Directed by Paul Verhoeven.
Starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, and Miguel Ferrer.
Arrow has reissued their excellent two-disc RoboCop set on 4K, even going so far as to source new 4K scans of the trims that were added back in for the Director’s Cut (and originally taken out to avoid an X rating). The enormous amount of bonus features found in that set make their way to this one too, including a 43-page booklet.
The last few years, Arrow has been issuing classic films on Blu-ray and then following up those releases with 4K editions that use the same 4K scan as the Blu-ray but don’t include high-def discs in the package. That trends continues with Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, which was issued on two-disc Blu-ray in 2019 and now comes to 4K in an identical edition packaged in a nice SteelBook case.
You can read my review of that earlier edition to get my thoughts on the film, which are largely unchanged from three years ago. The usual suspects seem to be just as worked up over crime and the idea that the United States is going to hell as they were not only three years ago, but back in the 1980s too. Given the recent advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before we see a real RoboCop walking city streets, with all the potential upsides and downsides that will entail.
Like Arrow’s other recent 4K release, 12 Monkeys, RoboCop’s visual improvement in 4K is more of incremental than revolutionary. Given the film’s vintage and its use of special effects of the old school optical variety, the jump to 4K is a double-edged sword: little details are better, resulting in image quality that might even surpass what you could see in the movie theater in 1987, while the softness of the special effects stands out more.
That said, the film is sparing in its use of bright colors, but what’s there pops off the screen more than the previous edition, and the main character’s metal suit is more vibrant than before. In addition, Arrow was able to source a new 4K scan of the extra footage found in the Director’s Cut, so those moments look better than they previously did. (The original elements for those trims are long gone, so those moments can never be restored to their original quality, barring something being found in a box somewhere.)
The Director’s Cut is housed on one disc, with the theatrical version found on the other. The former is one of the most famous Director’s Cuts out there, given the number of times the movie was submitted to the MPAA, which kept giving it the dreaded X rating until finally putting an R rating on it, a requirement of Verhoeven’s contract. The second platter also includes one of the notorious TV versions of the film too, albeit without much attention paid to image quality, which is to be expected.
The TV version is really there more as a curiosity piece than anything else, and there’s a 19-minute featurette that details the various changes, if you just want to cut to the chase. The 43-page booklet that Arrow also included in this package (I assume it was part of the Blu-ray release, but Arrow didn’t send me a retail copy of that one) that details not only the film’s struggles with the MPAA but also the ways it was changed for TV consumption, oftentimes with hilarious results. (“Scum-bag” becomes “crumb-bag,” for example — I’m so glad someone thought of the children!)
That booklet also includes a pair of essays about the film as well as notes on the 4K transfer. I appreciate that Arrow has taken a page from Criterion’s playbook and started putting booklets in some of their releases — it’s a nice touch that serves as a reminder that once upon a time, the vast majority of thoughts about movies were set down on paper. I suppose someday someone will compare and contrast the nature of film critiques between the almost-all-on-print era and the almost-all-on-film era, if they haven’t done so already. (And if they have, did they write it up or shoot a featurette on it?)
I won’t run down the rest of the extras found on both discs. You can revisit my earlier review to see everything, since Arrow didn’t commission anything new for this set. Suffice it to say that there’s an enormous amount of bonus content found here, with a big batch of new extras that were created for the 2019 release along with a lot of legacy content that was ported over too.
Among the new materials, some of the highlights include: two new commentary tracks, one with film historian and former Orion marketing exec Paul M. Sammon and the other with three super fans who made their own documentary about the film; thoughts from co-screenwriters Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier; and conversations about the second unit work, the film’s score, and the special effects, along with a tour of another super fan’s collection of RoboCop props.
Moving on to the legacy content, the highlights there include: a commentary track with Verhoeven, Neumeier, and producer Jon Davison (not the old Criterion one, but still a good track); a group conversation from a 2012 post-screening Q&A; another look at the special effects; three minutes of deleted scenes, none of which is found in the Director’s Cut; and a big chunk of raw onset production footage.
Trailers, TV spots, image galleries, and two isolated score tracks on the theatrical version of the film round out this set. If you haven’t picked up RoboCop on disc yet, this is a perfect excuse to do so.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★