Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Robocop Trilogy

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Oct 20, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Robocop Trilogy (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Irvin Kershner, Fred Dekker

    Studio: MGM
    Year:
    1987/1990/1992
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   MPEG-2/AVC codecs
    Running Time: 103/117/105minutes
    Rating: NR/R/PG-13
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish

    Region:  A
    MSRP:  $ 59.99


    Release Date: October 5, 2010  

    Review Date: October 20, 2010


    The Films


    Robocop – 3.5/5


    On his first day on the job in the crime-ridden South precinct of a futuristic Detroit, police officer Murphy (Peter Weller) is ambushed by ruthless crime lord Clarence (Kurtwood Smith) and his vicious henchmen who assume they’ve finished him off after blasting him with an enormous amount of firepower. However, the doctors are able to save his life, and cybernetics of the time allow him to be transformed into a law enforcing cyborg called Robocop. When memories in the remaining human parts of his brain are stirred by his former partner Lewis (Nancy Allen), Murphy remembers the men who attacked him and sets out to take them down, not knowing until later that they’re actually under control of the man who runs OCP, the company who built and programmed the Robocop prototype, Jones (Ronny Cox).


    Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent and visceral comic book/action film has a decent premise even with its simplistic storyline (basically a revenge fantasy film featuring futuristic special effects), but as has been the case with several of his thrillers, he luxuriates in the bloody mayhem. Murphy’s annihilation is particularly gruesome and gleefully sadistic, and the viewer isn’t spared a moment of its painfully explicit violence, the director almost perversely reveling in it. Of course, with such a heinous initial killing of our hero, the writers (Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner) and director have set up the bad guys for even more aggressively ghastly ends, and they deliver the goods. Peter Weller does a splendid job as both man and machine (the make-up effects once he’s revealed as half man/half robot at the end are terrific; how they missed garnering an Oscar nomination is a real mystery), but Nancy Allen’s character, for all the build up she’s given being this ball-busting cop, continually drops the ball under pressure and seems miscast in the role. Leading bad guys Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, and Paul McCrane bask in their dastardly evil in one-dimensional performances which fit the nature of a cinematic comic book perfectly.



    Robocop 2 – 2.5/5


    Crime in the streets is still rampant in future Detroit due to OCP’s refusal to grant the police department benefits or honor prior pension plans. With a large percentage of the police force on strike, Robocop (Peter Weller) is more necessary than ever. He faces two giant problems: gangland as run by psychotic drug lord Cain (Tom Noonan) is flush with millions in cash from producing and distributing Nuke, a highly addictive drug, and their firepower is formidable. Even worse, however, is that the company behind his operating system, OCP, is interested in buying out Detroit and establishing a new city in its place with OCP as the sole owner and operator. In order to do that, they must arrange to make Robocop impotent while setting loose on the city a new cyborg capable of destroying anyone and anything that gets in its way. To do that, the OCP president (Daniel O'Herlihy) allows the evil Dr. Faxx (Belinda Bauer) carte blanche to choose the brain she needs to make her new killing machine.


    If all you’re after is lots of action, big explosions, and people riddled with bullets, then Robocop 2 is going to satisfy your bloodlust. The film is a maelstrom of violence and gore with an overwhelming ugliness and cruelty exhibited by the majority of the humankind in the picture. Irvin Kershner’s direction lumbers through almost two hours of this mayhem, but there’s no real pace or style to it: it’s noisy and messy and inevitably leaves one inert from the sheer cacophony of it all. There is also a tendency toward cheap jokes and laughs at the expense of the defenseless and injured, another of the film’s revolting pictures of the mankind of the future. Peter Weller has a little more variety to play in this film since midway through, his reprogramming making him the kinder, gentler version of the tough robot hombre played for laughs (it’s clumsy and obvious). Nancy Allen continues to be ineffectual and miscast as his police partner. Everyone else plays as a literal one-dimensional cartoon from Tom Noonan’s drugged out hippie mastermind to Daniel O'Herlihy’s crotchety, power mad impresario. Gabriel Damon as a preteen hoodlum is shuddery in his evil and nihilism.



    Robocop 3 – 2.5/5


    Things aren’t any better for the beleaguered city of Detroit. The corrupt OCP organization has been bought out by the Japanese Kanemitsu firm who still plans to erect Delta City in place of Detroit. In order to do that, many blocks of low income housing must be demolished, so families living there are being forced out of their homes and sent to interment camps (where they’re killed). A plucky youngster Nikko (Remy Ryan) who’s a whiz on the computer is adopted by a troop of street fighters who refuse to give up their neighborhoods without a war, led by the crafty Bertha (CCH Pounder). Once again, Robocop’s (Robert Burke) programming comes into question when he opposes the guerrilla soldiers Kanemitsu (Mako) has hired to carry out his orders. Lead scientist Dr. Marie Lazarus (Jill Hennessy) is ordered to make him completely obedient and burn all humanity from his circuits.


