RoboCop Blu-ray delivers stunning video and great audio in this exceptional Blu-ray release
In the not-too-distant future, a newly transfered Detroit police officer is remade into an indestructible cybernetic cop after being dismembered by a gang of thugs in an abandoned warehouse. Reborn as RoboCop he is programmed to serve and protect the citizens of Detroit and eliminate the rampant crime in the city streets so that a massive city-wide reconstruction project can get under way. But once he has completed his task, he sets his sights on the corruption inside Security Concepts - the corporation that created him.
For more about RoboCop and the RoboCop Blu-ray release, see RoboCop Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on January 9, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
One reason for the enduring popularity of director Paul Verhoeven's first American film is the
simplicity of its basic story: A man is gunned down and left for dead, but he miraculously
survives and, though much changed, proceeds to hunt down the criminals who shot him and take
his revenge. The same plot could be (and has been) a Western, a gangster tale or a Death Wish-style vigilante film. But in Ed Neumaier's and Michael Miner's innovative script, the story
morphed into sci-fi, and the survivor was no longer a man but a cyborg with a human face and
brain, while everything else was machine. The moments when the creature displays his
humanity—when he showed that he was more than just "product" (as his corporate sponsor
declares)—gradually became more important than the quest for revenge.
Verhoeven has repeatedly told how he initially missed the rich possibilities of the material
wrapped in RoboCop's sci-fi premise and threw the script on the floor (or the beach, depending
on which version of the story he tells) after reading just a few pages. His wife made him take a second
look, and he began thinking about the robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and considering images of
Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Producer Jon Davison introduced Verhoeven to just the
right team, including effects wizard Phil Tippett and prosthetics specialist Rob Bottin, to build
out Neumeier's and Miner's script into the many-layered classic it ultimately became. Looking
back at the experience twenty-five years later, in the new Q&A session included in this Blu-ray's
extras, the participants seem astounded that any of it worked.
RoboCop has something for everybody: robots for science fiction fans, Verhoeven's trademark
blood-and-guts for gore hounds, big action set pieces, a wickedly satirical sense of humor
(especially in the news broadcast inserts) and, at its core, the moving story of Officer Alex
Murphy's loss of his family and the life he lived before he was transformed into a law
enforcement superhero. Add to this the pointed critique of corporate maneuvering and the
pertinent questions raised about profits vs. public service, and there's a lot going on in a taut 103
minutes. RoboCop may prompt different reactions from viewers, but boredom isn't one of them.
In an eerily accurate portent of coming events, RoboCop is set in a crumbling Detroit of the future
which, though not yet in bankruptcy, is failing so badly that the city has outsourced its police
department to the conglomerate known as Omni Consumer Products, or "OCP". But OCP's plan
to clean up crime has little to do with supporting the men and women in blue. It plans to raze the
crime-ridden old Detroit and build a sparkling new development in its place called "Delta City".
The chief concern is how to provide security for the one million workers who will build it.
Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), a ruthless top executive at OCP, wants to supplant the police force with
fleets of a heavily armored droid, the ED-209, which he'll then turn around and sell to the
military. The only problem with the ED-209 is that it doesn't work; a demonstration at an OCP
strategy meeting turns into a bloody slaughter. Ambitious young Turk Bob Morton (Miguel
Ferrer) seizes the opportunity to buttonhole OCP's Chairman and CEO, known only as "the Old
Man" (Daniel O'Helihy), to promote his own alternative: the RoboCop program, in which legally
dead cops have their brains implanted in a cyborg body, thereby enhancing the machine's
computer-driven muscle with the cop's experience. With the Delta City construction start date
looming, the Old Man greenlights the program, and Bob Morton waits for a cop to die to launch
a prototype. Meanwhile Dick Jones fumes and waits for his brash young adversary to make a
The first cop to "volunteer" for the RoboCop program is Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), who is
blasted by shotguns, execution-style, at the hands of arch-criminal Clarence Boddicker
(Kurtwood Smith), and his gang while Murphy's new partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), looks
on helplessly. Declared legally dead and with his memory wiped, Murphy has his brain extracted
and implanted into a gleaming kevlar-coated endoskeleton. He becomes the perfect cop, a hero to
the populace and the scourge of the underworld.
