‘RoboCop’ Arrow Video 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review

RoboCop, from Orion Pictures, marked Flesh + Blood director Paul Verhoeven’s Hollywood debut and instantly became an enduring sci-fi/action classic when it landed in theaters in the summer of 1987. Verhoeven’s peerlessly exciting and kinetic visuals were matched by a sharp script, iconic cast and exceptional special effects by Rob Bottin (The Thing) and Phil Tippett (The Empire Strikes Back). The film takes place in Detroit in the not-too-distant future. Heroic cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai) is gunned down in the line of duty, only to be resurrected as RoboCop – a cybernetic mix of spare human parts and Motor City steel, and the latest defense against crime designed by the all-powerful OCP Corporation. As RoboCop’s memories of his former life as Murphy resurface, only his ex-partner (Nancy Allen, Dressed To Kill) stands beside him to fight against the vicious thugs responsible for his death, as well as a nefarious top-level OCP executive orchestrating the chaos from above. Unsurpassably thrilling, unexpectedly moving and unforgettably hilarious in equal measure, the future of law enforcement is back on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a restored Director’s Cut, packed with hours of bonus features.

For thoughts on RoboCop, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:

Video Quality

Arrow Films presents RoboCop with an eye-popping 2160p transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio sourced from a 4K restoration completed by MGM in 2013 of the original camera negative. The film was graded in 4K HDR/Dolby Vision by Arrow Video with some of the elements exclusive to the Director’s Cut featured on this Standard Edition derived from lower generation elements that were restored in 4K, allowing for subtle shifts in quality in a few moments that most will overlook. 

Arrow once again knocks it out of the park with the delicate application of Dolby Vision for increased color output that should be lauded for the nuance it brings to this picture. The new restoration features some colors in the environments and bloody carnage that really leap off the screen with a grotesque vibrancy. This disc handles every carefully curated choice from Verhoeven with ease. The black levels are incredibly deep with nothing in the way of crush present, and white levels are flawless with no evidence of blooming. The aesthetic Verhoeven brings to his Hollywood debut is what allows this to be the enduring piece of social satire that it is. This presentation never lacks for something to appreciate. 

With the core transfer, you will find almost nothing in the way of print damage. The texture on display in the costumes and within the setting are a revelation. The makeup effects likewise blend naturally which brings the gory bits to the forefront with beautiful clarity. This new release honors the original look of the film with the added resolution making elements seem more true to life. The level of detail and clarity is stunning with the perfect amount of natural film grain intact. The grain resolves well with distracting fluctuations rarely detected, even if some may find it to be a bit too thick. The most obvious deficits occur during moments of optical effects or previously excised footage from the Director’s Cut, but even they are far from horrendous. When it comes to the encoding, there are absolutely no jarring digital anomalies such as compression artifacts, banding or any other such nuisances. This presentation is another top-tier effort from the crew at Arrow Video. 

Audio Quality

The 4K UHD Blu-Ray of the film comes with a fine array of audio options including a new Dolby Atmos track along with a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track, DTS-HD 4.0 and DTS-HD 5.1 mixes in the original English, all of which represent the film in an impressive manner. For the purposes of this review, we will focus the most on the new Dolby Atmos track which brings a more immersive presence to this material while remaining respectful of the original intention. 

The memorable score from Basil Poledouris brings an unforgettable mood to the proceedings that is represented well in the mix. Every element is presented with a strong fidelity with very little in the way of anything sounding processed or unnatural. The environment of the city creates a din of sound that creeps through to provide some excellent ambient details. The activity in the overhead channels do not carry the weight of the track, but they complement the other speakers in a way that provides more texture to the world. The dialogue itself comes through perfectly clear without being crushed by the sound effects or score. All of the various sounds in the mix seem accurately rendered so that nothing ever feels off. The moments of extreme violence that pop up add some intensity to the mix without becoming a muddled mess in the action. This presentation is free of any hiss or other age-related wear-and-tear. Arrow Video has delivered a rock solid presentation. 

