a dollar.
This review is for the Blu-Ray edition. You know about the movie, so I won't rehash the plot.
As a Blu-Ray disc, this is mediocre at best. This is no posterboy for the next-gen format. The quality of the transfer is not very good. Lots of grain and not as sharp and clean as you might expect for Blu-Ray. Part of it has to do with the movie begin 20 years old, but this edition was clearly not done with TLC. It's a barebones transfer of the movie.
There are **NO** special features. The Special Features menu has two options: the Robocop trailer and Resume Movie. I don't count trailers as special features. Why even put this on the menu? Sort of silly.
No audio commentary, nada. WB didn't even include any of the features it already put on the 2 disc 20th Anniversary DVD. They could've just thrown it on here, like most other studios do by putting standard def extras onto Blu-Ray or HD DVD. If you already own the DVD version, I'd say skip this.
Buy this edition only if it's part of the BUY 1 GET 1 sale (I did) or if you must own this piece of 80's cultural memorabilia.
on January 9, 2014
RoboCop is the enduring story of Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), who is relocated to a new precinct in the slums of Metropolitan Detroit where he teams up with capable partner, Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). His very first day on the job also happens to be his last as he meets a cruel end shown to harrowing and gruesome detail, and even more so in this Director's Cut. Major corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) turns Murphy into the first cyborg police officer, hence the obvious title Robocop. As Murphy/Robocop simultaneously has vivid nightmares of his human death and peaceful dreams of his family, he is lead on a quest for revenge against those who killed him, which in turn, uncovers a conspiracy that is much bigger than he could have imagined.
The story is simple, and therein lies its beauty. Paul Verhoeven is a master at creating visceral Science Fiction worlds brimming with originality, extreme violence, and sharp satirical humor. RoboCop is the perfect example. It is often hilarious, and equally thrilling. The violence is played up to an unrealistic level, making it difficult to take seriously (as you should not), yet even so, it may be a little much for the squeamish. The violence may have been a shocker back then, but by today's standards it's pretty standard, so I feel the over-the-top tone may go over some newer viewers' heads.
The pacing has its faults. That is most likely due to it striving to be equal parts action, dark comedy, and political thriller. As Veroeven grapples with the various tones the film is trying to convey, the movie always entertaining. It is a very well developed satire that should even ring true for the issues we are seeing in today's society, sad as that may be. One minor quibble of mine that appears to have been fixed in the widely frowned upon remake is the sluggish pace at which RoboCop movies. Even if he does move a little slow, the action sure is exciting. The moment you see OmniCorp's ED-209, the foreshadowing is obvious, and the payoff delivers in spades.
At the root of all the social satire and political commentary, RoboCop is still a fun action movie. RoboCop himself is a cowboy of the future, and his minor quirks put a smile on my face. The whole T.J. Lazer gun twirl is cool, and he has quite a few quotable moments. "Dead, or alive, you're coming with me." And who does not recognize the quote in the title of this review? In the midst of all the fun, I still cannot help but love RoboCop for its ability to make the viewer question the morality of the events in the film, and shake their heads at how relevant some of the political issues brought up are today.
Now for what really matters with this newly remastered release, the transfer. I had not seen the previous release, and chose to pass on it due to the poor reviews, but what I can attest to is the immensely detailed picture provided by the 4K scan on this new disc. Following in the footsteps of its 80's Sci-Fi brethren, The Terminator and Total Recall, MGM delivers what fans have been clamoring for after previously lackluster releases. So, kudos to them for the continued efforts in excellence. Grain is undisturbed, and that's a definite plus, but unfortunately the extended scenes will stand out immediately to experienced eyes. They have heavier grain, and are not as sharp, but it is not for the lack of effort. RoboCop has never looked better, as cliched as it sounds to say that. It truly has not.
Some may complain about color alterations, or the picture being darker than it previous was, but the changes made were for the best. Unfortunately, I do not have a great audio setup, so take my praise with a grain of salt, if you will. That said, I was impressed by the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. ED-209's cat-like roar is as impressive as ever, as are the various kinds of gunshots throughout the duration of the film (see the drug factory infiltration for a great example, or ED-209's boardroom appearance). Crisp and lively are how I would describe the audio. My only complaint would be a lack of depth or bass heard on most Blu-rays, but given my sound setup, that's a passable gripe.
