And so with the DVD and Blu-ray formats I’m gradually filling in the holes of my childhood with films I haven’t seen. Of course I was a child of the 90s so movies that were released in the 80s never really gave off any kind of allure that made me want to see them. Still, I was fully aware of Robocop and its sequels and despite never seeing the films I had always been curious about them.
Packed full of memorable moments and Robocop quotes, the ROBOCOP TRILOGY is a fan must-have. Viewers can experience their favorite “human” robot in all three classic films, now on Blu-ray. Directors Paul Verhoeven (Totall Recall, Basic Instinct) of ROBOCOP, Irvin Kershner of ROBOCOP 2 and Fred Dekker (Monster Squad Forever, Nighs of the Creeps) of ROBOCOP 3 bring the half robot, half police officer to life with the help of an intensely talented cast, including Peter Weller (The Order; 24), Robert Burke (Good Night, and Good Luck; Tombstone), Kurtwood Smith (Rambo III; That 70’s Show) and Nancy Allen (Law and Order, Carrie). In ROBOCOP (1987), a terminally wounded cop in crime-ridden Detroit returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him. ROBOCOP 2 (1990) features a corrupt businesswoman seeking to disable Robocop in favor of her own model of cyborg. In ROBOCOP 3 (1993) Robocop saves the day once more. This time the half man/half robot takes on ruthless developers who want to evict some people on “their” land.
Robocop is set in a futuristic world (unfortunately because the film was made in the 80s, this futuristic world looks like the 1980s with fancy buildings) where Detroit is running rampant with crime and drugs and cops are dying every day. The police department is eventually purchased by a business called OCP, which supplies them with the necessary weapons and armor to defend themselves against the criminals. Of course, with plans to pave over Old Detroit and create a New Detroit, free of crime, amped up cops aren’t going to do it and OCP has plans for robotic police forces to be unleashed upon the city to enact a drastic drop in the crime rate.
I’ve seen plenty of violent and gory films through the years but I have to say that Robocop is by far the most gruesome. The gore is almost comical at times and when one of the henchmen is drenched in chemical acids, begins melting and is eventually hit by a car and goes splat all over the windshield, I had to keep myself from laughing. The film is nothing to be taken seriously (and with the title of Robocop, it should be evident why) and while the gore is extreme it’s really just hilarious to watch.
As a film it’s hard to piece together my thoughts on it. Yeah it was enjoyable in the usual popcorn flick sense, but, as I’m finding with a lot of these films I didn’t watch as a kid, it really was a product of its time. If you didn’t grow up with it, there’s a strong chance you’ll find the film nothing more than a quick action flick you’ll never care to watch again. Not to say there aren’t things in the film that aren’t worth viewing, as Peter Weller as Murphy/Robocop is really the highlight of the film, there just isn’t much here that will stick with you after watching it.
I think part of my non-enthusiasm stems from the actors. Not even the cops or the OCP managers, so much as the villains. Seeing Kurtwood Smith as a coke snorting, foul-mouthed killer is a bit jarring after only seeing him in That 70s Show previously and Ray Wise, one of Smith’s characters henchmen, was once a vice president on the show 24 (as an aside, I counted three Robocop alumni who also showed up in 24–Peter Weller included, of course). It’s sad that I couldn’t buy Smith as a cold-blooded villain (even after seeing him murder Murphy early on in the film), but I guess that’s what comedic roles do to you (I imagine this is the reverse process for what Michael Keaton had while filming Batman). I don’t want to anger any fans of the film by negative comments; I just really think it is something you have to know about before really enjoying. While it’s certainly a fun film to watch once, it doesn’t have much replay value except for the fans. If you haven’t seen it prior, Robocop is a definite Rental.
So with the first film out of the way, how about the other two? The second one kind of follows the Batman Returns line of progression with a much darker and much less well received storyline. Robocop reverts back to his robotic mannerisms and speech pattern (even though he progressed past that in the first film…so whatever, I guess) and the violence is amped up ten fold. On top of that we have a murderous drug dealing child character (Hob played by Gabriel Damon) that really is more unsettling than anything. The film rounds itself out with the usual amount of ridiculous dialogue and hyperbolic special effects and also manages to lose its’ direction about halfway through—it just gets random and moronic at times.
By the third film even the principal actors were tired of it and the main two got replaced. This certainly didn’t help the franchise as it was the worst reviewed of the three and it’s easy to see why—I definitely never want to lay eyes on it again. I can’t tell if they just purposely made it corny as hell and tried to bite off more than they could chew with the special effects or what, but Robocop 3 is really just…quite terrible. Both the second and third films are something you can easily Skip
Fox releases the trilogy in a single three-disc Elite Blu-ray case housed inside of a nice cardboard slipcase. It’s definitely a nice presentation and it highlights the first film most predominantly on the packaging (as it should be). Inside the case are just the discs and the menus for each of them are simple and easy to navigate.
Video for the series takes the opposite route in quality that the films take. By this I mean that the third film looks the best, then the second, then the first. This is predictable since they gradually get newer as they go on, but truthfully speaking even the first film doesn’t look all that bad when you consider its age. There is a softness to the image to be sure and color levels tend to vary more than they should but overall it’s a much stronger presentation than what I saw back on the Steelbook release from a few years back. The video for the other two films does get marginally better as it goes along, but considering we deal with flakier and flakier special effects, the bump in image clarity kind of works against it at times. Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix across the board with, once again, the sound effects getting better with each film as it progresses. Flat gunshots in the first film begin to echo and ricochet around the room by the third one and dialogue slowly begins to separate from the front channels.
Extras for each film include…well, nothing really. Just Theatrical Trailers for each film and nothing more. A bit strange they didn’t even port over the extras from the 20th Anniv. DVD edition (which were in of itself mostly ported over from the Criterion edition) for the first film, but hey—it’s a cheap box set, so if you’re interested in getting the trilogy then this is the easiest way. For those that have never seen it then I really recommend you Rent it first. It’s a fun series to say you’ve seen, but in no way would you want to own it (unless you grew up with it, then you probably would).
Robocop Trilogy is now available on Blu-ray.