Insert the obligatory “I’d buy that for a dollar” reference.
Dead or alive, this reboot is coming soon to a theater near you. Lol. Actually, it’s not technically a reboot. Springing forth from a sequel script that was written as a continuation of Paul Verhoeven’s original RoboCop, this new iteration of Detroit’s finest supposedly picks up soon after that film’s events. And, oh yeah, it will be directed by Neill Blomkamp. Say wut? I guess since he couldn’t wipe the slate clean with the Alien franchise, he’s found another continuity to muck about within.
According to Deadline, original scribes Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner intended this screenplay as RobocCop 2, but the 1988 writer’s strike pushed them off the project and allowed then-comic book superstar Frank Miller to infiltrate the production. Verhoeven had no interest in repeating himself, and Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner swooped in to will the franchise into existence. What we got were two incredibly shoddy sequels and the inevitable lackluster reboot from José Padilha. RoboCop appeared to be as dead as Dillinger.
Then Trump took office, and MGM president Jon Glickman remembered that the Neumeier and Miner sequel script predicted that a reality television star would win the office of the president. The screenwriters received a phone call from on high and were tasked with attempting another go at the dystopian horrors of New Detroit. No need for roman numerals or vague subtitles, the time had come for Robocop Returns. When Blomkamp heard what they were cooking, he knew he had to be a part of the relaunch.
Since exploding onto the scene with District 9, Blomkamp has struggled to recapture the zeitgeist. Elysium and Chappie continued his preoccupation with social science-fiction but both felt more like addendums to the concepts explored in District 9 rather than their own unique properties. Verhoeven’s RoboCop certainly has a lot on its mind besides healthy bursts of blood, and it’s easy to imagine how it appeals to Blomkamp. The question then arises, does he have something new to add, or is it more of the same?
Speaking to Deadline, Blomkamp explained how the messages of RoboCop have changed since he first experienced it in the ’80s:
“What I connected to as a kid has evolved over time. At first, the consumerism, materialism, and Reaganomics, that ’80s theme of America on steroids, came through most strongly. But As I’ve gotten older, the part that really resonated with me is identity, and the search for identity.”
So, while Neumeier and Miner’s world revealed itself to be incredibly prescient to our 2018 realities, a RoboCop that excites Blomkamp the most is one that further examines the loss of individuality. The director certainly touched upon that idea in Chappie, and even a little bit within District 9. Who am I now that I am more? How much of police officer Alex Murphy resides within the tin can of Robo?
Whatever your thoughts about Elysium or Chappie, the idea of Blomkamp digging into the real world relevance for Robocop Returns is definitely more appealing than another studio reboot cash-grab. Padilha may have scored a few cool shots or a nifty bit of action here and there with his 2014 attempt, but RoboCop deserves a filmmaker and a studio willing to hold a mirror to society. We’re here for all the squibs you can give us, but we demand a little societal rage as well.