The Criterion Collection
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Called by Ken Russell "the greatest science-fiction film since Metropolis," controversial director Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop is a special effects-laden cult phenomenon. The film features a resurrected and roboticized hero (Peter Weller) in a new, supercharged cyborg body, struggling to reclaim his memory and avenge his own death. Writtern by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, this film is a grown-up superhero fantasy come to vivid, bloody life.
- Film-to-storyboard comparison
- Illustrated essay on the making of RoboCop
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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!
I love the 1987 ROBOCOP movie so hard I'm probably doing a disservice to the 2014 remake by not having the disposition to see it. Who knows, maybe the 2014 ROBOCOP is good. But the original rocked so damn hard and is embedded in my brain - along with ALIENS, THE TERMINATOR, and PREDATOR - as one of the most kickass sci-fi films in the 1980's. It's Peter Weller's best movie. It's director Paul Verhoeven's best movie - or at least tied with TOTAL RECALL. ROBOCOP is very much a movie of its own time - the 1980s - and yet it's relevant to this present day. The social satire still burns. The sheer corporate fukcery that unfolds onscreen is still topical today. The movie deserves its hard R rating with its exuberant show of profane language and gratuitous violence. And in this modern age of rampant CGI, it's just nice to hearken back to when the visual effects crew did their thing with practical effects. ROBOCOP packs in the squibs and the amazing stop-motion animation. Robocop's design is pure-ass genius, a blend of metallic sleek and bulk. There's a weight to him. There's iconic flair to the reverberating thuds of his footsteps and the 90º precision of his measured movements. And Robocop's martial theme song? Goosebumps, yo.
Yes, Nancy Allen is resolute as Murphy's and, later, Robocop's partner and the only one to really have his back. Ronny Cox and Kurtwood Smith are at their most despicable (and that's a good thing). But Peter Weller anchors the hell out of this movie. It's astounding that he's able to convey emotional nuances despite that Robocop speaks in a monotone and that his mug is mostly obscured by a bulky head gear. But Weller makes Robocop readily sympathetic and his plight so arresting. The master stroke, of course, is that, come to find, vestiges of Murphy's humanity have survived his death. We note whiffs of it, manifested as random moments of intuition or spontaneity and, physically, as the occasional showing off with the cowboy pistol flourishes. And, last but not least, there's the film's dark, deranged sense of humor. ROBOCOP is a fount of awesome catch phrases. I bet there are folks out there who say "I'd buy that for a dollar" and have no inkling that they're quoting this movie. ROBOCOP as a movie is many things. It's a crime thriller and an over-the-top action blockbuster. It's a cautionary sci-fi dystopia. It's a superhero story for grown ups. It's a keen skewering of our society. It's a tragic and moving study of one man transcendence of death. Who would've thunk it that, when push comes to shove, Robocop turns out to be the most human of the lot? I'd buy that for a dollar.