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Murphy... I'm a mess...

Having the ROBOCOP TRILOGY ($60) arrive on Blu-ray as a boxed set is more about the marketing than anything else. Without the first film to anchor the franchise, I tend to double that a lot of folks would be purchasing ROBOCOP 2 or ROBOCOP 3 on their own. Where the original ROBOCOP was a brilliant combination science fiction, extreme violence, religious allegory and biting social satire, the two film sequels seem like little more than popcorn entertainment hoping to cash in on the first movie’s strong credentials. Perhaps the biggest asset to the success of the original ROBOCOP was the participation of director Paul Verhoeven. With ROBOCOP, the Dutch director brought a decidedly different esthetic to this production, thus crafting a classic motion picture out of what could have been a run of the mill genre movie concept. Instead of being just another assembly line sci-fi/action flick, ROBOCOP actually has something to say about the greedy era in which it was made, not to mention about movie violence.


Set in the not too distant future, ROBOCOP depicts the very violent city of Detroit, where the giant Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has contracted with the city to privatize and run the metropolitan police department. As the film opens Officer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to the most violent precinct in the city and is partnered with Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). However, on his first day in the new precinct, Murphy is brutally murdered by one of the city’s most notorious criminals, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), and his band of thugs. What’s left of Murphy becomes the property of OCP, and is utilized to create a prototype for the corporation’s Robocop project, which could replace the city’s human police officers with cyborgs. Although intended as a police department automaton controlled by OCP, Robocop is haunted by fragmented dreams of Murphy’s life and brutal death, which sets him on a course to apprehend those responsible for killing the man he once was. The cast of ROBOCOP also features Ronny Cox, Dan O'Herlihy, Miguel Ferrer, Robert DoQui, Ray Wise, Felton Perry and Paul McCrane.


As sequels go, ROBOCOP 2 isn’t particularly bad, and this film actually makes an effort to provide some of the social satire that was contained in the original. The plot of ROBOCOP 2 finds the law enforcement cyborg not only having to deal with his lost humanity and reprogramming, but also OCP’s new replacement model, dubbed Robocop 2, which incidentally is making use of the drug addicted mind of a psychotic criminal. As expected there is ensuing chaos, death and destruction, which leads to the inevitable cyborg showdown. In addition to the returning Peter Weller, Nancy Allen and Dan O'Herlihy the cast of ROBOCOP 2 also includes Tom Noonan, Gabriel Damon and Galyn Görg.


Now we come to ROBOCOP 3, which offers a few enjoyable action sequences, but is otherwise a disappointing second sequel to a film that has become a classic in its own rights. Most of the original stars are gone, with Robert Burke (who looks a little like Peter Weller in his makeup) taking over the title role. This time out, OCP has brought in an army of mercenaries to "relocate" the impoverished citizens of old Detroit and make way for their upscale Delta City. A number of citizens form an underground resistance to stop the OCP mercenaries from exterminating the denizens of old Detroit, which puts Robocop at odds with the corporation that created him. The cast of ROBOCOP 3 includes Rip Torn, Mako, CCH Pounder, Daniel von Bargen and Jill Hennessy.


MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made the ROBOCOP TRILOGY available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentations. ROBOCOP is encoded in the MPEG-2 codec, while ROBOCOP 2 and ROBOCOP 3 are encoded in the AVC codec. The 1080p presentations get progressively better in terms of the visuals, just as the films diminish in terms of content. As the best film in the collection, ROBOCOP gets a raw deal and is in serious need of re-mastering. There are decided issues with the dated optical effects contained in the film, but the presentation could have still be sharper and more detailed than this present incarnation. Sure it’s a step up over standard definition, but the presentation could have looked better and more representative of what one expects from high definition. ROBOCOP 2 and ROBOCOP 3 each improve the levels of sharpness and detail over their predecessor. Not surprisingly, color reproduction improves from film to film with ROBOCOP 3 looking the most faithful. Blacks, whites, contrast and shadow detail all see improvements, as the films get newer.

The films that comprise the ROBOCOP TRILOGY are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Like the video portion, the audio gets better with each subsequent film. All three films originated during the Dolby Surround era and manage to sound great for productions that predate fully discrete digital motion picture sound. There are moments where the sound is a little dated and/or sounds a bit canned, but for the most part these tracks hold their own, especially during action heavy sequences with lots of gunplay. The surround channels aren’t as well implemented or as immersive, as they are on newer soundtracks, but the rear channels deliver the goods when required. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is better than ever and I am appreciative every time I hear Basil Poledouris’ music coming out of the speakers. The bass channel provides some punchy reinforcement, but isn’t ground shaking. ROBOCOP also includes a 4.0 English Dolby Digital track, as well as French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. ROBOCOP 2 and ROBOCOP 3 also include French DTS 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for ROBOCOP 2 and ROBOCOP 3, while ROBOCOP includes only English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance each of the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some Trailers.

As I stated above, the first film is the anchor of the franchise… an anchor that makes it possible to market ROBOCOP 2 or ROBOCOP 3 as part of the ROBOCOP TRILOGY. Unfortunately, ROBOCOP is a genre classic that suffers from a lackluster hi-def presentation, one which screams for re-mastering.


RoboCop Trilogy [Blu-ray]


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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