RoboCop also includes a pretty good supplemental package. A lengthy Q&A with the director, writer, lead actor, and producer that makes for an interesting listen. Unfortunately, the commentary is not for the Director's Cut, but it is still an informative track. There are also numerous featurettes, with my favorite of the lot being the newer "Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop". All in all, this remastered disc is sure to please most, and leave some unsatisfied. Fortunately, I fall in the former camp. Highly Recommended!
on May 16, 2003
**Note: This review deals with the "Criterion Collection" edition**
Still hailed as a sci-fi classic even today (and happens to be one of my personal favorites), "Robocop" is a marvelous and outstanding film. This is one of the few movies I can watch over and over again and never get sick of it. I may not be a big sci-fi buff, but that's one of the great things about this movie; you don't have to be one.
"Robocop" takes place in the future where Detroit is plagued with crime and murder. Cops are threatening to go on strike while crime lords and gangs run amuck. And when a police officer is brutally murdered by a relentless crime lord and his band of thugs, that's when corporation giant OCP resurrects him and transforms him into the ultimate crime-fighting machine. In all of it's violent and dark glory, "Robocop" is a film that proves to be both a successful action thriller and a clever satire.
I love everything about this movie. The story, the plot, the characters, everything! This is one of the few movies that when I pop it in the DVD player and hear the music for the opening titles, I get chills. It's like seeing it for the first time every time I watch it. It's very well written and directed. It also has some terrific acting. (Who would've thought that the father from "That 70's Show" could prove to be a very effective villain?) And for an older movie, it has some incredible special effects.
Be warned, this is not a movie for people who do not like excessively violent movies. This one's as violent as they come. Gun shot wounds, arms and heads getting blown off, people getting shot multiple times... you get the idea. After all, this is Paul Verhoeven we're talking about (the very man behind "Total Recall," and "Starship Troopers"). So be warned.
The version I have is the "Criterion Collection" edition. It's a shame that this one is so hard to find, because I do think this is the best version out there. Not only is it loaded with some very cool features, it's also the unrated director's cut that offers a few extra seconds of extra gore in two specific scenes. (I think it's only two.) Now, that's not a very big deal and doesn't really add much to the movie, but it is something at least. And the picture and sound is great. I am aware that the newer version is supposed to look a lot better than this one, but that DVD doesn't appear to have ANY special features on it. So I will stick with this one until a better one comes out. (I have a feeling that a better one will come out in the future.)
Some special features included on the Criterion version are storyboards, theatrical and teaser trailers, commentary, film-to-storyboard comparison, and more. It would've been nice to have a few more extras, but it's not a bad package if you ask me.
"Robocop" will forever remain a classic in my eyes. It's one of the few sci-fi flicks I can watch over and over again. THIS is the one to see (while #2 wasn't too bad of a movie, the third one is a complete embarrassment). If you want to see a great sci-fi movie with brains and action, this is the one to experience.
In the very wise words of Robocop himself, "Stay out of trouble."
on January 9, 2014
Robocop just got the respect it deserves in a stunning ready made 4K transfer for 1080p TVs. All the grain and detail is there. The colors look more natural, and in fact everything looks more natural. A true upgrade at a very low price. Robocop remains for me one the of the definitive films of the 20th century and the 80s in particular. Often overlooked because of its visceral violence, the film is a strange mixture of reality, sardonic humor, and straight up action.
I can't even believe it looks this good in some ways. The old transfer in comparison is complete trash. This 4K readymade also has a ton of extras to boot! I was worried about this as Sony has been releasing their 4K ready releases with absolutely nothing on disc but the film, leaving a lot of the disc space unused, despite charging full price for their product.
