When Blu-ray discs were fairly young, Sony announced it was going to
release Robocop on its new format. Though expectations were
high, when reviewers saw the disc they all slammed it for having poor colors
and other obtrusive defects. The disc was pulled from Sony's line-up
and never released. (This was mainly because MGM switched distributors,
but hopefully the poor reviews had some impact on the decision.)
Now, a year later, MGM and Fox have released the unrated 103-minute version
of this Paul Verhoeven classic on Blu-ray and it doesn't look bad.
Fans of this SF feature that pokes some not-so-gentle fun at American consumerism
and corporations should be pleased.
Murphy (Peter Weller) is a cop who has just been transferred to the roughest
area of Old Detroit, a place where police fatalities are common place and
there's little respect for the law. On the first day of his new assignment,
Murphy and his partner Lewis (Nancy Allen) cross paths with a group of
bank robbers. They get the drop on him and after briefly but brutally
torturing him, shot him in the head. He's pronounced dead at the
hospital and that seems to be that.
Except that Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has a new plan on the drawing
board and they need someone just like Murphy. They take his dead
body and replace it with a cybernetic one. Wiping his mind, they
overwrite it with computer programs that make this new creature the perfect
police officer. When he starts remembering bits of his past however,
he decides to go after the gang that killed him, and the corporate executive
that is protecting them.
simple sounding story that would have turned into a typical Sci-Fi channel
movie (i.e. a piece of crap) in lesser hands but under Paul Verhoeven's
watchful eye it becomes a minor masterpiece. Verhoeven seems almost
as interested in commenting on America as he does at telling Murphy's story.
The scary thing is that the greed, rampant consumerism, and governmental
inefficiency that are portrayed in the film are even more appropriate today
than they were in 1987 when Regan was president. I remember at the
time thinking that the government would never sub-contract out police protection,
but that's what the State Department is doing today in Iraq. The
news-as-entertainment has also come to pass, and the E6000 car that uses
it's 8.5 MPG as a selling point applies to mini-vans as well as Hummers.
Who can't watch the inane sitcom that plays at various times through the
film and see today's programming where a catch phrase is more important
than a plot? "I'd buy that for a dollar!"
The main plot not only serves as a canvas for Verhoeven to paint his
message, but it's also an action filled story that's filled with blood
and some exciting fight scenes. Even if you miss the not-so-subtle
messages, the movie is a lot of fun. The only problem I had is swallowing
the rather ludicrous premise. I mean come on, who in the world is
going to believe that Buckaroo Banzai is going to let a group of thugs
get the drop on him? Just not gonna happen.
The Blu-ray Disc:
This disc was scheduled for release last year and pulled at the last
moment after a few screener discs had been mailed out. Josh Zyber
reviewed that version for DVDTalk (read his review here)
and wasn't impressed with the video. Though I haven't seen that earlier
disc, judging from his comments and other reviews on the web, this new
release is a great improvement. The 1.85:1 image is encoded with
MPEG-2 compression with a rate of 21 MBPS and looks pretty good though
not spectacular. The disc is wildly inconsistent. Some shots
look great, but the next scene may look rather mediocre. At its best
the level of detail is very good and the colors look fine. Many scenes
look a bit soft however, and grain is a problem in the dark scenes, of
which there are many. More than a few parts look flat and drab too.
There is some edge enhancement on the image, but it's not as obtrusive
as some it is on some discs. I have no doubts that this disc looks
better than the recent 2 disc SD release though. This image does
have some problems but none of them ruin the disc. Over all this
is an average looking BD.
The disc comes with a lossless DTS HD 5.1 track as well as the original
DD 4.0 audio. There also DD 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French and subtitles
in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean. I viewed the film
with the DTS track extracted from the DTS HD track since I can't process
that format (yet) and it sounded pretty good for a 20 year old film.
(I also spot-checked the 4.0 track and did not notice any defects or problems
worth noting.) The film doesn't compare to recent releases, but it
does a good job none the less. The rears are used quite a bit, even
in more sedate scenes ambient sounds are thrown to the back. The
noises aren't as discrete as they could be, and occasionally the audio
sounds a bit processed instead of natural, but the track does envelop the
listener. More noticeable was a lack of power on the low end.
The bass response just wasn't that strong. This was very evident
at the end when the military hardware was going off and buildings were
exploding. These just weren't as dynamic as they should have been.
Even so, the film didn't sound bad.
Sigh. Why, oh why can't studios port over all the extras from
the SD releases? MGM recently released a 2-disc special edition of
this movie on SD-DVD and virtually none of the bonus material is presented
here. The only thing people who opt for this BD get is a theatrical
This is a film that can be enjoyed on more than one level. On
the surface it's a fun, though bloody, action flick. Right underneath
that is a humorous look at where American could be heading. Either
way you look at it, the movie works. This Blu-ray disc looks pretty
good too, and while it isn't reference quality it is better than the aborted
Sony release. Well worth checking out, recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.