Robocop appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image looked better than expected.
Sharpness usually seemed very strong. A few wider shots demonstrated a smidgen of softness, but the majority of the film boasted solid delineation and accuracy.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering showed up, and edge haloes remained absent. Actually, jaggies did show up in the “RoboVision” shots, but that was intentional. With a natural layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any digital noise reduction, and print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.
In terms of colors, Robocop leaned a bit blue, though not to an oppressive degree. While the colors never dazzled, they replicated the hues as intended. After all, no one would expect vivid colors from this kind of gritty story, and the Blu-ray made the tones look as they should.
Blacks felt dark and deep, while shadows brought nice clarity. I felt pleased with this appealing presentation.
Note that during two scenes, we get footage not used in the theatrical version. These unrated snippets of graphic violence looked notably worse than the rest of the movie. However, they passed quickly enough that they failed to become a distraction.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundrack, it held up pretty well over the years. For the most part, we got a soundscape that felt livelier than average for its era.
In general, the mix opened up the spectrum fairly well and gave us a good amount of localized information. The rear speakers played a pretty active role during the action scenes, and they even offered occasional examples of split-surround material.
As expected for a track from 1987, the quality of the audio appeared inconsistent. Speech came across as a little flat at times, but the lines lacked edginess and remained easily intelligible. Music was a little subdued and occasionally got lost in the mix, but the score demonstrated generally good breadth and range.
Effects varied. Sometimes they were acceptably robust and dynamic, as some scenes offered lively elements with good pop.
Other times the effects felt less impressive, and a few action sequences lost punch due to weak execution. Overall, the audio of Robocop was too erratic to earn more than a “B”, but it was still a good mix for its age.
How did the 2014 Blu-ray compare with the prior version? Audio seemed a bit more involving and more distinctive, while visuals offered obvious improvements.
This meant the 2014 BD provided superior sharpness and colors, and it also gave us a cleaner image. The old disc seemed pretty mediocre, so the 2014 version turned into a strong upgrade.
The 2014 BD repeats the prior disc’s extras, and we start with an audio commentary from director Paul Verhoeven, producer Jon Davison, and writer Ed Neumeier. All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Though not as strong as the commentary on the old Criterion DVD, we nonetheless get a pretty solid chat.
Caveat: I listened to the Criterion commentary right before I screened this one. As such, I found it tough not to compare the two, especially since they covered so many of the same topics.
When I looked at redundant material, I heard about the travails finding both a director and a lead actor, various metaphors, themes and allusions, locations, the origins of the story and Vietnam references, information about the effects and the Robosuit, the original ending, and plenty of other issues.
Some new issues do pop up in the MGM commentary. These include an alternate, unshot opening, other casting possibilities, scheduling problems, MPAA concerns, and a few anecdotes. The trio talk most of the time and may this discussion brisk - maybe a little too brisk at times, since Neumeier comes across as pretty hyper. He began to get on my nerves after a while.
Nonetheless, the program seems informative and engaging. I prefer the old Criterion piece, but this commentary works well too.
Next we find three featurettes. We get “Flesh and Steel” (36 minutes, 55 seconds), “Shooting Robocop” (7:59), and “Making Robocop” (8:01).
For “Flesh”, we find comments from Verhoeven, Neumeier, Davison, Robocop expert Paul Sammon, director of photography Jost Vacano, screenwriter Michael Miner, production designer William Sandell, visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett, ED-209 creator Craig Hayes, and composer Basil Poledouris.
“Flesh” looks at movie robots through the ages and influences on Robocop, origins of the film and its path to the screen, Verhoeven’s approach to the subject, casting, the development of the Robocop suit and its look, locations, problems with the suit, tensions on the set and problems during the shoot, the design of ED-209, various visual effects, the film’s satirical bent and its characters, story themes and allusions, the score, the film’s use of violence, and the ways society has come to echo the movie’s predictions.
“Shooting” offers a circa 1987 program, and it starts with in-character bits from Miguel Ferrer and Peter Weller. We then get the regular mix of components and hear from Verhoeven, Weller, Ferrer, Davison, Neumeier, Tippett, actor Kurtwood Smith, special effects coordinator Dale Martin, They get into basic topics but mostly just explain the movie and some general elements like shooting the bloodier scenes and the effects.
Another period piece, “Making” works the same as the prior two. We find notes from Verhoeven, Weller, Davison, Neumeier, Martin, stunt coordinator Gary Combs, and actor Nancy Allen. They chat about the story, working with each other, visual elements and the film’s approach to the material.