    Fred Dekker’s take on the material (with co-screenwriting credit with Frank Miller) is definitely kinder and gentler than the previous two films. The bloodletting has certainly been tempered, and even though several of the heroic characters that viewers will have identified with are killed during the course of the story, there is much less grisly violence on display. People may still die in a hail of bullets, but there’s no gore splashing around the frame as in the previous two films (hence the PG-13 rating). Though Robert Burke makes a game try at playing the title character (Dekker keeps him off screen for the first twenty minutes, and he’s been made up to look as much like Peter Weller as he can), the tortured expressions of loss are simply not part of his DNA as they were with Weller so the pathos is missing. The screenplay sets up a climactic meeting between cyborgs: Robocop versus Otomo (Bruce Locke), a nimble ninja robot with mad skills, but when it happens, it’s decidedly anticlimactic. In fact, almost all of the action is rather desultory in this third effort, probably the reason there haven’t been any more of these films.



     Video Quality


    Robocop – 3.5/5


    The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the MPEG-2 codec. The image has a slightly dated appearance overall with color values a little wan and sharpness in the normal sequences above average but no better. (TV broadcasts and images viewed through Robocop’s visual sensors are naturally lesser in quality.) The images sometimes take on a digital appearance, particularly later in the film. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



    Robocop 2 – 4/5


    The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Image quality is sharper this time around with color values and saturation levels a bit more solid than in the original film. As before, TV broadcasts and images seen through Robocop’s eyes are deliberately desaturated and softened, neither a fault of the transfer but an accurate representation of it. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



    Robocop 3 – 4/5


    The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image quality is the best of the three films in the set. Sharpness is a tad more consistent here than in the second film, and color quality is very good though flesh tones do veer just a bit on the pink side. There is a small amount of aliasing present in the flying sequence. Black levels throughout are good. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



    Audio Quality


    Robocop – 4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t have the impact or immersive grip that more modern action films have, but a reasonably good job has been done adapting the Dolby 4.0 movie soundtrack (also available as a sound choice) into a very nice lossless encode. There are sound effects split through the soundstage (the film won a well deserved special Oscar for sound effects editing, not then a regular category) and solid dialogue recording that comes through clearly into the center channel.



    Robocop 2 – 4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix has quite a few moments of really effective power and immersion, but the sound design for such a violent action picture is not all it could be. Often, effects are spread only across the front channels with the rears virtually silent, but at other times, there are marvelous discrete effects as one would expect from this kind of movie. The LFE channel is used effectively in many of the biggest and loudest explosions.



    Robocop 3 – 4.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is again the best of the three films in this set. Much more active with split surrounds than the previous two films, this one sounds much more like a modern action film with its explosive heft and wider soundstage. The LFE channel is once again well utilized not only in the explosions and gunplay but also for adding as much tension as possible to scenes where it’s necessary. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel.



    Special Features


    Robocop – 1/5


    The theatrical trailer runs 1 ½ minutes and is presented in 1080p.


    Robocop 2 – 1/5


    Two trailers are offered. The first runs 1 ½ minutes while the second runs 2 minutes. Both are in 1080p.


    Robocop 3 – 1/5


    The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes and is presented in 1080p.



    In Conclusion

    2.5/5 (not an average)


    Fans of the Robocop movies will be delighted to have all three films collected in one convenient package. It’s very disappointing, however, that no effort has gone into making these releases definitive with some bonus features of distinction for the three movies.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the review Matt. I'm curious about the version of Robocop that's used for this release. I've only owned the Criterion version on laserdisc and DVD. So I've never seen any versions of the MGM releases. And I've held off getting the earlier blu-Ray.

    Is the first film the full Verhoven version? Thanks!
     
  3. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Thanks for the review. You couldn't pay me to watch the 2nd and 3rd movies in this series. The first movie is one of my favorites.


    The first MGM blu-ray release of the first movie was Verhoven's director's cut (the same as on the Criterion laserdisc and DVD).
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The first disc in the set appears to be the bare bones MGM Blu-ray release since it's on a single layer disc and uses the ancient MPEG-2 codec. I'm just guessing, but that's what it appears to be.
     
  5. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    The first one always looked like it was shot on VHS - even in theaters it looked drab and colorless. Criterion's DVD was presented in 1.66 and had the best extras - I'm sorry I got rid of it. If anything cries out "Wait for a better release" this is it. Especially considering what they're charging for it.
     
  6. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the clarification Steve. The same cut as the Criterion version.

    Though I don't like to watch that sequence when Murphy is killed, I wanted to know if the cut is the same as the Director's cut. The later scenes that are left intact is not as hard to watch. Like the ED unit killing the executive during the demo.


    So the first film's transfer is no different then the first BD release? So I see what Luis is saying. At first I thought this might have been a new transfer for this set, but it's just a packaging job of all 3 films.
     

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