But the mind is a tricky thing. Wiping a brain isn't the same as erasing a hard drive. Some
irreducible element of Alex Murphy—his "soul" perhaps, although Verhoeven has said he
doesn't believe in it—gradually resurfaces in dreams and memories of the wife and child that
Murphy left behind. Phrases, gestures and even the RoboCop monotone remind those who knew
Murphy, especially Lewis, of the man they thought was dead. A violent nightmare in which he
relives Murphy's death sends the cyborg out into the night, looking for the killers, which is how
the human machine ultimately discovers who he used to be. Now, in addition to hunting down
Boddicker and his gang, Murphy has to reckon with OCP, which is just as responsible for what
happened to him as the men who pulled the triggers. But OCP is a big company with many
factions, and reckoning with it is a taller order than it first appears.
In a narrative strategy that Ed Neumaier would later repeat in Starship Troopers, Robocop is
punctuated by upbeat news broadcasts from two chipper TV anchors (Leeza Gibbons and Mario
Marchado) who supply essential information about OCP and the state of the world and whose
sang-froid is hilarious. Mock ads for everything from an artifical heart to a gas guzzling auto
with the suggestive name "6000-SUX" (always spoken with each letter pronounced separately:
"es-you-ex") provide comic relief, as do clips of what is obviously a popular sitcom of the era
featuring a short guy with a mustache surrounded by tall busty women. His catchphrase, "I'd buy
that for a dollar!" is one of RoboCop's most famous lines.
The bright, happy world of the TV screen only serves to underline the grim and rusty reality of
life in the streets, where real cops risk their lives to protect a struggling populace that, to the
titans of OCP, is just so much refuse to be swept aside while they profit and party. A few of
RoboCop's references may have dated, and some of the technology looks clunky by today's
standards, but the cynical forces against which its lone hero fights a dangerous and lonely battle
don't look much different than they did in 1987. RoboCop remains as timely, provocative and
entertaining as when Verhoeven's wife picked up the script and demanded that her husband read
MGM previously released RoboCop on Blu-ray in 2007 in a
bare-bones presentation that has
frequently been criticized, though not always for the right reason. Cinematographer Jost Vacano,
a frequent Verhoeven creative partner, made the most of the film's low budget and practical sets,
but RoboCop is and always will be a grainy film from the analog era, its effects created either in
camera or through optical superimposition, and its TV interludes reflecting an NTSC aesthetic.
Expectations have been high ever since the announcement that MGM was remastering the film
for Blu-ray, starting with a 4K scan of the original camera negative.
But 4K scans are not a magic bullet (despite Sony's attempt to build a marketing campaign
around the name). 4K is just a number. The result on your screen depends on numerous other
factors, including the condition of what's being scanned and the skill of the particular facility
chosen to scan the material. And the scan itself is only the beginning. The process of color
correction and cleanup must be performed by a skilled colorist overseen by someone
knowledgeable about the film (usually a studio executive in charge of asset preservation). The
final product must be downconverted to Blu-ray resolution, then compressed and authored.
Judgment calls made at any or all of these stages can affect what reaches your display, for good
Fortunately, in the case of the remastered RoboCop, the right calls seem to have been made,
though I doubt the results will satisfy everyone. The TV broadcast segments are still the pre-HD
low resolution image that they always have been, because that's how they were shot. The film's
grainy texture remains visible. If you are the kind of viewer who objects to grain in your Blu-ray
image, you may be disappointed to find that there's even more of it in the remastered RoboCop—
but that's because there's so much more picture information. The new scan has picked up a
wealth of fine detail in hair, skin textures, backgrounds, the elaborate RoboCop suit designed by
Rob Bottin, and virtually every aspect of William Sandell's distinctive production design. For the
five main screenshots accompanying this review (and several of the extra shots), I have tried to
capture frames from the some of the same scenes featured in the review of the 2007 release.
