Robocop vs. Robocop (pics included)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert George, Sep 27, 2001.

  1. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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    Due to server issues, I have been unable to publish any reviews for several days, and I don't know when I'll be able to get these problems sorted out. I do want to share a few observations on MGM's upcoming release of Robocop so I'll just do it here.
    As you know, there have already been two previous DVD editions of this modern classic of science fiction. The first was a very nice special edition from Criterion which is essentially a DVD edition of their earlier laserdisc edition. The same 1.66:1 letterboxed transfer was used, along with the same supplemental material. Image Entertainment also had the video rights to the Orion Pictures catalog for a time and they released their own version with a different letterboxed transfer. That transfer was framed at 1.85:1 and look considerably different from the Criterion transfer.
    For this new DVD, MGM has struck a new 16:9 widescreen transfer that falls somewhere between the previous discs in overall look, and exceeds both is pure video quality though I expect whether or not one prefers one over the other will be a matter of personal preference.
    To begin, ther MGM transfer is framed at about 1.80:1 and also appears to be slightly "zoomed" in compared to the Criterion. There is visible cropping on all four sides of the image to some degree. I consider the top and bottom cropping to be consistent with the 1.85:1 theatrical framing seen in the US. The side cropping is slight and I don't consider that an issue.
    There are, however, major differences in the look of the Criterion and the MGM. Colors on the MGM are much more saturated, even too saturated in some shots, though for the most part, I prefer the brighter colors of the MGM compared to the more muted color palette of the Criterion. The MGM transfer is also darker with much higher contrast. This gives the image on the MGM disc considerably more depth, but the Criterion looks more like film. In sharpness and detail, the MGM wins hands down. Fine detail and subtle color variations that are simply not visible in the Criterion transfer pop out at you on the MGM disc.
    I have done a few screen caps from both discs and placed side-by-side for comparison. There is, I think, a geometry issue with non-enhanced material on my PC DVD player so one should compare the actual information in the frame rather than simply the overall aspect ratio of the image. All images are completely unretouched. In all examples, the image on the left is from the MGM disc and the Criterion is on the right. I no longer own the Image disc so no comparison of that one is possible for me.
    This first image from the opeing credits clearly shows the difference in brightness. The Criterion transfer shows considerably more detail in the cityscape, but also looks a bit more washed-out to me.
    [​IMG]
    This next image really points up the differences in color balance. Personal preference will be the guiding factor here. This comparison is also a good guide to the framing differences.
    [​IMG]
    This last image is also useful for comparing image depth and detail as well as framing differences. Note the geometry difference between the two appears to me to be related to my PC DVD player. The Criterion does not look "squashed" on my main system.
    [​IMG]
    To the questions about audio quality, the MGM has a 5.1 remaster where the Criterion is a Dolby 2-track. I note slightly depper bass in the MGM, but for the most part, differences are rather slight.
    Then there is the issue of "R" rated vs. unrated. Prior to theatrical release, Verhoeven was forced to trim a couple of scenes of graphic violence to get an "R" rating. For the Criterion laserdisc edition, those trims were restored. The Criterion DVD, obviously, used that same transfer. The MGM disc contains the original theatrical version. Actual running time difference between the two is 53 seconds. I have compared the two scenes, Kinney getting shot up by ED-209 and Murphy getting shot up by Bodiker's gang, and I don't feel the cuts hurt the story or even the mood of the scenes, but again, that will be personal preference.
    The obvious question is, which one to keep. For me, my personal preference when I want to watch this movie is to watch the MGM disc. I simply looks better to my eye and to my taste. However, I like the supplements on the Criterion disc as well. I'll be keeping both and I guess I'll call it a "two-disc set".
    Enjoy.
    [Edited last by Robert George on September 27, 2001 at 03:43 PM]
     
  2. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    Remember people, there WILL be an SE next year and it will have tons of extras and most likely, the cut footage. Buying this new version is really a waste of money. Unless you don't mind buying it for the, what, 3rd or 4th time?
    I'll stick my my Criterion until next year.
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  3. Matt Broeska

    Matt Broeska Stunt Coordinator

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    matt,
    how do you know there'll be a se next year? has this been announced or is it speculation? i'm not asking to be rude, but i haven't heard anything and i'm just curious...
    ------------------
    Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.
    That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
     
  4. Luis A

    Luis A Second Unit

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    Ditto!
     
