Pop quiz hot shot. Which of the following killed Robocop’s film career?
A. Jet-packing across Detroit
B. Robot ninjas
C. Driving in a pink pimp car
D. The PG-13 rating
If you have guessed all of the above to piece together Robocop 3, you are of course correct. This Fred Dekker directed mess has it all, including more explosions, a genius kid in one of the lead roles, and yes, Robo commandeering a pimp’s car for his own use. It’s as pathetic as it sounds.
The film tries desperately to make Robocop cool in the face of all these absurdities. His first appearance has him driving off the roof of a parking garage, landing on the street, and shooting out the roof of the car to make his appearance known. Never mind he’s a cyborg who could have easily, you know, driven onto the scene instead of risking an explosion that could kill his fellow officers and that he had a car door. The kids love a cyborg who shoots stuff, even if it’s not a person.
That is certainly the mantra of this third entry, to become friendlier, calmer, and put Robo in a situation where he doesn’t seem as cruel. He is not shooting between a woman’s dress or putting bullets in people’s heads. This actually isn’t Robocop at all, protecting abused families who are being run out of town by OCP and their new Japanese owners. It’s blatant corporate satire, so forceful it doesn’t even count anymore.
Lest we forget the truly absurd new lows, the infamous robot ninjas sent all the way from Japan and the jetpack, the ultimate Robocop action figure now on screen… and it can be yours for only $9.95! If you are aiming for children, the totally creepy ninja with his face cracked in multiple spots probably wasn’t the best idea.
Robocop 3 was rushed into production only a year after the first sequel, this seemingly a rushed effort while Orion tried to save themselves from bankruptcy, all apparent on screen. In a way, it is not far from Robocop 2, a jumbled mess of absurdities instead of ideas. Let’s face it: in a movie with a walking corpse inside a metal cyborg, absurdities should be hard to come by. At least they brought the original theme back.
You’ll rarely see a grain structure more poorly resolved than this. It’s actually a surprise to find out this is an AVC encode, looking more like an early MPEG-2 effort that launched with the format. Every scene is awash with heavy noise, never appearing like film, but a compressed file on a digital format, exactly what this HD edition should be avoiding given its capabilities.
This was probably an older master that was lying around, and to be fair, you can’t blame anyone for avoiding a full 4K digital scan of Robocop 3. That’s even going far for the second movie. What matters is what you are paying for though, and in this case, that is a soft, noisy transfer with limited detail. There are some close-ups of note, the ED-209 model in the beginning at 8:55 actually well defined. Some of the zooms on Robocop are defined as well, yet few and far between.
Black levels are rich and consistent, even in the underground where the rebellion takes refuge. Limited light causes no harm to this transfer. Colors are subdued from the predecessor, Robocop’s armor nowhere near as vivid or bright, interesting considering the film was aiming at kids. You expect a bit more vibrancy. Flesh tones are slightly pale as well, the occasionally poor lighting not helping either.
There are few exterior shots in the film, hiding the limited budget for sure. What is here, aside from the finale, are cloaked in darkness. There is little in Old Detroit to take note of. The general softness hinders a master shot in the rebel’s sewer lair (are they the Ninja Turtles now?), revealing little definition as they camera pans away to reveal the meager scale. This is far from a disgrace in terms of hi-def, just a weak debut.
The audio is the bigger step down. Dialogue here is awful, terribly defined and tinny. A conversation around 16:25 after the chase is easily some of the worst in the film. It’s hollow, lacking refinement and even coming through a bit coarse.
Gunfire is toned down in terms of impact, possibly an attempt to calm the film a bit by design for the younger set. The same goes for car crashes, that early chase nearly losing the impact of metal-on-metal to the score, which also doesn’t reach much of a peak. Bass is negligible, a shame considering the film has more explosions than any of the others by far. The low-end never picks up like it should, although it is cleaner than <em>Robocop 2’s</em> bass as far as the music is concerned.
Beyond the lack of bass and middling fidelity, this DTS-HD mix does have some surround highlights. As the gangs begin marching to the rebels for the finale, the rears pick up stray bullets, sprayed across the soundfield aggressively. Once Robo dons the jetpack (ugh), he swoops in, panning through the stereos and front to back. The effect is clean and natural, much unlike the dialogue.
Extras only include the original trailer.