Open them at full resolution in side-by-side browser windows for an idea of the difference
between the two discs.
That same comparison will demonstrate another feature of the remaster, which is a warmer and
more saturated color palette. The effect is to bring out fleshtones and heighten the contrast
between the messier human world of the streets and the cooler, detached environs of OCP's labs
and executive suites. Lacking any definitive reference, I can't say which version is more accurate,
but to my eye the remastered disc is more appealing. Blacks and contrast levels are also
appropriately set, which is especially important for the critical scenes at the abandoned factory
where first Murphy and then later his RoboCop alter ego confront Boddicker and his gang.
The average bitrate of 27.19 Mbps is adequate for such
demanding material. Here and there, I thought I spotted a few instances of compression-related
noise, but they were minor and fleeting. Overall, this is a superb rendition of RoboCop in its
original form, although anyone expecting a magical transformation into a contemporary work of
grainless HD video will be disappointed.
RoboCop's wide release was in Dolby Surround, with a limited number of prints in a 70mm
blow-up with six-track sound. The 2007 Blu-ray release offered both a lossless
5.1 remix and a
lossy 4.0 track that was presumably intended to replicate the four elements of a Dolby Surround
mix (left, right, center, surround). The remastered Blu-ray features only the 5.1 remix in lossless
As noted in the review of the earlier release, RoboCop's soundtrack doesn't have the extreme
highs or the intense lows available in even the average mixing suite today, but it's still a lively
and satisfying experience. The sound mix was nominated for an Oscar, and the sound editors,
Stephen Hunter Flick and John Pospisil, won a special achievement Oscar for their clever
construction of the various effects, including RoboCop's distinctive step, the whirring and
chattering of his internal dynamics and the clanking mechanics of ED-209's tank-like
movements. The surrounds are used sparingly but to great effect, and the score by Basil
Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian) is so distinctive
that it doesn't sound quite like anything else.
MGM's 2007 Blu-ray of RoboCop had only a trailer. This new
version ports over nearly all of
the special features included on MGM's 2004 special edition DVD (minus one trailer and a
photo gallery), plus those added for the 2007 two-disc "20th Anniversary Collector's Edition".
Entirely new is a 2012 Q&A, which is listed first and marked with an asterisk.
Also, since I routinely criticize Fox when they format MGM's titles without a main menu or
bookmarking, I should note that the remastered RoboCop has both.
*Q&A with the Filmmakers (2012) (1080p; 1.78:1; 42:36): Taped at UCLA's James
Bridges Theater on May 31, 2012, and moderated by Robert Rosen, this panel discussion
includes Verhoeven, Weller, Allen, producer Jon Davison, screenwriters Neumaier and
Miner and effects guru Phil Tippett. Memories have shifted somewhat in the intervening
years, but the stories are interesting, and about half of the program is devoted to audience
questions. (Although the video format reads as 1080p, the source appears to be of lower
Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop (480i; 1.33:1; 36:55): With a 2001 copyright
date, this is a comprehensive and remarkably frank overview of the difficult and
frequently overextended production of RoboCop, with special emphasis on the tense
relationship between Verhoeven and prosthetics designer Rob Bottin. The principal
participants are Verhoeven, Miner, Neumaier, Davison and Paul Sammon, who is best
known for his research and writing on Blade Runner but
was formerly a marketing
executive for Orion Pictures, the studio that made RoboCop.
1987 Featurette: Shooting RoboCop (480i; 1.33:1; 7:59): Narrated by producer Jon
Davison, but also featuring interviews with Ferrer, Tippett, Verhoeven and Smith, as well
as some entertaining on-set footage.