Oddly, Weller gets Murphy’s first name wrong, as he calls him “John”. Perhaps they changed his name as the shoot progressed.
Without question, “Flesh” presents the strongest of the three programs. Unfortunately, a lot of the material seems redundant after the audio commentary.
You’ll hear a lot of the same subjects covered in “Flesh”, though the show broadens some of the pieces. The absence of any actors seems like a weakness, though. In any case, “Flesh” offers a pretty solid general examination of the flick.
As for the other two, they work mostly due to the footage from the set. Neither includes much in the way of new information, as they mainly go over elements already covered in the commentary or “Flesh”. However, the behind the scenes bits add usefulness to the programs and make them worth a look.
After this we locate a Storyboard section that comes with commentary from animator Phil Tippett. It runs for six minutes, two seconds as we look at comparisons between the drawings and the execution of the ED-209 sequences.
Don’t expect to get a very good look at the drawings, though; they occupy a small corner at the bottom of the screen. Tippett’s commentary proves quite useful, though, as he goes through how they approached ED-209 and made the creature work.
Four deleted scenes appear after this. We find “OCP Press Conference” (1:17), “Nun In the Street Interview” (0:), “Topless Pizza” (0:27), and “Final Media Break” (0:51).
As one can probably glean from the shortness of the clips, nothing revelatory shows up here, but it’s interesting to see some cut footage. The “Final Media Break” is the most interesting, as it shows the shots of Lewis in the hospital we hear about in the commentary. “Topless Pizza” also offers a fun promo for the lame It’s Not My Problem sitcom.
Within the Photo Gallery, we get six subdomains. These include “Design” (13 stills), “Special Effects” (16), “Director Paul Verhoeven” (23), “Behind the Scenes” (20), “Cast” (11), and “ED 209” (18). It’s a nice collection of pictures.
Villains of Old Detroit goes for 16 minutes, 59 seconds and presents remarks from Smith, Ferrer, Verhoeven, Neumeier, Miner, and actors Ronny Cox and Ray Wise. They discuss the movie’s weapons and scenes of destruction, working with Verhoeven, relationships on the set, characters and performances, the film’s impact on their careers, and general memories of the shoot.
At no point does “Villains” become a tight piece of work, but you won’t care. The featurette offers so many fun stories and valuable insights that it easily overcomes any potential negatives. The “bitches” story is worth the price of admission alone.
Special Effects: Then and Now lasts 18 minutes, 22 seconds and features Sammon, Sandell, Hayes, Verhoeven, Tippett, and matte painter Rocco Gioffre. We learn about the film’s matte paintings, stop-motion animation, ED-209 design and execution, a few other effects elements and how the industry has changed over the decades since Robocop.
We hear a little of this info elsewhere, but “Effects” digs into the topics with much greater depth. We get a particularly great view of ED-209. “Effects” isn’t as much fun as “Villains”, but it’s informative.
Finally, Robocop: Creating a Legend runs 21 minutes, nine seconds and includes comments from Davison, Weller, Neumeier, Verhoeven, Miner, Smith, Sammon, Ferrer, and Wise. “Legend” looks at Weller’s lead performance, the design and creation of the Robocop suit, and makeup, prosthetics, and weapons.
“Legend” is another terrific program, partially because we finally find a piece with modern cooperation from Weller. It’s good to hear him discuss the flick after so many years, and he helps us understand various performance decisions.
Even without him, though, we’d still learn a lot about the flick’s lead character and all the various challenges involved. It’s an entertaining program that offers lots of information as well.
In addition to the film’s trailer and a TV spot, we locate a 38-second Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg. This addresses the brief glimpse of the director we see in the final cut.
New to the 2014 Blu-ray, a 2012 Q&A runs 42 minutes, 36 seconds and involves Verhoeven, Weller, Miner, Neumeier, Allen, and Tippett. They touch on a mix of movie-related subjects, ,many of which we hear about elsewhere.
Still, it’s fun to see so much of the film’s main personnel together, and we get a decent number of new insights. These make the panel enjoyable.
Audiences found a very pleasant surprise with Robocop in 1987, and the movie remains a winner. It combines cynical comedy with violent action and emotional depth to present a solid piece of work. The Blu-ray provides very good picture along with better than average audio and a nice roster of bonus materials. Robocop continues to delight.
To rate this film, visit the original review of ROBOCOP