Let me be right up front about this particular DVD release, a lot of folks will be purchasing the ROBOCOP TRILOGY ($40) just so they can get the unrated version of the original ROBOCOP in 16:9 enhanced wide screen. 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 movieís 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 could have been a run of the mill genre film concept. Instead of being just another run of the mill sci-fi/action movie, ROBOCOP actually has something to say about the greedy era in which it was made, not to mention 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 cityís most notorious criminals, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his band of thugs. Whatís left of Murphy becomes the property of OCP, and is utilized to create a prototype for the corporationís Robocop project, which could replace the cityís human police officers with cyborgs. Although intended as a police department automaton controlled by OCP, Robocop is haunted by fragmented dreams of Murphyís 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 isnít 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 OCPís 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 GŲrg.
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 has made the three films that comprise the ROBOCOP TRILOGY available on DVD in 1.85:1 widescreen presentations, which have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Without hesitation, I can say that this is the absolute best that ROBOCOP has looked in the home venue. However, this isnít to say that ROBOCOP looks phenomenal. The optical special effects work is dated and these sequences appear a little rougher than unprocessed footage. For the most part, the picture appears sharp and nicely defined. Colors are stable and are rendered with a natural level of saturation. Of course, special effects shots tend to have colors that appear slightly askew. Blacks appear fairly accurate, whites are clean and shadow detail is more than respectable. The film elements from which ROBOCOP has been transferred display some minor blemishes and an occasionally noticeable grain structure. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern. As for ROBOCOP 2 and ROBOCOP 3, these films look somewhat better than the original, displaying slightly more detailed images, stronger colors and fewer appreciable flaws.
All three films in the ROBOCOP TRILOGY are presented here with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mixes. All three films sound great for productions that predate the fully discrete digital era. An occasional passage or an occasional sound may have a slightly dated quality, but for the most part the tracks are full bodied and really come to life during each filmís gunplay heavy action sequences. Surround usage may not be as well implemented, as it would be in newer soundtracks, but the rear channels deliver when required. Dialogue is always understandable and the voices are well recorded for their era. Bass isnít ground shaking, like newer soundtracks, but it never sounds anemic. French Dolby Surround tracks are provided for all three films, with the first film also sporting a Spanish Dolby Surround track. All three films include English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few nice supplements for the original ROBOCOP. Director Paul Verhoeven, writer Edward Neumeir, and executive producer Jon Davison are on hand for a running audio commentary track. This is an excellent track in which the participants provide a great deal of information on the development of the project, and ultimately, the making of ROBOCOP. Flesh and Steel, The Making Of RoboCop is a terrific thirty-six minute program that features interviews with the production team and provides a rather detailed look at the filmís creation. Shooting RoboCop is an eight-minute promotional program from the time of the filmís original production that provides a bit of fluff to get audiences into the theater. Making RoboCop is also from the time of the filmís original production, but this eight-minute program offers a look at the more technical aspects of the production. Storyboard With Commentary By Animator Phil Tippett allows one to look as the preliminary work that went into the filmís stop-motion animated sequences. Four deleted scenes are also provided, as are six photo galleries and theatrical trailers for each film, plus bonus trailers and a TV spot for ROBOCOP.
As I stated above, a lot of folks will be purchasing the ROBOCOP TRILOGY only for the first film. ROBOCOP is indeed a film that has achieved status that goes beyond the typical conventions of science fiction or action movie genres. MGM has done a terrific job with ROBOCOP, giving fans something they have longed for-- the unrated version of the film in a 16:9 enhanced widescreen presentation. ROBOCOP 2 and ROBOCOP 3 arenít quite in the same league with the movie that spawned them, but they do have their moments.
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