1987 Featurette: Making RoboCop (480i; 1.33:1; 8:01): A companion piece to the
previous featurette, this one focuses on Weller, with contributions by Allen, Verhoeven
again, and various effects and weapons technicians.
The Boardroom: Storyboard with Commentary with Animator Phil Tippett (480i;
1.85:1; 6:02): As ED-209's rampage plays in slow motion with storyboard drawings inset,
Tippett describes the various techniques used to create the sequence.
Deleted Scenes (480i; 1.33:1; 2:51): A "play all" function is included.
OCP Press Conference
Nun in the Street Interview
Final Media Break
Villains of Old Detroit (480i; 1.78:1, enhanced; 16:59): "God bless that robot movie!"
says Miguel Ferrer at the close of this retrospective documentary featuring the actors who
played RoboCop's three main villains (misspelled in the opening credit as "Villians"), as
well as Ray Wise, who played a member of Boddicker's gang and can't resist slipping in
a reference to his famous role in Twin Peaks as Laura Palmer's dad. In addition to many
interesting stories from the set, actors Ferrer and Kurtwood Smith do great Verhoeven
Special Effects: Then and Now (480i; 1.78:1, enhanced; 18:22): A discussion of the
film's effects with Paul Sammon, William Sandell, matte painter Rocco Gioffre, ED-209
designer Craig Hayes and ED-209 animator Phil Tippett.
RoboCop: Creating a Legend (480i; 1.78:1, enhanced; 21:09): The focus of this
documentary is on the creation of the RoboCop character, with substantial detail about
the construction of the suit, choice of weaponry and development of Weller's
performance. The participants include Weller, Neumaier, Miner, Verhoeven, Davison,
Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer and Ray Wise.
Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg (480i; 1.78:1, enhanced; 0:38): This brief insert explains
Verhoeven's accidental cameo in the film. It is also noted in the commentary.
Commentary with Director Paul Verhoeven, Writer Ed Neumeier and Producer Jon
Davison: This is a lively, almost jovial commentary, as the three former collaborators
exchange notes on who contributed what ideas, plot elements and lines of dialogue.
Despite the frayed tempers and intense atmosphere described in the "Flesh and Steel"
documentary, everyone seems perfectly happy to give credit to other members of the
team. Much of the information related in the commentary is also covered elsewhere in the
extras, but it gets a different spin when it's connected to action occurring on screen.
(Note: The commentators mention several times that they are watching the R-rated
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1.78:1; 1:38): This is one of the two trailers included on the
2004 MGM DVD. This one uses Brad Fiedel's Terminator score.
TV Spot (480i; 1.33:1; 0:31).
MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer: This plays at startup and is not otherwise available
once the disc loads.
Peter Weller has played a wide range of characters in his varied career, ranging from the
hallucinating writer/exterminator in Naked Lunch to
outright villains in 24 and Dexter to
ambiguous figures such as Admiral Marcus in the recent Star
Trek: Into Darkness. But RoboCop
remains his signature role, and Paul Verhoeven concludes the 2012 Q&A session by paying
tribute to Weller for his contribution to the film's success. In an amazingly small amount of
screen time, Weller brought Alex Murphy to life. Then he brought Rob Bottin's elaborate
RoboCop suit to life, with only the lower part of his face and a distinctive way of moving that he
worked for months to perfect (and then had to relearn all over again, when the suit finally
arrived). It's a credit to Weller's performance that the beating heart of Verhoeven's film remains
this hulking metallic figure who doesn't, in fact, have a heart, just valves and hydraulics. With
Weller in the suit, you know Murphy is still there, even before he does. As far as the new
presentation is concerned, it's everything a true fan could want. Highly recommended.
For the week of January 21st, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment streets Captain Phillips on Blu-ray. Other titles include Blue Jasmine, Warner's The Postman Always Rings Twice, MGM's new RoboCop Blu-ray, Magnolia's Bad Milo release, and Criterion's loaded It's a ...