ROBOCOP TRILOGY Law Enforcement x3
DVD review

Since the late 80s, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven seems to have become one of the most critically acclaimed directors of science fiction action movies, even though he's only directed six movies since coming to the US. Forgetting the lower points of his career such as Basic Instinct and Showgirls, some of the best sci-fi action movies of the past two decades like Total Recall, and Starship Troopers have been his.

But it was the original Robocop movie released in 1987 which helped kick-start this tangent for someone for whom American sci-fi action movies were never really considered. And this trilogy helps us remember not only his outstanding beginnings, but also, in a kind of balance only yin yang is capable of, documents one of the worst endings to what could have been a fantastic trilogy.

This box set goes to show that there are some good-quality R2 DVD titles out there if only people would put the effort in. And the fact that this box set isn't yet available in R1 format is an added bonus, at least for us in the UK, as I'm sure we're all fed up of being treated to shoddy DVD content by now.

It contains 3 discs for each of the films; the Robocop disc is the only one containing any sort of special features - which is a bit of a shame as I'd have liked to known more about Robocop 2, which confusingly everyone seems to think was absolute rubbish.

For anyone unaware of the movie (as strange as that may seem), Robocop is set in Detroit sometime in the near future. The city is a mess, the crime rate is way up, and a corrupt multinational corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) own most of pretty much everything, including the weapons contracts for the military and the police force.

With the crime rate so high the police want higher pay, but OCP are refusing the cough up, so the police are on the verge of a strike. With crime as bad as it is, this could prove disastrous for the city.

OCP has another project underway though - Delta City. This is a project to build a new, shiny metropolis where 'Old Detroit' stands. It's OCP's belief that this will improve life for Detroit's citizens and stamp out crime. But the project is having difficulty being carried out because of the high-risk factor involved for the workers due to the escalating crime.

So we are introduced to their second major project - a project to create a 'super cop' to stamp out crime in the area, making Detroit a safe place for the workers and the people who will eventually live in Delta City

After a disaster with the first model ED-209; up steps big-shot wannabe, Bob Mortimer who introduces the Robocop program. This involves creating a cyborg using a dead cop as a basis. With Murphy (Peter Weller) being brutally tortured and left pretty much for dead near the start of the film, he is the prime candidate.

From then on we follow Robocop's crazy adventures and hilarious hi-jinks he gets up to in Detroit. Of course I'm kidding, Robocop initially does a great job of stamping out crime, but because his brain is still living, he suffers from flashbacks of Murphy's life.

Remembering who killed him, Robocop takes it upon himself to go straight to the source of the crime problem and targets Clarence Boddicker and his gang. The movie pretty much deals with Robocop's vengeance from there, as well as showing how corrupt OCP is, especially when it comes down to money and power over empathy and the safety of the people of Detroit.

The Robocop disc is essentially the same as the Criterion Collection, but including an extra recently made documentary, which is a relief as 'Special Editions' which follow from Criterion Collections are usually missing one or two features; such as the recent 'The Silence Of The Lambs' Special Edition, which was in every way the Criterion version but excluded - for reasons unknown to me - the commentary. Thankfully, all of Robocop's features are intact.

The features include the original theatrical release version, plus the director's cut of the movie. This is an interesting feature - as I never knew a director's cut existed - which includes a couple more particularly gruesome scenes, especially when Murphy is being shot up by Clarence Boddicker's gang.

This should have worked well, but what they've quite cleverly done, I assume in order to cut down on DVD space, is intersect the regular movie with the extended scenes. 'Great' you think, but this does result in a few too many layer changes throughout the movie. Now I don't know if newer DVD players have un-noticeable layer changes, but on my player it's blaringly obvious and a bit of a pain.

As previously mentioned theres a new documentary which is highly informative; two featurettes which originally appeared on the Criterion version. Deleted scenes, which are really a selection of footage taken with a hand cam on set, storyboard comparison, trailers, TV commercials and a photo gallery.

It also contains a commentary by Paul Verhoeven, screenwriter Edward Neumeier and Jon Davison. It's a great commentary in which you learn that Verhoeven originally threw the script on the floor after reading the first line (or maybe even the title). And it was his wife who began to read it for herself and convinced him to take the movie. So well done Mrs. Verhoeven! Also, you hear that Verhoeven sees the movie as metaphor for the resurrection of Christ.

All the way through, Edward Neumeier is a little over-hyped though and seems like he's trying to compete with the eccentric Verhoeven for audibility. It's a little annoying to say the least; you can't fault the guy's passion for the movie, but there's no reason to get quite so worked up about it. It had me wincing a few times anyway.

Robocop 2, directed by Irvin Kershner, follows on from the first. Detroit is in a worse state than ever, crime is still on the increase, and the cops, having had enough and still no pay rise from OCP, are on strike.

The main villain this time is Cain, inventor of the highly addictive drug, Nuke. This is one of the biggest problems in Detroit and Robocop is going to put an end to it. OCP meanwhile are trying to develop a new Robocop, more powerful than the first, to help clean up Detroit for construction of Delta City to take place.

Ignore what every other critic has said about Robocop 2, this is a great movie. It's not as good as the first, but is pure comic book sci-fi with just as much action as the first. Which isn't surprising considering it was penned by Frank Miller.

But what is surprising is that Frank Miller also wrote the downright abysmal Robocop 3, directed by Fred Dekker. I had high hopes for this movie after playing the outstanding Amiga game adaptation. But with moments that will prompt you to either bury your head under cushions or simply snap the disc in two - such as a small child simply walking up to a hostile ED-209, plugging a laptop into it's leg and persuading it to help them; or even the now legendary 'flying Robocop' scene - it's hard to find anything good about the movie.

The basic story is that OCP are now throwing people out of their homes in order to demolish Old Detroit and start construction on Delta City. There is, however, and underground rebellion of citizens who are trying to stop them. Robocop winds up helping them, and that's about it.

So all in all this is a very good box set; it's just a shame that the trilogy ends so badly, but for the Criterion version of Robocop, plus an extra documentary, Robocop 2 and a lovely metallic coaster, you can't go wrong for the price.

(excluding Robocop 3)

david twomey

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Trilogy DVD Boxset

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