RoboCop (2014) review

Brazilian director José Padilha had a thankless task ahead of him when it came to remaking RoboCop. Mixing together shocking violence and worryingly prescient satire, Paul Verhoeven's peerless 1987 original is regarded as a classic by the majority of film fans, making the very notion of a remake even more redundant than usual. But despite having all of the odds stacked against it, this film more than justifies its existence with some big ideas of its own.

The movie opens with a news piece highlighting the use of OmniCorp's robots in keeping the peace on the streets of Tehran. However, as with current drone technology, things don't go well, with an ED-209 unable to tell the difference between an armed terrorist and a scared teenager holding a knife. This distinction between how a machine and a man would react in the same situation threatens to keep OmniCorp from unleashing its robots to fight crime in the US – until some bright spark at the company comes up with the idea of merging a man with a machine. All they need now is to get their hands on a suitable candidate…

Pretty much ignoring the mean streets of Detroit, this film is far more concerned with corporate misdeeds and the use of drone tech. The latter plays directly into the emotional core of the film, with OmniCorp scientists having to remove more and more of Murphy's humanity to make him a more effective 'soldier', only for his memories to keep on bleeding through. And while the studio insisted on dialing back the violence this time around, Padilha's film still has the power to shock – most notably in the scene where we see just how little of the real Alex Murphy still exists under the armour.

No, it's not as good as the original, but this next-gen RoboCop presents a fresh approach to the material that makes it easy to recommend.

Picture: Framed at 2.40:1 and utilising an AVC 1080p encode, StudioCanal's Blu-ray delivers pretty much everything you'd expect from a modern $130million blockbuster – robust colours, terrific detailing, deep blacks and excellent clarity. That said, director José Padilha's fondness for employing handheld cameras does sometimes result in a minor drop in sharpness during the more frantic action scenes. This is a minor caveat, however; generally it's a great-looking Full HD image.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: From the moment the aerial drones swoop into action over the streets of Tehran in Chapter 2, and the sound of ED-209's guns fill the soundstage, it becomes clear that this version of RoboCop is up to the task of delivering some truly awesome multichannel mayhem.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix creates an expansive soundstage for its action scenes to play out against. Scenes such as Chapter 3's restaurant shootout and RoboCop's showdown with a trio of ED-209s in Chapter 28 demonstrate terrific dynamic range, precise effects steering and a tight, rich, powerful low-end.

Away from the action the mix also showcases clarity of dialogue and a lively musicality. The latter proves particularly handy when the sound designers play with our expectations, such as the use of Hocus Pocus by Focus to background the action when RoboCop goes up against an army of 'bots at the OmniCorp testing facility in Chapter 14.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: After scoring so well with its picture and sound credentials, StudioCanal's hi-def platter unfortunately comes a bit of a cropper when it comes to supplementary features.

First up is a collection of five brief deleted scenes that help build up some of the supporting characters and fill in some tiny gaps in the narrative. There's nothing truly groundbreaking here, but the film may still have benefitted from at least one or two of them making it into the final cut.

After this comes a look at the film's weapons and robots disguised as ten OmniCorp corporate videos. Yet with none of the pieces lasting more than 30 seconds there's very little to be learnt, and their inclusion smacks of padding out the disc.

Far more useful is the disc's trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes. The Illusion of Free Will (eight minutes) explores the idea behind remaking RoboCop and the 'real world concepts' the film sets out to explore. To Serve and Protect (six minutes) focuses on the cast's weapon training and the design of RoboCop's guns and motorbike. The rather self-explanatory The RoboCop Suit (15 minutes) rounds things off by looking at the work that went into redesigning the iconic costume (and upsetting fans in the process).

Finally, there's the UK theatrical trailer. Like all of the other extras it is presented in 1080p.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: Not only does this reboot hold up better than expected, it also delivers some serious AV thrills

RoboCop, StudioCanal, Region B BD, £23 Approx