There are films that we see and years later they are still counted among our favorites. Others may come along with newer, slicker effects but the older movie retains its charm and place in our hearts. For many science fiction fans such a cinematic wonder came along in 1987; ‘Robocop’. One the surface it was just another late eighties Sci-fi made during the time when the genre was experiencing a shift towards increased violence but there was so much more to the movie that warrants its elevation fro cult class to a true, time honored example of classic cinema. Sure there are plenty of scenes of blood and gore and some, for the time, great special effects, but what allows this film to reach the memorable heights it has was the exploration of several classic themes. Taking the film even higher is the fact that when all is said and done ‘Robocop’ is fun to watch and is great story telling. The genius of the production is how it comes disguised as a Sci-Fi thriller but each viewing allows the audience to uncover a new facet of the production. It is also the kind of movie that fans tend to repurchase when technology advances. Now the ultimate release is available as this title joins the ever increasing catalog of Fox’s most popular movies on high definition Blue-ray. Most titles included in this series share a commitment to make the best use possible of the larger storage provide incredible audio and video. The film was more of a box office success than critical hit easily making back its budget during it theatrical run. Many denounced the film as excessively graphic and violent, criticism that would follow director Paul Verhoeven for most of his career. Rest assured that the cut used in this release is the more extreme cut.
Providing the story and screenplay was Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Both men would continue providing scripts for the rest of the franchise. Neumeier also was largely responsible for the ‘Starship Troopers’ flicks. One the most fundamental level this story is a standard ‘cyborg’ flick. The idea enhancing the human body with advanced technology is far from new. Artificial limbs have been around for a long time so the replacement of limbs that were brutally shot off is really just a matter of degree. On this level the story explores what it means to be human. We are defined not only by our unlimited potential but physical restrictions. The cyborg pushes us to a new more powerful form. In a plot like much depends on the setting. Here the authors place this man-machine hybrid in s bleak dystopian where crime runs unchecked and the corporations are supplanting the social responsibilities reserved for governments. Twenty years ago this was a trend that was just on the horizon but in recent years out sourcing and privatization has become a reality. We have also seen large corporations become as powerful nations with wars fought by ‘corporate security’ forces that are better equipped with less legal restrictions then the military. In this film Detroit is in ruin. Criminal rule the streets and the police force is woefully undermanned. Police authority is given to Omni Consumer Products (OCP) who has a new paradigm for law enforcement. Within OCP there is a split in how this lucrative contract should be filled. On one side there is the current president, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) who wants to use robot, the enforcement droid series. This could pave the way for more military contracts not to mention parts and maintenance. Another way to go is the brainchild of an upcoming, ambiguous junior executive Robert Morton (Miguel Ferrer). When the ED-209 has a programming glitch and kills a man the ‘Old Man’ (Dan O'Herlihy), gives Bobby’s plan a shot. His way was to drastically alter a recent murdered police officer, Murphy (Peter Weller) into a menacing cyborg known as Robocop. This only escalates rivalry between Dick and Bobby bringing in the theme of cut throat corporate politics. The dark side of corporate profit seeking becomes central to the story when it turns out that the crime lord, Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) the man responsible for Murphy’s murder, is in the employ of Dick. He is behind the construction of a new city and has given drug and prostitution there to Clarence in return for general services rendered.
Director Paul Verhoeven grew up in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation. This has naturally become the filter for much of his work. This is most notable in how he employs violence. Typically it is perpetrated by brutal, inhumanly cruel men who have to be stopped by a righteous man. This brings us to yet another classic theme explored here; the epic hero. Murphy, as Robocop is initially unstoppable. He shows little mercy to criminals that prey on the weak. When he is betrayed by getting caught in Dick’s machinations he is brought to the very edge of destruction. This makes it extremely satisfying for the audience on an emotional level when Murphy returns to dispatch the bad guys in a very bloody fashion. This vindication in the third act is a major reason why this has endured so well; as an action story it rocks.
The high definition release is amazing. The color palette is brilliant and perfectly balanced. For a highly visual director like Verhoeven it takes this degree of resolution to fully realize the depth of his vision. What truly stands out is the soundtrack, re-mastered in DTS-HD MA 5.1. The score for this movie has a sweeping grandeur that reaches it potential here. The ‘Robo’ theme is something that pulls the audience in with an operatic scope. This a must have film present in the best possible way.