The first Robocop is unquestionably the best. Set in the not too distant future, the city of Detroit has been overrun by crime. The only people seemingly roaming the streets anymore are the criminals - Stores see more robberies than sales, cars are guaranteed to be stripped overnight, and women are no longer safe to walk the streets. The cops do their best to serve and protect, but gearing up every day like they're heading into a warzone isn't what they bargained for. There's simply no respect for the city's law enforcement, and that becomes shockingly clear to us when Clarence Boddicker and his gang of misfits rip officer Alex Murphy to shreds. Reviving Murphy is impossible, so OCP, a major corporate entity, decides to use what's left of him to create a police officer that can't be pushed around. And so, the spare parts are put into a robotic body, and the cyborg cop of the future - a Robocop - was born. He effectively cleans up the streets in no time, which makes OCP happy as they're planning to reconstruct the city, but Boddicker isn't willing to run out of Detroit like some petty thug. He arms his gang to the teeth with high-powered weapons, and enlists the help of rogue killing machine ED-209, in the hopes that Robocop will be destroyed and crime can run rampant again.
Robocop stands out for me because it isn't your typical action flick from Hollywood. The tone throughout was dark and gritty, the humor only comes in the form of perfectly executed dry wit and social satire, and the film's tone is only further enhanced by the fact that it's one of the most violent action films ever made. Sure, some other flicks might sport a higher body count (although Robocop delivers at least a few dozen), but the bloodshed and gore is so realistic, it's hard not to wince when you see a bad guy get his comeuppance. But it's not just the violence and excellent story that helps Robocop stand out amongst most other action flicks... it's the fact that it's able to maintain the feel of a B-movie throughout its entirety. I mean, when I hear about a movie that features a cyborg, a killing machine on two legs (ED-209), as well as gunfire and explosions galore, I think of a big budget blockbuster like Terminator 2. But Robocop? Even though the concept might be out there in terms of realism, the film's dark atmosphere and intense violence keep it from being the 'shiny' and 'glossy' product you'd typically expect from tinsel town. Robocop was a hit, so it was no surprise when word about a sequel started to spread.
In Robocop 2, crime has overtaken the streets once again, except this time the criminals of Detroit have discovered a more profitable business venture - Selling a new street narcotic known as 'Nuke'. The cops are unable to keep up with the increase of criminal activity as a result however, even with Robocop at their disposal. This, again, is bad news for OCP, as they're still waiting to turn Detroit into what would be known as Delta City. So, since the first Robocop isn't cutting it anymore, they figure it's time to make a new machine that's bigger and better in every perceivable way. New cop 'candidates' are chosen upon their death beds to be transformed into the next answer for law enforcement, but every new cyborg OCP has made is a dud... and the list of decent, honest cops for the project has been exhausted. So next, they use the mind of a hardened criminal, of course! It seems like a sensible idea at first... after all, such a mind would be more efficient at tracking down fly-by-night drug dens, but the new machine, Robocop 2, predictably causes a very large problem for the city of Detroit, and it's up to the original 'obsolete' model to save the day.
Now, I don't care what anybody says - Robocop 2 is a solid sequel. The story is still entertaining, the humor is still semi-serious and dark, the violence is still crushingly brutal, and we get to see Robocop take on yet another big piece of armored machinery in hand-to-hand combat. What more could you possibly want? I guess the only response I have for that, is to "end the franchise on a high note." But once again, Hollywood deemed it necessary to spin the wheel a third time...
By now, the story for Robocop 3 feels all too familiar, as OCP is still trying to chase people out of Detroit so they can finally begin construction on their Delta City project. It's the citizens of the city that OCP is trying to chase away this time however, as they're understandably unwilling to leave the homes they've made so many memories in. So, a gang of criminals are hired to scare them off, and the police (operated by OCP) are forced to comply with their new initiative - to do whatever they have to in order to get the 'rebels' off the streets - an initiative that OCP's most expensive piece of property, Robocop, is also programmed to follow. There's still a little Alex Murphy left inside the cyborg cop however, and Robo's human side is struggling with his new orders. He knows it's violating the very reason he got into law enforcement to begin with... to serve and protect.
