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RoboCop 2 – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Robocop 2Like Dr. Sam Beckett used to do through time, Scream Factory (Shout! Factory, in general) is on a mission to put right what once wrong.  Giving to us the versions of films we like that celebrate the fan and collector, while the studio original just put out a minimal effort.  And now its time to give some love to the RoboCop sequels.  I’m pretty sure nobody prefers either over the original, but the second film has its fans (I’m sorta one) at least.  Despite their quality, these misses always make for a great retrospective documentary, making the film worth owning or taking another look at.  On March 14th, RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 will get some beefy Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory.  In this review, we’ll look at RoboCop 2.

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Film 

When Detroit’s decent into chaos is further compounded by a police department strike and a new designer drug called “Nuke,” only RoboCop can stop the mayhem. But in his way are an evil corporation that profits from Motor City crime and a bigger and tougher cyborg with a deadly directive: Take out RoboCop. Containing the latest gadgetry and weaponry as well as the mind of the madman who designed “Nuke,” this new cyborg isn’t just more sophisticated than his predecessor… he’s psychotic and out of control! And it’s going to take everything RoboCop has – maybe even his life – to save Detroit from complete and utter anarchy.

It’s Robocop 2…LITERALLY (he’s robotic nemesis is actually called Robocop 2)!  Three years later, Detroit’s protector returned.  Verhoeven was able to return, but no fear, Irvin Kershner was in the director’s chair.  Frank Miller, of ultimate Batman comic book fame, was penning the script.  Peter Weller and pretty much all the original cast, whose characters were still alive, are back!  Maybe this would wind up The Empire Strikes Back of the Robocop saga.  This sounds like they got all the right chips in place.

Well, not quite.  Miller’s script was deemed unfilmable and the Kershner delivers more of a Never Say Never Again instead of Empire in terms of franchise sequels.  Robocop 2 is a sometimes weird film that manages to get things right and then again also gets them wrong too.  There were times in the film that I felt like Verhoeven wasn’t absent, that it was a true followup to the original.  They keep the satirical nature and structure, and I love the decision to keep the news segments and commercials a part of the story.  But, more often then not, its evident that Kersnher doesn’t quite have a handle on everything the way that Verhoeven did and the film skews off into an bizarre and uncomfortable screwy direction.

One thing that held up pretty good in the film is the action.  Its not as great or as bloody as Verhoeven’s in the original, but its still a loud and explosive affair.  There is still blood and there’s are many surprisingly quick and brutal fatalities in the film.  The make-up work on the film also stays pretty efficient.  I especially thought the animatronic of Robocop when he was torn apart looked really good.  So, in this regard, its not a huge step back from the original.

Where it gets lost is its script and much of the execution.  When we last left Robocop, he seemed to have been regaining some of his humanity and his identity.  When we start here, and ultimately through the whole film, he’s that monotone no-nonsense robot we saw when he first was unveiled.  Except, it gets super creepy because he’s now stalking his ex-wife.  It feels a really weird scenario, and even much more weird than the stalking Superman in Superman Returns.  And what’s more, this subplot is eventually just tossed away early on and we never return to that or his emotions returning.  Its just…gone.  But, hey…sign of the times…it did have a scene that took place in an arcade and brought back a shitload of nostalgia and memories of my childhood!  Where do underage kids commune like that nowadays?

And that’s how clunky this film is.  It’s primarily Robocop Vs drug dealers, but there’s a lot of quick shifts in direction as to what and where this film wants to go.  It helps (for me at least) that the lead drug dealer is played by Tom Noonan who is terrific at playing creepy characters.  And he’s pretty great as always here.  But, he unfortunately is taken out a little more than halfway on as he becomes Robocop 2.  So our main villain then becomes a child for a while.  Then the villain becomes Robocop 2.  In the midst of this we have a scenario where Robocop starts to malfunction and the film goes for some humor that is pretty embarrassing and hard to watch.

I suppose going any further than 1 movie with Robocop ultimately risks becoming the corny, cheesy movie that everyone would assume the first to be.  And under the grasp of someone who’s not quite getting it, it can turn a little disastrous.  And Robocop 2 doesn’t quite go full on head first into that territory, but it manages to jump in and out of it.  In the end, I actually think Robocop 2 is pretty watchable and can be enjoyed if you’re wanting to go further with the character.  Its nowhere near as good as the first movie (most non-Robocop movies aren’t), but I think it can be sort of enjoyed in a dumb way.  Its got plenty of loud and destructive action that’ll keep your brain at ease and your fists pumping.  But, in the end, its a movie that marvelously recaptured what I loved about the first one a few times and for the most part ended up being weird but saving itself with some action.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  RoboCop 2 features a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive.  Its a nice, solid improvement over the previous edition when compared.  This image is more crisp and detailed.  There is a bolder, less dull and dingy look to it with much better color timing and consistent stability.  Even the TV scenes and RoboCop’s vision carry better crispness and detail, looking more the part.  This one feels like more care and effort was put into it for sure.  Look no further than the much more pronounced finished and luster on RoboCop himself in regards to his armor.  It comes off much more pearl-like in appearance (Reflecting purples, blues, whites) than it was on the previous edition.

