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 three 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 soundtrack, 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 2019 Blu-ray compare with the 2014 version? Both seemed to be largely identical. When I compared the two, I thought the 2019 seemed marginally more stable, but both appeared to come from the same transfer, so expect them to be virtually the same.
The 2019 BD repeats the prior disc’s extras and adds new ones. We find three audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Paul Verhoeven, producer Jon Davison, and writer Ed Neumeier.
All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss 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, an alternate, unshot opening, other casting possibilities, scheduling problems, MPAA concerns, and a few anecdotes.
The participants 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. Overall, this commentary works well.
New to the 2019 set, we get a commentary from film historian Paul Sammon. During his running, screen-specific chat, he covers the movie’s themes/interpretation as well as a mix of produciton notes.
Probably best-known as the author of a great history of Blade Runner, Sammon proves that he knows his Robocop too – as well he should, since he worked as on-set documentarian for the film. Sammon packs a ton of insights into this strong discussion of Robocop.
Also new to the 2019 package, we get a track with fans Christopher Griffiths, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific take on various production facts and trivia bits as well as appreciation.
I tend to semi-dread fan commentaries because so many just devolve into general happy talk and praise. While some of that occurs here, the participants keep these elements reasonably minimal. We find some fun details about the film in this mostly enjoyable chat.
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” (0:15), “Topless Pizza” (0:26), 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.
Villains of Old Detroit goes for 17 minutes 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, 21 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.
Robocop: Creating a Legend runs 21 minutes, 10 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 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 two trailers and three TV spots, we locate a 39-second Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg. This addresses the brief glimpse of the director we see in the final cut.
A 2012 Q&A runs 42 minutes, 37 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.
From here we hit materials new to the 2019 release. With The Future of Law Enforcement, we find a 16-minute, 51-second interview with co-writer Steve Miner.
In this chat, Miner looks at his work on Robocop and all its permutations. Some of this repeats from all the other bonus features, but Miner’s examination of the various screenplay drafts makes it interesting.
Via RoboTalk, we get a 32-minute, eight--second chat among Ed Neumeier and filmmakers David Birke and Nicholas McCarthy. They mainly discuss Neumeier’s career and work on Robocop.
Inevitably, Neumeier relates some of the material offered elsewhere, but Birke and McCarthy manages to provoke some new information. This becomes a decent reel despite the redundant moments.
Actor Nancy Allen becomes the focus of an interview under Truth of Character. This piece lasts 18 minutes, 26 seconds and brings Allen’s thoughts about how she got her role and aspects of the shoot. Allen provides a peppy, engaging presence who gives us good insights.
We hear from casting director Julie Selzer during the eight-minute, 20-second Casting Old Detroit. As expected, she covers how she recruited the movie’s actors in this enjoyable chat.
2nd unit director Mark Goldblatt appears via Connecting the Shots, an 11-minute, six-second chat. Goldblatt gets into his collaboration with Verhoeven and his work on Robocop. We find a fairly informative program here.
Up next, visual effects artists Peter Kuran and Kevin Kutchaver appear in Analog. This 13-minute, 10-second piece tells us about how they got into their fields as well as what they did for Robocop. They bring some good notes – and the glimpses of their childhood stabs at effects add a fun factor.
We learn about the film’s score in More Man Than Machine. This 12-minute, four-second piece offers comments from film music experts Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall, Daniel Schweiger and Robert Townson.
The participants bring a tribute to Robocop composer Basil Poledouris, as they interpret his work. They step in for the late Poledouris well and offer useful views of the score.
After this we get RoboProps, a tour of “super-fan” Julien Dumont’s collection. In this 12-minute, 50-second show, Dumont shows us his extensive collection of Robo props and goodies. We find a fun peek at all these items.
With Director’s Cut Production Footage, we find an 11-minute, 34-second compilation that shows the filming of scenes that appeared in their full gory glory during the unrated version of the movie. As we watch the shots, we hear an off-camera Verhoeven direct the actors some of the film; parts come with no audio at all.
I like this kind of behind the scenes material, so this offers a good collection. I wish we heard more of Verhoeven, though.
Within the Image Galleries, we get six subdomains. These include “Production Stills” (108 elements), “Behind the Scenes” (83) and “Poster & Video Art” (55). It’s a nice collection of pictures.
On Disc Two, we get the film’s theatrical version. Whereas the unrated cut on Disc One fills 1:43:18, the 1987 edition spans 1:42:47.
As alluded earlier, the extra footage in the unrated cut comes from three scenes: when ED-209 blasts a hapless OCP exec, when Clarence and crew assault Murphy, and when Robocop kills Clarence. These add violence but no story material. I’ll stick with the unrated film since that’s Verhoeven’s preferred cut, but I’, glad this package includes the theatrical edition as well.
Alongside the theatrical version, we get an audio commentary from Verhoeven, Neumeier and Davison. This offers the same track found with the unrated cut.
Indeed, the commentary was recorded to go with the theatrical version, so it got edited/reworked to fit the longer edition of the movie. It doesn’t matter whether you listen to the track alongside the theatrical or unrated cuts, as it’s the same both places.
Also as accompaniment for the theatrical film, we find two isolated scores. Both presented DTS-HD MA stereo, one provides Poledouris’s music “as originally recorded before being mixed and edited for the final film”, while the second gives us the audio as executed with the released movie. Buffs should enjoy these options.
Disc Two also brings a third presentation of Robocop: an edited-for-TV version (1:35:16). Shown with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound, obviously it offers a radically altered take on the film, one that slims down the pervasive profanity and violence.
Given how neutered the TV version is, I can’t imagine anyone would watch it for reasons other than curiosity or possibly nostalgia. It’s interesting for archival purposes and that’s about it.
The TV version does come with some alternate shots/takes, which the package conveniently amasses for us via Edited for Television. In this 18-minute, 35-second compilation, we see alternates used for the TV editions.
Some of these are interesting because of the “alternate” aspect, but most just bring poorly-executed changes. In particular, redubbed lines sound terrible. Still, I’m happy to get a collection of changes so I don't need to sit through the whole movie to see them.
Finally, Disc Two ends with two Split Screen Comparisons. These contrast “Theatrical Vs. Director’s Cut” (4:02) and “Theatrical Vs. TV Cut” (20:16).
Of the two, the “TV Cut” comparisons seem more interesting – and more curious at times. They really censored “scumbag” for TV?
Note that if you watch the “TV Cut” comparisons, you probably don’t need to view the “Edited” package mentioned earlier. It does have a few alternates not found here, but most of the same footage pops up in both.
Despite the hours of bonus features found on this 2019 “Limited Edition” package, it drops a few features from the 2014 disc. It loses a circa 2007 documentary as well as two 1987 reels.
Why does the 2019 version omit these clips? I don’t know, as it comes with everything else from prior versions. Given how much other information we find, these don’t become fatal absences, but it’s too bad this set doesn’t wind up as “one-stop shopping” for all things Robo.
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 stellar roster of bonus materials. Until/unless a 4K UHD version of Robocop hits the shelves, this 2019 Limited Edition stands as the best release on the market.
To rate this film, visit the original review of ROBOCOP