Hold onto your butts, because it’s being reported that MGM is developing a new ROBOCOP film with DISTRICT 9 and CHAPPIE helmer Neill Blomkamp set to direct. Entitled ROBOCOP RETURNS, the studio is hoping to bring the cybernetic law enforcement agent back in a big way with plans to launch a new franchise around the character. As a way of adding some authenticity to the project, original ROBOCOP writers Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner have boarded the effort as producer and executive producer, respectively. Re-writing the script for ROBOCOP RETURNS is Justin Rhodes, whose recent work includes a re-write of the upcoming Tim Miller-directed TERMINATOR pic. What’s particularly interesting about this situation is that the script Rhodes is set to re-tool hails from a draft that both Neumeier and Miner wrote years ago as a defunct sequel to Verhoeven’s cult classic.
Here’s a slice of the plot for ROBOCOP RETURNS: Anarchy reigns and the fate of Detroit hangs in the balance as RoboCop makes his triumphant return to fight crime and corruption.
“The original definitely had a massive effect on me as a kid,” Blomkamp exclusively told Deadline. “I loved it then and it remains a classic in the end of 20th Century sci-fi catalog, with real meaning under the surface. Hopefully that is something we can get closer to in making of a sequel. That is my goal here. 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. As long as the human component is there, a good story can work in any time period, it’s not locked into a specific place in history. What’s so cool about RoboCop is that like good Westerns, sci-fi films and dramas, the human connection is really important to a story well told. What draws me now is someone searching for their lost identity, taken away at the hands of people who are benefiting from it, and seeing his memory jogged by events. That is most captivating. The other thing I am excited by is the chance to work again with Justin Rhodes. He has added elements that are pretty awesome, to a sequel that was set in the world of Verhoeven. This is a movie I would love to watch.”
For those of you who are perhaps too young to remember Verhoeven’s ROBOCOP, the film was set in a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, where a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories. While doing his best to uphold the law, Officer Alex J. Murphy struggles to come to grips with his new identity, as his programming threatens to erase all traces of the man he once was.
Originally, Neumeier and Miner’s sequel script was sold as a spec project with Mike Medavoy jonsing to make it a reality following the success of PLATOON. As the story goes, both writers got paid a pittance for their efforts, though eight points of producer profits made that amount grow like weeds. As it was back then, the script presented a ROBOCOP sequel with a heavy Western influence – think John Wayne in metal underwear.
“There were four or five things RoboCop couldn’t do, including no talking on the phone, no kissing the girl, and he couldn’t fly and would be limited to four or five signature phrases,” Miner recollected. “Ed and I became zen like in writing that dialogue, which had to be like sharp spears that punch you, in dialogue form. We would labor a whole day over one line. When you recall the way Ethan (Wayne) spike in THE SEARCHERS, or Clint in DIRTY HARRY, they were like zen poems in an action culture.”
With the original ROBOCOP having made $50 million at the box office during its theatrical run, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why Neumeier and Miner’s plans never came to fruition. However, like most things, there were reasons as to why the script was left to collect dust.
“Verhoeven felt at the time that making one would be de classe and he wasn’t interested in the politics of a sequel,” Neumeier told Deadline. “Then, the writers strike came along in 1988 and we were force majeured off the project. They brought in Frank Miller on a waiver. He wrote a draft and then another with Walon Green, and it got made by Irvin Kershner, who directed THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I went off and did STARSHIP TROOPERS with Paul.”
Fast-forward to today, where you have a call from MGM president Jon Glickman paving the way for a beloved franchise to patrol theaters, once more. “Right when Trump was about to be elected president he called me and said, ‘Did you actually predict in your sequel script that a reality star would run for president and win?’ We had. So Mike and I wrote a draft and gave one interview in Barbados and I think the only person who read it was Neill Blomkamp, and that set this in motion.”
I’d but that for a dollar!
What do you think of Neill Blomkamp taking on ROBOCOP? Are you excited to see what a revised version of Neumeier and Miner’s script will look like on today’s big screen? Let us know your thoughts and show some love for ROBOCOP in the comments section below. Thank you for your cooperation.