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This review pertains to the 4K remastered edition blu-ray. (5 stars for the blu-ray, 5 stars for the film)
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!