District 9 director Neil Blomkamp will be directing a new installment in MGM’s RoboCop franchise, according to Deadline. The industry trade is reporting that Blomkamp will be overseeing development on the project, titled RoboCop Returns, which the studio is hoping will revive the science-fiction thriller series.
In an interesting twist, this new project has its roots in a screenplay for a sequel to the 1987 film written by original film screenwriters Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner. Justin Rhodes, who also co-wrote the new Terminator film currently in production with Deadpool’s Tim Miller behind the camera, is rewriting their draft.
Although Paul Veerhoven’s 1987 film is a satirical science-fiction classic, the RoboCop franchise has not fared well overall. The two sequels to the original RoboCop did moderately well at the box office but disappointed critics and hardcore fans. An animated series, a syndicated television series that ran in 1994, a syndicated mini-series from 2001 and a 2014 theatrical remake have all been justly forgotten.
With its origins in an unused sequel to the original film, it sounds as if all subsequent RoboCop productions will be ignored. Though at age 71, I tend to doubt that actor Peter Weller will return to play Murphy, a cop who is brought back from the brink of death by the technology of a corporation who is looking to introduce a new wave of law enforcement in the form of robotic police officers.
Neumeier and Miner’s sequel script got sidelined in part by Verhoven’s reluctance to make a sequel to the film and by the 1988 writers guild strike. But their draft was recently dusted off by MGM president Jon Glickman who had heard that one of the satirical elements in the screenplay was a reality TV star who runs for president and wins. The pair will serve as producers on the new film.
While I’ve found Blomkamp’s debut feature, 2009’s District 9, a remarkable piece of thoughtful and yet action-packed science-fiction, his two follow up films – 2013’s Elysium and 2015’s Chapie – to not live up to the potential suggested by his first film. But given that the franchise’s creators, Neumeier and Miner, are involved for the first time since the original film, there is a good reason to believe that this new film will hew close to what we got back in 1987. And with that kind of meaty material to work with it will inspire Blomkamp to rise to the occasion.