Shiny, entertaining, fitfully inspired, but ultimately still unnecessary
Robocop Blu-ray Review
Over a quarter of a century on and Verhoeven’s Robocop still has teeth. It’s funny, smart and has resounding punch. It’s brutal, relentless, and distinctly adult. It didn’t require a remake. And yet, here we have one.Sure, 2014’s Robocop does everything by-the-book, but that doesn’t leave much room for inspiration. It does throw a couple of nice new flourishes into the mix, which fans of the original are sure to appreciate more than newcomers, losing much of the bite in its satire, but adding the extra dimension of overseas drone deployment, which happens to be pretty damn topical at the minute. It loses the impact of the fall of Murphy and his partner (this time not a woman) but exchanging it for some rather un-PG-13 body horror and for spending more time than either Robocop 1 or 2 did delving into the relationship between Murphy and his family, pre- and post-op. Unfortunately – and rather ironically, given the subject matter – this is still a distinctly corporate Hollywood remake. It does nothing specifically wrong, but remains entirely unexceptional at almost every level, remaining unmemorable even considered apart from its forefather.More often than not we are reminded of what they’ve done wrong with the old ideas, stripping the clackety stop-motion ED-209 of any of its evil baby personality, and slicking up Robo in new black colouring and CG-tastic supermobility which looks terrible. Characters suffer as well; sure there are a whole host of eccentric cameos, from Keaton, Oldman and Jackson, but Joel Kinnaman is no Peter Weller when it comes to bringing Robocop to life, and Jackie Earle Haley’s private contractor, and that other guy whose character name I can’t even be bothered to remember, don’t stand the slightest comparison to the Boddickers and Dick Joneses of the original. The action promotes some epic military scale, but, beyond a few scene-setting skirmishes, there’s nothing distinctly memorable on offer here aside from impressive effects; the film frequently hobbled by its for-the-kids rating and utterly crippled by a meaningless finale that has absolutely none of the impact of the original.
There’s nothing really wrong with this shiny remake as entertainment but a better version already exists, rendering it largely redundant.
Robocop Blu-ray Picture QualityThis shiny new remake looks just as spectacular as you would expect it to be, presented with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is outstanding, offering up a pristine view of the proceedings, immaculate in every shot, from the fine object detail on close-ups to the accurate representation of skin textures and clothing weaves. Robocop’s new suit looks impressive in both tones, and certainly offers up plenty of room for reflection. The stunning image is delivered with no signs of any digital defects whatsoever, remaining largely perfect, devoid of overt edge enhancement, absent of excessive DNR application, and with no apparent artefacts, banding, blocking or crush.
2014’s Robocop at least makes for unquestionable demo material, both in terms of video and audio.
The colour scheme is broad and rich, largely dictated by setting – which ranges from the opening desert-city battlefield to the hi-tech innards of the labs – boasting intentionally varied style, with high contrast blooming whites at one end of the spectrum and deep and rich inky blacks at the other. There is simply nothing to complain about with this picture-perfect offering which is demo and reference quality through and through.
Robocop Blu-ray Sound Quality
The accompanying sound mix is just as impressive, a thoroughly engulfing DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track which surrounds and envelops you at every possible opportunity, popping with detailed nuances and punchy action beats. Dialogue is given clear and coherent presence over the track, dominating the fronts and centre channels where appropriate, in spite of the fury of the action sequences.
Effective and absorbing, technically it sounds stunning but is repeatedly let down by a frustratingly incongruous choice of score.
Aside from the nice but all too brief nod to the original Robocop’s score the new score really doesn’t have a great deal to be proud of, and is exceptionally bad when it comes to introducing song tracks into the mix – nominally during a couple of training sequences but, even beyond that, undercutting some of the early corporate machinations with a chirpy vibe that feels far too playful for this kind of affair. Still, as stated, this does not prevent it being technically proficient, defined impressively over the surrounds and given full presence and strong LFE undertones to lend weight at every possible opportunity.
And we haven’t even got to the best bit – the effects. From the opening Tehran setpiece to the numerous training stages, and then to the set-pieces where Robo hits the streets, your surrounds will have a tremendous workout as the cyborg cop executes shots with unbelievable precision and lightning-fast reaction. Bullets and Tazer blasts whip out all around you, and louder weaponry ignites the soundstage, drawing you right into the furore and making your living room a battlefield. Even the quieter sequences have considerable atmosphere to them, with the electronic buzz of the lab scenes or the touchscreen pizzazz of the news promos; the Detroit streets awash with rain and traffic noises, and crowds palpably heaving. All in all it’s a superior track that tests the limits of your equipment and remains both demo and reference quality through and through.
Robocop Blu-ray ExtrasThe extra material available initially largely amounts to additional footage in one shape or another, backed up by a trio of unexceptional Featurettes. First up get a quintet of very brief and largely unexceptional Deleted Scenes, totalling just 4 minutes, as well as a selection of no less than 10 Omnicorp Product Announcement segments, which again total less than 4 minutes of actual runtime. The Featurettes come under the umbrella package of Robocop: Engineered for the 21st Century and are split into The Illusion of Free Will: A New Vision which spends 8 minutes trying to differentiate between the two different versions of Robocop (in spite of the fact that the core elements are basically identical and used far better in the original); a 6-minute To Serve and Protect: Robocop’s New Weapons; and the quarter-hour The Robocop Suit: Form and Function. The disc is rounded out by a number of Preview Trailers.
Is Robocop Blu-ray Worth BuyingSlick, stylish, and thoroughly well-polished, Robocop – very much like the Total Recall remake – is a beautifully-looking piece of precision engineering. Unfortunately, it’s still utterly redundant. Credit to all those involved for making a piece of pure entertainment, diverting for its duration, but there’s nothing really worth revisiting here; and there’s certainly none of the original’s impact.
Even if the original didn't exist, this would only score a point or two more, and I doubt it'll be remembered in 5 years' time, let alone 25.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get stunning video and audio as well as a marginally unsubstantial selection of Extra Features. Fans of this film should definitely consider it a blind buy, but those who still haven’t seen the original should consider that a first priority over revisiting this. And newcomers? Well, it’s worth a rental, but you may find that there’s only space for the one Robocop in your collection, and this isn’t it.
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