This film is a failure of epic proportions. It's the next logical step for the trilogy's storyline as a whole, but the heavy hitting, violent B-movie vibe that dominated the first two films has been discarded so the final entry could earn a PG-13 rating. Why mess with a franchise that earned its name as having a hard R all the way, by making a kids film? Well, let's see - Crime fighting cyborg? Check. Action figure sales opportunities by giving Robocop weapons that attach to his hands? Check. Jetpack? Check. Yep, it was definitely all about the money. Despite the first two films being wildly inappropriate for children, the studio seemingly wanted to ensure that all the kids that fell in love with Robocop anyway, would drag their parents out of the house to see a PG-13 rated film... and eventually buy the action figures, of course. And boy that plan blew up in their face, as Robocop 3 was a big Robo-flop.
But, enough of the film recaps. Most of you out there have probably already seen the first two films, if not all three of them, and all you want to know is if this particular set is worth the coin. The MSRP isn't exactly high, so as far as I can tell, pricing isn't really an issue. Also, for those of you that already spent at least $10 for the first film as it is, you might be less inclined to give any money to a studio that's trying to pry more money out of your pocket by forcing you to buy three films if you only wanted one of the others. I'd say that if you don't already own the trilogy on DVD, this really is worth the money. If you do, you're probably waiting to hear how the video and audio quality fares, as well as what kind of supplemental material are included. So, without further adieu...
If you've already seen the first Robocop on Blu-ray, you already know what to expect. Still presented in the same ole' 1.85:1 MPEG-2 encode as the stand-alone release, Robocop is definitely a step up from the DVD, but it's not what I'd call a drastic improvement. Many scenes have an impressive amount of detail, and sport fantastic looking contrast and color. There are many scenes however that look soft, in a way that many might consider saying it 'looks like an upconverted DVD' at times. Grain looks very digital in many of the dark scenes throughout the film, colors can look a little washed out at times, blacks can come off a little murky, and there's some edge enhancement that's present as well. But again, if you've seen this release before, none of this should be a surprise. Robocop 2 and 3 have much better AVC encodes that are a noticeable improvement over the first film, and although they're not perfect, I highly doubt these films could ever look better. Black levels are better than the first film, colors are more appropriately saturated, and sharpness inconsistencies are improved upon (although the second film still features some softness here and there). All in all, Robocop 2 and 3 are seemingly accurate representations of the source for the most part, and I'd definitely recommend this trilogy as a whole to those that are looking for a better Robo experience in their home theater.
Each film is presented with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and much like the video presentation, the quality only gets better the further we get into the trilogy. The first Robocop sounds better than it ever did on DVD, as the score comes through loud and robust as was intended. Unfortunately, dialogue can be a little uneven at times, but it's not that much of an offender. Sound effects are presented fairly well across the soundstage, but I wouldn't say that there's anything that can be classified as having pinpoint precision. However, this is probably more of a fault of the sound design itself. Considering the fact that the first Robocop was made in the 80's and was originally designed with only a 4.0 track, this is as good as we can ever expect the film to sound. The second and third films each open up the precision of the soundstage a little more (the third being the most impressive of all), dialogue is consistently clearer than it was in the first film, and the LFE provides some nice 'oomph'. All in all, this is the best the entire trilogy has ever sounded.
If you're a fan of supplemental material, this might be the deal breaker - The only thing we have across this three disc set is a whopping total of 4 trailers. Pfft.
Considering this set can be had for a reasonable price, I think it's worth picking up, even if you've already purchased the stand-alone release of Robocop. If you're upgrading from your old DVD set to enjoy better audio and video, this is still worth picking up, despite the fact that none of these transfers can be labeled as reference quality. That being said, they're not too shabby, especially in the cases of Robocop 2 and 3. The lack of extras is sorely disappointing however, as the DVD of the first Robocop featured a commentary, a making-of documentary, and more. Giving us some worthwhile extras for the second and third films for the first time would have made this a must have set for every Robocop fan out there, but the studio just didn't seem to care enough to go all out for one of the most beloved metal icons of all time. Despite the first and second films being worthy of a highly recommended rating, the trilogy as a whole is what's contained on this set, and taking the third film and lack of extras into consideration, I can only see fit to give this set a recommended rating.