Robocop is back on patrol. The news broke this afternoon that director Neill Blomkamp will helm Robocop Returns, MGM’s sequel to the original 1987 film that saw Officer Alex Murphy left for dead and turned into a cyborg who must come to terms with his own free will. Scripted by upcoming Terminator screenwriter Justin Rhodes, the sequel is said to ignore the previous entries and 2014 reboot.
Robocop finds itself at an interesting juncture in terms of pop-cultural interest. While Paul Verhoeven’s original film is regarded as a sci-fi classic, one that’s influence can be seen as recently as this summer’s Upgrade, it never successfully tapped into its franchise potential. After two poorly received sequels in 1990 and 1993, a 1994 television show that lasted one season, a cheaply made, 2001 TV miniseries, Robocop: Prime Directives, and a reboot that boasted nifty effects while failing to distinguish itself from the original, Robocop is a property that seems destined for the scrapheap. But with the Predator and Terminator receiving new film entries set to make up for, and potentially omit, some of the mistakes of the past, a redemption for Robocop not only feels right, but necessary. Robocop is returning at just the right time, and hopefully busting Blomkamp out of the director jail that too many audiences and critics have sentenced him to.
Robocop Returns is not the first time Blomkamp has been attached to the revival of a major science-fiction property. In 2015 he was linked to a sequel to Aliens (1986) that would have seen Sigourney Weaver return as Ellen Ripley. Fox ultimately shelved the project in the midst of reconfiguring Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant (2017) and the direction of the franchise. While an Alien film would have potentially allowed Blomkamp a significant chance to distinguish himself from his previous films, Robocop seems like a smoother path for the filmmaker to remind critics and audiences why his directorial lens is so crucial. And while his take on Alien: Awakening sounded great, there is no better match for Robocop than Neill Blomkamp — the two need each other. While the South African filmmaker has proven divisive in recent years, there’s no denying the fact that Blomkamp’s cinematic language is largely inspired by Verhoeven’s film. Blomkamp’s tech heavy films, featuring all manner of exo-suits, robots, political conflicts, and bloody splatter effects owe much of their identity to the 1987 film. In many ways, it feels like…
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