Depth:  Solid depth here as the spacing between objects/people and background is there and stable.  Interiors, like warehouses or truck beds feature a good push back in foreground/backdrop relations.  Movements are smooth and cinematic with no real jittering to report.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep, giving the film good shadow and definition in its darker corners.  No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are much more pronounced and give more pop than its predecessor.  Right off the bat, some very neon seedy underbelly streets give way to an impressive and fun look.  Reds, purples and greens radiate quite well here.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are another improvement over the previous release.  They feel much more natural with faces looking more lively then dulled out.  It keeps a consistent appearance throughout.  Medium and close ups carry details like stubble, dried blood, lip texture, moles, freckles and more.

Noise/Artifacts: A little layer of grain but not really much else as this print seems very clean.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: I believe this is the same mix as the previous edition.  The only difference seems to be that this one is set to a lower volume level in its default.  No matter, just put it up a couple ticks.  This one gets the action beats all right and does well enough in the drama.  Its not a spectacular affair (previous edition wasn’t), leaving you maybe thinking there could be more, but don’t mistake the fact that this is a rock solid affair.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Explosions, crashes, engines, gun blasts and robo-stomping/clip-clopping carry a nice bump in the subwoofer.  It could have been a bit more, but this has the right amount of impact without risking the possibility of overdoing it.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Much more a front heavy track, but the action does drop back and carry some fun in the rear speakers during most of the major shootout sequences.  Motion is tracked with the most accuracy as well as volume placement in distances.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean.  Aspects or diction and RoboCops vocal distortions are carried well in this mix.

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Extras 

RoboCop 2 – Collector’s Edition comes with a reversible cover featuring the original poster art.

Audio Commentary

  • With Author/CG Supervisor Paul M. Sammon
  • “RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop” Team

Corporate Wars: The Making of RoboCop 2 (HD, 32:04) – Features new and vintage interviews with director Irvin Kershner, producer Jon Davidson, cast members Tom Noonan, Nancy Allen, Galyn Görg, executive producer Patrick Crowley, associate producer Phil Tippett, cinematographer Mark Irwin and author/CG supervision Paul M. Sammon.  This full on look back at the film is one of the richest, honest and best looks back at a film in recent years that Scream Factory has done.  It covers many aspects and really picks up and fills in where some interviewees may be missing.

Machine Parts: The FX of RoboCop 2 (HD, 31:36) – Phil Tippett, Peter Kuran, Craig Hayes, Jim Aupperle, Kirk Thatcher, Paul Gentry, Don Waller, Justin Kohn, Randal Dutra and Kevin Kutchaver go over the effects in the film in a scene by scene basis while talking the overall vibe of the film and what each has in expertise that they brought to the film.  It also has some VHS effects test/behind-the-scenes footage as well.

Robo-Fabricator (HD, 8:47) – Interview with RoboCop armor fabricator James Belohovek.  He shares a humorous story of unknowingly turning down the first RoboCop after he finished working on Aliens and then goes on to describe how he came up with new joints, and pieces to make it easier to get in and out of and improve mobility while making the suit more solid.

OCP Declassified (HD, 45:50) – A collection of rare archival production and behind-the-scenes videos including interviews with director Irvin Kershner, actors Peter Weller, Dan O’Herlihy and a look at the filming of some deleted scene.  Its sourced from a VHS, and some of this footage was used in the Corporate Wars retrospective.

Adapting Frank Miller’s RoboCop 2 (HD, 5:55) – An interview with comic book writer Steven Grant.  He refers to RoboCop as a cyber punk as well as the “ultimate loner” and spends much of the interview talking about today’s social climate with smart phones and such.  In the last 2 minutes or so he talks his comic book series that came from Frank Miller’s second draft of the screenplay.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:56)

Teaser Trailers (HD, 1:56)

TV Spots (HD, 1:04)

Deleted Scenes Gallery (HD, 2:34)

Behind-the-Scenes Gallery (HD, :46)

Still Gallery (HD, 9:07)

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Summary 

RoboCop gets enough righto be fun and enjoyable while at the same time having its quite embarrassing moments.  Not near embarrassing is one of the best Collector’s Editions that Scream Factory has put out.  The bonus materials, documentaries, galleries, EVEN TV Spots make this release a must own.  It also carries a rock solid new transfer that feels a step above the previous release.  Pick this one up!

Robocop 2-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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