In short, this is EXACTLY how you do a Bluray catalogue release. Unrated edition as well. Support this release if you are interested in this film! Although it has a good moral message this film is very violent and bloody. Not for the unprepared.
on March 23, 1999
Robocop is one of those classic Sci-Fi films, borderlining between campiness and ultra-violence, making it an interesting experience. Throw in a creative and original story, a well-rounded cast, great special effects, and you've got one hell of a movie. Robocop looks great on DVD and the director's cut for the Criterion collection adds in a couple great extra scenes of bloodletting which didn't make the final cut, so now audiences can see Robocop the way it was meant to be shown. Unfortunately I was a little dissapointed at the lack of features on this DVD, considering that it is a Criterion Collection disc. I mean, other than the director's cut, all this disc has is 2 trailers, commentary, and a couple of storyboards. Given there's nothing wrong with this, but since the disc costs so much more than most DVD's, you think they could have thrown in a couple more things, like a documentery, or behind-the-scenes footage or something. Overall though, Robocop is a great movie, and if you don't want to shell out the extra cash for this disc, you could always just get the regular version, but one thing's for sure: this movie is a must-have for any DVD collector.
on July 19, 2000
Despite its simplistic and quite-laughable title, Robocop is a wonderful piece of satirical science-fiction. In the Criterion edition, the amount of "excessively violent" added footage amounts to less than a couple of minutes but helps to make the story whole. This violence isn't there just for kicks; it actually fits the overall context of the particular scenes and further defines the story. Despite the MPAA's decision to give the added scenes a rating of "X" (remember, this was in 1987, well before the NC-17 rating existed), I can honestly say that I've seen worse violence in other R-rated films. In any case, the movie is now restored to its entirety and one aspect of Murphy's execution scene suddenly makes a lot more sense. The Criterion edition includes many extras, only a few of which are excellent. Most, however, are for ardent movie fans only. The audio commentary by director Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison, and co-writer Neumeier is very interesting but uneven: some passages are quite enlightening while others are awfully banal. The film-to-storyboard comparison is mildly interesting, for once you've seen it, it's enough. The two storyboards showing unfilmed scenes are rather unremarkable novelties, although the cemetary scene would have been a great touch to add in the movie. The illustrated essay on the making of the movie is very lengthy and sometimes overly detailed. The amount of time devoted to the design/production/animation of the ED 209 robot is excessive and goes on ad nauseam. An index feature within this essay would have been helpful because if you exit at any time before reaching the end, you must start all over again. The two trailers are surprising in that they somehow made the movie look like a low-budget snorefest. Fortunately for us, it's exactly the opposite. I would have given 5 stars for the restored movie alone, but some of the Criterion extras being what they are, I subtracted one star. Still worth getting, however.
on October 1, 2000
I worked for Ed Neumeier during the development of the first Robocop concept, which owes a little something to Iron Man and Judge Dredd comic books, among other influences. Robocop turned into such a great screenplay that it is often taught in scriptwriting classes in Hollywood. I remember getting calls from Ed (who was also co-producer) on location, worrying that the movie wouldn't become all he hoped for. As it turns out, the movie works just great -- the story of a cop named Murphy who struggles, after being horribly wounded, to maintain his humanity inside a metal shell. Such a touching ending this clever movie has, with the "Old Man" firing the villain (with Robo's help) and then asking Robo, "what's your name, son?" A cheer went up in the theater when Robo replies "Murphy!"
A perfect little gem of an action comedy (yes, a comedy, Ed was very clear about that element), this film was cut slightly for violence to obtain the R rating, and the Criterion DVD offers the opportunity to study the uncut version, notable for two longer scenes: first, when ED 209 malfunctions he doesn't just shoot the hapless young executive -- he shoots and shoots and shoots and shoots him. The scene, as funny as it was in the final cut, is even funnier that way. And of course, there is the more graphic scene in which Murphy is blown apart by the pack of thugs. The so-called X version has additional shots of Murphy's skull blown apart and hand blown off. All in all, a very informative and worthwhile Criterion DVD for the student of this movie, which I thought was out of print, but looks like you can still have it here.
The later films got the emphasis wrong -- the first film spent its entire length focusing on the importance of Robo's human side, called Murphy, and the later films jettisoned the humanity for the Robo character. ... Suffice to say this franchise could be re-invented by studying the first film and getting it right next time. Meanwhile, enjoy the only good Robocop movie here, and see why Paul VerHoeven's career in America really took off afterward (as well as that of Ed Neumeier, Michael Miner, et al).