I've seen the original Robocop more times than I can count, and for good reason: it's a top-tier action film with terrific performances, memorable one-liners, effective drama, and not-so-subtle satire that has aged perfectly during that last three decades. The 1990 follow-up Robocop 2 hasn't gotten nearly as much playback through the years...but it's still enjoyable in the right mood, and a worthy film on its own merits. Before watching Shout Factory's new Collector's Edition of Robocop 3 (1993), I'd only seen the film once before: as part of MGM's Robocop Trilogy DVD set back in 2004, which I bought for the first two discs. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with the third.
Neither were a lot of folks back in 1993: Robocop 3 earned back less than half of its modest $22M budget, even though it was designed with a much broader audience in mind. Director Fred Dekker---whose previous credits included Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad---was told the film would be rated PG-13 with a more kid-friendly tone, and returning writer Frank Miller contributed a script partially made of unused elements from Robocop 2 which Dekker rewrote. Though it was ready for release in 1991, the slow downfall and eventual bankruptcy of Orion Pictures that December kept Robocop 3 on the shelf for more than two years. After its release, Frank Miller would leave Hollywood until Sin City in 2005, Robocop didn't reappear on the big screen until 2014, and Dekker would never direct another film again. Simply put, it was a disappointment for just about everyone involved...including those who bought a ticket.
So, is Robocop 3 still as bad as you remember? Pretty much. Within the framework of its own franchise, it feels like a compromised cash-in whose best moments are those similar to the earlier films. It also doesn't help that star Peter Weller---busy on David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch at the time---didn't return for this third installment, though Robert Burke (Limitless) does an admirable job in the uncomfortable silver suit. Returning faces like Nancy Allen (Anne Lewis), Felton Perry (OCP executive Donald "It tastes like baby food" Johnson), and Robert DoQui (Sgt. Reed) ease the pain a little, with good showings from newcomers like CCH Pounder and Stephen Root (Bertha and Coontz, two of many resistance members fighting another OCP takeover). Jeff Garlin even appears as a donut shot employee. But the bad---or more specifically, mediocre---far outweighs the good, from the adorable kid hacker (Remy Ryan) to a bland group of baddies only highlighted by cyborg ninja Otomo (Bruce Locke), because Frank Miller helped.
Overall, Robocop 3 has a few great moments and, to its credit, at least looks quite good for an effects-heavy film on a $22M budget. But when you could say the same thing about so many blockbusters during the last several decades---visuals first, story second---it certainly doesn't help the case of any film, especially one that was probably made just to sell action figures. Luckily, Shout Factory's new Collector's Edition Blu-ray piles on a number of new and mostly candid bonus features, which are all more entertaining than the main feature by a landslide. So, history repeats itself: much like MGM's Trilogy set, Robocop 3 is once again the least enjoyable part of a home video release.
Video & Audio Quality
For all but the most trained eyes, Shout Factory's new Collector's Edition of Robocop 3 looks identical to MGM's 2011 Blu-ray: it's encoded differently, with a higher bitrate and slightly different grain structure, but I probably couldn't tell them apart by themselves. Not that there's anything wrong with that: this 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer uses the same clean source material, showcasing noticeable textures and fine image detail. Black levels and contrast are also quite good, with nicely saturated colors and a great look that often outshines most action films from the early 1990s. I couldn't spot any flagrant digital issues (excessive DNR, compression artifacts, banding, etc.) and overall was quite happy with the image. Not saying there isn't any room for improvement (the third-act jetpack scene looks worse than ever in 1080p, although that probably can't be helped), but let's face it: very few people would invest a great deal of money into a brand new Robocop 3 remaster, so let's be happy with what we get.
DISCLAIMER: The still images and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.
Likewise, the default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds great too (also available in lossless 2.0 -- not sure if this is a down-mix or true stereo), with crisp dialogue and nice use of rear channels and panning effects during many of the action sequences. LFE is present on occasion but not overpowering, giving explosives and gunfire a modest amount of punch. Basil Poledouris' recycled score sounds as good as expected, too. No distortion, clipping, or other such defects were heard along the way. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are included during the main feature only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The interface features smooth, simple navigation and the bare minimum of pre-menu distractions. Separate options are provided for chapter selection, subtitle/commentary setup, and additional bonus features. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase with attractive reversible cover designs featuring new and vintage artwork promoting the film, plus a matching slipcover to boot. Not surprisingly, this is a great-looking package.
A figurative boat-load of brand-new extras has been created for Shout Factory's Blu-ray. First up is a pair of exclusive Audio Commentaries; one features director Fred Dekker (moderated by Michael Welsh of Red Shirt Pictures), while the second groups together Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths, and Eastwood Allen, makers of the Kickstarter-funded Robodoc retrospective documentary. Both tracks are interesting for entirely different reasons and Dekker, to his credit, is extremely candid about what exactly what wrong from start to finish. Collectively, the topics of discussion include early development, (re)writing the script, getting the cast and crew together, drastic changes from the first two films, Japanese elements, interacting with Frank Miller, building a James Bond set, unexpected disappointments and happy accidents, a John Carpenter connection, the collapse of Orion Studios, release delays, social commentary, the graphic novel, returning and new characters, entering kids' territory, and much more.
A handful of new featurettes is here as well, with the first two taking a broader look at the film's production. "Delta City Shuffle: The Making of Robocop 3" (38 minutes) features director Fred Dekker, actors Nancy Allen, Bruce Locke, producer Patrick Crowley, cinematographer Gary Kibbe, and production designer Hilda Stark; it covers a lot of the expected bases, with plenty of candid retrospective comments (some of which are repeated almost verbatim from Dekker's commentary) and a handful of interesting personal stories. "Robo-Vision: The FX of Robocop 3" (12 minutes) features Peter Kuran, Phil Tippett, Craig Hayes, Kevin Kutchaver and Paul Gentry as they shed light on the film's special effects and certain elements that were either reused or updated from the first two chapters.
Three remaining featurettes, also newly created for this Blu-ray, narrow the focus and are limited to one or two participants. "The Corporate Ladder" (11 minutes) is an interview with actor Felton Perry, who portrays OCP executive Donald Johnson in all three Robocop films. He's very appreciate of his time spent on the franchise and his earlier life in the military, as well as the changes to his character in each installment. "Training Otomo" (8 minutes) is an interview with actor Bruce Locke and martial arts trainer Bill Ryusaki; Locke gets more of the screen time here, as he recounts his early involvement with the production and his lack of previous martial arts experience. Finally, "War Machine" (9 minutes) is an interview with RoboCop gun fabricator James Belohovek, who obviously loves his work and is a joy to listen to as he details some of the little gadgets and other tricks involved in prop-making.
Finally, we get the film's original Theatrical Trailer and a Still Gallery of photos; both are carried over from older home video releases and round out the package nicely. This is an absolutely terrific slate of bonus features overall and, without a doubt, more than even the most apologetic Robocop 3 fan could've ever hoped for.
Easily the worst installment of a franchise with only one great entry, Robocop 3 is rightly reviled as a watered-down version of the first two films designed to draw in younger viewers. Taken on its own terms, I've certainly seen worse cash-in attempts---and to be fair, it has a few fun moments and looks great for its $22M budget---but overall, the film's noxious reputation hasn't improved much with age. But hold on: Shout Factory has seen fit to bless Robocop 3 with a fantastic assortment of brand-new bonus features anyway, including two candid feature-legnth audio commentaries and almost 90 minutes' worth of featurettes, plus what looks like a near-identical A/V presentation to MGM's out-of-print 2001 Blu-ray. Recommended to die-hard fans only---everyone else should just rent it for the extras.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.