If the 80's was the decade of excess, then no film put a mirror up to society more so than the low budgeted, 1987 sci-fi hit RoboCop.
Crime has taken a hold of the city of Detroit and is slowly choking it. The police can no longer effectively deal with the constant threats and in response, the global conglomerate OCP has taken over the police force, wanting to replace the flesh and blood officers with android replacements. When good cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is gunned down during a routine call, his mortally wounded body is transformed into the half human, half cybernetic warrior RoboCop.
A cast of no namers, directed by a relatively unknown European auteur along with a piddling budget of $13 million managed to create an endearing pop culture icon and a storm of controversy regarding on-screen cinema violence. Whilst the stop motion special effects have aged horribly and the terrible sequels rapidly deteriorated the franchise, there is something still very special about the original. The upcoming 2013 re-make will hopefully return the film to its once cutting edge grandeur.
RoboCop is presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-2 compression.
This is the second transfer of RoboCop on Blu-ray. However the first, released by Sony Pictures, never saw the light of day after being pulled from the US market before release when it was found that Sony no longer held the rights. Despite that, some discs did actually make it to market. In many ways the Sony release is superior, featuring no nasty digital noise reduction, correct framing and better contrast. Still, good luck trying to find it.
The Fox release of RoboCop is passable, but certainly nothing to fawn over. The image is relatively detailed, even if it's a little muddy and the ancient MPEG-2 compression does the transfer no favors.
Whilst the Blu-ray is certainly superior to the DVD version, that low benchmark is certainly not the best measurement. Certainly this is the best the film has been seen in the home environment, it's pretty clear that the film is in dire need of an overhaul. I'm sure fans would agree that they would buy a re-mastered version for $1. Wink, wink.
RoboCop is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, at 24 bits.
Whilst the soundtrack often belies both the age of the film and its low budget origins, RoboCop features a reasonably pleasing audio remaster.
I saw no examples of audio sync, nor dialogue intelligibility issues. Some of the sound effects sound particularly dated, but a good effort is made to create an enveloping surround mix. The bass channel is loud, but isn't particularly detailed due to the use of old stock effects. Sadly, Fox have not included the original stereo audio track for posterity.
The score by Basil Pouledaris is a classic, featuring a bombastic, but memorable main theme.
Unfortunately, the use of a single layer 25GB disc has precluded the addition of the extra features produced for the previous 25th anniversary edition, including some impressive commentaries, documentaries and featurettes.
Further, since this Blu-ray released from 2007, Fox have also released a two disc 'definitive edition' DVD, featuring an extended cut of the film with even more extra features. It's high time that Fox look at re-releasing the title. Perhaps the 2013 release of the remake might act as the catalyst for that.
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