Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/13/99
1987 (1998) - Orion
review by Todd Doogan,
special to The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-, B-, A
Specs and Features
103 mins (director's cut), NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1),
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 57:37, at start of
Chapter 17), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary with director
Paul Verhoeven, co-writer Edward Neumeier, executive producer Jon
Davison and RoboCop expert
Paul M. Sammon, film-to-storyboard comparison (boardroom massacre
scene), storyboards for two unfilmed sequences, illustrated essay on
the making of the film by Paul M. Sammon (originally appeared in
Cinefex Magazine), teaser and
theatrical trailers, animated film-themed menu screens, scene access
(27 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none
was a shotgun blast to the face of both film critics and film
audiences when it was released back in 1987. Not only was it a
success, but it's also had a huge influence on science fiction films
and literature, giving us more extreme violence in movies, and
helping to birth the Cyberpunk genre of American literature. As a
film, RoboCop ties all of the
necessary cinematic elements together - cosmetically making it one
of the most successful "comic book" movies ever made,
aside from The Matrix.
The story presents itself basically as a comedy. We find the film
winkingly poking fun at a desensitized future society (Detroit,
USA), by serving us with hilarious visual puns, wry
characterizations, and "blink-and-you-miss-the humor"
signs, art direction and wardrobe. The film does a complete 180
degree turn on itself, when we see Peter Weller (later to become the
cyborg RoboCop, but here as human Officer Murphy), being tortured by
a gang of psychotic bank robbers. It's only at this moment that we
come to realize this is film about crime, and law enforcement in the
future is no comedy. It's something more dark and sinister, it's
about greed and corporate governments -- it's about our world, not
the future (or the future world from 1987, come to horrifying life
here in the late 90s). This revelation comes too late, I'm afraid.
By now, it's too late to turn back -- the movie has all of us
I think that this turning point becomes even more apparent in this
DVD special edition by Criterion. In the original theatrical cut, we
moved on after Murphy's hand was blown off by a shotgun. With this
SE, not only do you get an additional few seconds of explosive
bloodletting, you're also (thanks to DVD technology) able to torture
yourself by pausing and going frame by frame through the scene. "SEE!
How thick and dark the blood is!" "MARVEL! At the
realistic prosthetics!" "WINCE! As your stomach starts to
turn and you can taste your dinner!" This isn't a version of
the film for everyone - but for the brave, it's a special treat.
The Criterion disc is, as a whole, pretty good. It's not as prime a
picture as I would have liked to see - no anamorphic widescreen -
but it's pretty good. The picture is a bit fuzzy, but the muted
colors and harsh metallics are well preserved digitally. I did
notice some pretty obvious digital noise reduction, and some edge
enhancement, which didn't hurt the picture too much, but will count
against my Video rating. The soundtrack is a simple, but thumping,
Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix that gets the job done - even if a DD
5.1 would have been much cooler.
The special edition materials are what really make this disc hard
to not buy. It's packed to the gills. RoboCop
features one of the most awesome commentary tracks I've heard, when
it comes to pure history and fact. The track features Paul
Verhoeven, producer Jon Davison and co-writer Edward Neumeier, and
they sure enjoy talking about this film. Recorded separately and
edited together, these men discuss everything you ever wanted to
know about RoboCop, from its
origins, to how many people turned down the directing gig (including
Verhoeven originally), to the fight with the MPAA over an X rating.
If that's not enough for your money, the supplements also include
storyboards for two scenes that weren't filmed, a film-to-storyboard
comparison of the corporate boardroom/ED-209 massacre, and an essay
written by a RoboCop expert by
the name of Paul M. Sammon on the making of the film, which is
illustrated throughout with special effects footage from the film.
You also get the teaser and theatrical trailer, which are both
The disc looks fine, although with a critical eye you will notice a
few problems with the video quality. The sound is pretty much
standard, but good. It's those extras that make this disc a killer,
and a must own for fans of sci-fi and RoboCop
alike. Overall, I'd have to say - to quote Paul McCrane's character
Emil - "IIIIIIIIIIIII like it!"