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary #1: Director Paul Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison and co-writer Ed Neumeier provide a commentary track originally recorded in 2001 which was edited in 2014 to conform to the Director’s Cut. This is an entertaining track in which the trio discuss what they were looking for in casting the film, the bits of sexual equality that sprinkled throughout the film, bits that were changed from the original script, the initial extremely negative reaction from Verhoeven to the material, balancing violence with humor, allowing real-life doctors and nurses to dictate the medical jargon and more. 
  • Audio Commentary #2: Film historian Paul M. Sammon splits the difference between an academic analysis of the film and a personal account of his history with the project and creative team. This is a terrific track which does give you the production details such as casting anecdotes and location shooting while also providing a deeper exploration of this feature as a product of Verhoeven’s youth under Nazi occupation and a reckoning of violence. 
  • Audio Commentary #3: Fans Christopher Griffiths, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen provide a lively track which drills more into the historical minutiae of the picture including background details, performer histories, narrative structure and more while also providing a well-rounded appreciation for the picture on a cultural and personal level. All three of these tracks complement each other quite nicely. 
  • The Future Of Law Enforcement – Creating RoboCop: A 17-minute interview with co-writer Michael Miner in which he discusses the sci-fi influences on his career, the impact that being a political activist brought to his work, his collaborative process with Ed Neumeier, the marriage of the corporate and gang plotlines, the intentional lack of political correctness, how Paul Verhoeven portrayed the violence and the difficulties in securing an R-rating, and much more. 
  • RoboTalk: A 32-minute roundtable discussion between co-writer Ed Neumeier and filmmakers David Birke (writer of Elle) and Nicholas McCarthy (director of Orion Pictures’ The Prodigy) in which Neumeier discusses his early inspiration for getting into writing, his earliest ideas for the film, the different layers of the narrative, the punk rock nature of the storytelling in a mainstream context, his experiences on the set of the film and more. 
  • Truth Of Character with Nancy Allen: A nearly 19-minute interview with star Nancy Allen in which she discusses her approach to playing Lewis, what spoke to her within the script, memories of working with Paul Verhoeven, the most uncomfortable filming experiences, the way in which the ending changed for the film and more. 
  • Casting Old Detroit with Julie Selzer: An eight-minute conversation with casting director Julie Selzer in which she discusses coming to the project, how Paul Verhoeven elevated the material, what she was looking for in the casting process and more. 
  • Connecting The Shots with Mark Goldblatt: An 11-minute interview with second unit director and frequent Verhoeven collaborator Mark Goldblatt in which he discusses his relationship with producer Jon Davison, getting involved with RoboCop, how a screening of Legend brought him together with Verhoeven, how he used his background as an editor to shape the narrative flow of the shots and more. 
  • Analog with Peter Kuran and Kevin Kutchaver: A 13-minute featurette with these visual effects artists in which they discuss the photographic effects in a pre-CGI world and how they strove to evolve the technology of the time, along with the magic that has been lost since the shift to more digital work. 
  • More Than Machine – Composing RoboCop: A 12-minute tribute to composer Basil Poledouris featuring film music experts Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall, Daniel Schweiger and Robert Townson. There are discussions about how particular Verhoeven was about finding the right composer, the ethos that Poledouris encompassed the most, the reliance on brass within the orchestration and more. 
  • RoboProps: A 13-minute tour of super-fan Julien Dumont’s collection of original props and memorabilia.
  • 2012 Q&A With The Filmmakers: A 43-minute conversation conducted at UCLA in 2012 with Verhoeven, Davison, Neumeier, Miner, Allen, star Peter Weller and animator Phil Tippett in which they discuss the initial development of the film, the place of violence in the film, working within the limitations of the mobility in the suit, the social history of the film, his “stupid European ideas” that he dismissed during production and more. 
  • RoboCop – Creating A Legend: A 21-minute archival featurette in which the cast and creative team discuss the casting of Peter Weller in the main role, the creation of the suit, the physicality of the role, the movement of the character, the working replicas that were created and more. 
  • Villains Of Old Detroit: A 17-minute archival featurette with the villainous performers in which they explore their memorable antagonists in the film, the destruction captured on camera, the appeal of the script to the performers, their place in the story and more. 
  • Special Effects – Then & Now: An 18-minute archival featurette in which the special effects artists discuss their work on the film, how they achieved certain shots, and more. 
  • Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg: A 38-second piece in which Verhoeven  discusses his brief cameo in the film. 
  • Deleted Scenes: Four unused scenes totaling three minutes are presented in rough and sometimes unfinished form. 
  • The Boardroom – Storyboard with Phil Tippett Commentary: A six-minute piece in which Tippett walks you through the creation and execution of one of the most memorable scenes in the film as you get to compare the storyboard to the finished product. 
  • Director’s Cut Production Footage: A 12-minute collection of footage of the raw dailies from the gore scenes. 
  • Trailers & TV Spots: This disc includes the Theatrical Trailer #1 (1:38), Theatrical Trailer #2 (1:23) and three TV Spots (0:33, 1:03 and 0:33). 
  • Image Galleries: The disc contains image galleries for Production Stills, Behind The Scenes and Poster & Video Art. 


Final Thoughts

RoboCop is a film that is easy to misunderstand by those who simply want to watch a robot-man dispatch some goons, but director Paul Verhoeven understands the inherent satiric bent of the script and goes full-force into making the most unflinching movie he can possibly deliver. This movie is intentionally excessive, and we love it for that. There is so much smart social commentary going on just beneath the surface that you wish all action films had such a strong point of view. The balance of comedy and drama hits the sweet spot which has allowed this one to remain a classic for decades now. Arrow Video has released a 4K UHD Blu-Ray featuring a can’t-miss A/V presentation and a substantial amount of special features. Fans of the film will be thrilled by this release. Highly Recommended 

RoboCop is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray. 

Disclaimer: Arrow Video has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.


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