Second only to the untapped potential of a 2000AD/Judge Dredd TV series, arguably the second most squandered franchise is that of RoboCop.
The 1987 original, written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Peter Weller and Kurtwood Smith was, in no uncertain terms, a classic. Woven into the subtle story fabric were themes of political satire and observations on American culture. The cream on top of the cake was made from a refreshing mix of dark humour and over-the-top, cartoon-style violence.
As a standalone genre film, it can happily stand alongside the likes of Alien, The Terminator and even Star Trek.
However, unlike Alien, The Terminator and Star Trek, the sequels to RoboCop were of dramatically inferior quality. In fact, they were terrible. RoboCop 2, at best, was a good B-movie and they get significantly worse after that. Weller wouldn’t come back for a third and that was a good decision on his part.
There were some attempts to make RoboCop work in live action TV, with predictable results and there was even a Saturday morning cartoon. Yes, because the world of RoboCop is perfectly suitable for young children… [see video]
Plans for a remake were announced in 2012 and fans reacted, quite rightly, in much the same they did when news of a Blade Runner sequel was released. It actually looked like everything might turn out OK. It had a pretty spectacular cast – including Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley and Samuel L. Jackson – and some concepts were being reinterpreted in an interesting way.
However, the film was a disappointment. During production of the film, director José Padilha phoned friend and fellow Brazilian Director Fernando Meirelles to confide in him his frustration in the lack of creative control he was allowed by the studio for the project. Padilha estimated that for every ten ideas he brought to the project, the studio refused nine, and went on to the describe the making of the film as “The worst experience of his life”. When word of this conversation became public, in an effort to appease the studio, Padilha released counter statements expressing satisfaction with the film.
But in the spirit of continuing the Frankenstein-Christ metaphor that RoboCop has always been, he’s not staying dead, thank heavens…and RoboCop co-creator Ed Neumeier has revealed that “they have me working on a new one at MGM right now so maybe we’ll get another one out of it.”
“We’re not supposed to say too much,” he told Zeitgeist Magazine. “There’s been a bunch of other RoboCop movies and there was recently a remake and I would say this would be kind of going back to the old RoboCop we all love and starting there and going forward. So it’s a continuation really of the first movie. In my mind. So it’s a little bit more of the old school thing.”
While Neumeier doesn’t exactly state that RoboCop 2 and 3 will no longer be considered canon, it would be easy to mostly ignore them and tell a story of Detroit 30 years after the events of the original.
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