The writer of the original ‘RoboCop’ is working on a sequel that ignores the franchise’s checkered history.
It’s a unique Hollywood tradition: is your studio saddled with a franchise that’s more than 50% irredeemable garbage? Have no fear! Just casually pretend those undesirable movies didn’t happen and move on. Bryan Singer did it with Superman Returns in 2006. Danny McBride and David Gordon Green’s are doing it with their upcoming Halloween. Before Ridley Scott unceremoniously keelhauled the idea, Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 would have followed the same model. Now it’s RoboCop‘s turn.
In an interview with Zeitgeist Entertainment Magazine, original RoboCop writer Ed Neumeier confirmed that MGM has hired him to write a direct sequel to the 1987 film, which was directed by Paul Verhoeven. Neumeier describes the new script as “a continuation really of the first movie. In my mind. So it’s a little bit more of the old school thing.” There’s some ambiguity there, perhaps implying more of a tonal kinship than a total abandonment of current continuity. For now, however, it certainly seems like RoboCop 2 and 3, not to mention the 2014 remake, will be falling by the wayside.
This type of reasoning has its benefits, especially with a franchise like RoboCop, primarily known exclusively for its first film. The Terminator series is currently undergoing a similar overhaul, bringing back Linda Hamilton for a sixth film that ignores the previous three. General audiences won’t be fazed by a new entry that crawls back to the feet of the original RoboCop. No one remembers RoboCop 2, let alone the recast RoboCop 3, and it’s not like the Joel Kinnaman-led redo has made any cultural impact whatsoever.
And yet, at the same time, there’s an air of corporate laziness hovering over decisions like this one. It feels like only a matter of time before newly Disney-owned Fox greenlights an Alien movie that brings Sigourney Weaver back into the fold rather than continuing with Sir Ridley’s costly and deranged meditations on the nature of humanity. For a studio most interested in nostalgia-trafficking, it’s the path of least resistance, but not always the one that bears the most fruit.
Writing off a few poorly remembered franchise installments from the 1980s is easy. No one misses a Superman IV: The Quest for Peace reference. Alien fans certainly wouldn’t riot if a new film brought Newt and Hicks back to life. But in recent years, better and bolder franchise relaunches have taken their baggage and created gold. The emotional heart of Creed is rooted in the campy absurdity of Rocky IV. Star Wars: The Last Jedi doesn’t ignore the failures of the prequels; it makes them into thematic text. It’s all well and good to return to what people liked about an intellectual property. But that doesn’t necessarily mean leaping straight to a wholesale purge.
RoboCop 2: But This Time We Promise You’ll Like It is currently without a release date.