  5. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    Cannot reveal source. Sorry. Same source that let me in on the Memento SE. Same source that told me not to buy the True Lies DVD (and that was six months ago!).
    Just look at what MGM has been doing with big titles. PRINCESS BRIDE and PLATOON are two. Regular version, followed by SE. This will be no different.
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  6. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Shoot. I'm very disappointed, because I've already ordered the Criterion DVD. I thought that the Criterion DVD was the one to own. But know I think I will send it back.
    Sorry for the me-too post. [​IMG] Kinda bored at work. [​IMG]
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    Best, Sam
     
  7. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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    Well, without knowing Matt's source, I can unofficially confirm that there will be a special edition version of Robocop from MGM, but not before late next year. The plans are still so tentative that there are no details at all that I could get, even off the record.
    The upcoming disc from MGM lists for $19.98, which means it will be had for under $15 in many places. If someone will let $15 keep them from buying a movie they like so they can wait a year or more for a possible special edition, well, never mind. I won't go there.
     
  8. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

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    Sam,
    I would recommend you not cancel your order! The Criterion DVD is excellent. There is an almost overwhelmingly informative "making of" section that goes through every step of production; the commentary track is also thoroughly excellent. I love anamorphic enhancement, but I'm not going to bother spending more for it, considering how great the CC version is.
    And besides, the cover is the coolest!
    Regards,
    Steve Young
     
  9. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Rob, let me be the first to actually thank you for a rather fascinating post. I currently own the CC version and have no plans to get the new one, but the comparisons were very interesting nonetheless.
    All technical jargon aside, can I just add how much I freakin' love this movie? Rarely has such intelligent and satiric social commentary been combined so brilliantly with such joyously brutal carnage.
    I will be keeping my eye out for the eventual SE we may be getting!
    ------------------
    Scott
    Check out my Movie Reviews at Epinions. Help support my debilitating DVD addiction!
    AOL IM: TheAngryJew29
     
  10. Matt_Stevens

    Matt_Stevens Supporting Actor

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    If you must own this movie and do not have a 16x9 TV, then the Criterion is the one to own. It's a very good SE.
    I got it the first week it was released. I can patiently wait until late next year for a new SE (the only thing that is confirmed is that they "want" to use the X rated material, but that is a real Duhh!!). [​IMG]
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  11. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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    Your welcome, Scott. It was my pleasure [​IMG]. Any old excuse to watch Robocop, ya know.
     
  12. Adam_H

    Adam_H Auditioning

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    I also heard on some DVD news and rumors sites that the reason for the non se is that Criterion still owns the rights or some company to the extra "x" footage and supplements and wont expire till the end of this year, once that expires MGM said they will gather it up and put it together for a SE.
    If do some searching I am sure you can find it cached on some sites, it was confirmed.
    Hope that clears this SE issue up.
     
  13. AVspec

    AVspec Supporting Actor

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    Yes, thank you Rob for this review as I really like this flick and was just waiting for a nice anamorphic version to display on my 106" FP system.
    I will pick this one up and IF a SE comes along down the road I will sell (or give to a friend in need) this version and pick up the SE version
    ------------------
    -Mark
    **** Digital Vortex ****
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    [Edited last by Mark Knight on September 27, 2001 at 05:41 PM]
     
  14. MikeM

    MikeM Screenwriter

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    Robert, that was a great post. Thanks for your detail and screen caps. I really love this film!
     
  15. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    Wow! At least to my eye, there is quite a bit of difference between those two....even more than I expected. I much prefer the contrast and color saturation of the MGM. I agree the Criterion looks washed-out in comparison. I already own the Criterion and may keep it for the supplements but next time I watch the film it will have to be this new transfer.
    Jeff
     
  16. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Steve -- Thanks for the info! [​IMG] Actually, I think I'll cancel it anyway, because it's not a Must Have DVD. It was sort of an after thought to a large order. Waiting for this title is no biggie. But OTHER movies... LOL [​IMG]
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    Best, Sam
     
  17. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Excellent comparison, Robert. The MGM version looks much better to me. However, since I already own the Criterion version, I am going to show some patience and wait for news of a special edition. Your review does not make it easy to be patient, though. [​IMG]
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  18. darrin

    darrin Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Robert!! I have heard about the eventuall SE that
    might be here late next year, but I will be snatch this one
    up happily. I'd buy that for $15 dollars!!
     
  19. Lannie Lorence

    Lannie Lorence Stunt Coordinator

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    It would seem to me that a greyer more metallic color is more appropriate for the movie than nice saturated colors. I would be interested in hearing which version the filmmakers prefer. Then I'd know for sure which one I should watch. If I remember right the Criterion had one of those director approved stickers on it. If that means anything.
    No offense meant to you Robert, but sometimes I worry that reviewers judge a transfer too much on having nice eye-popping colors. Even if that's not how the film is meant to look.
    The sky in the last photo of the MGM version looks severely burnt out. Not that I know it shouldn't look that way. But it is definitely different than the Criterion and I once again do wish I knew which one the filmmakers like.
     
  20. Dwayne

    Dwayne Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review, Obi.
    I prefer the director's cut. The massacre scene has an exceptionally executed tracking shot. I'll wait for more news of the SE before considering a repurchase.
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    -Dwayne
     

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