Perhaps it’s appropriate that the adaptation of Peter M. Lenkov’s comic book miniseries R.I.P.D. (or Rest In Peace Department) served a sentence in development limbo before finally getting made by director Robert Schwentke (RED). After all, the film is about a cop who gets killed whilst on duty and is recruited by the R.I.P.D. – a supernatural law enforcement agency tasked with rounding up “bad souls” who have escaped custody.
In anticipation of the film’s summer release, producer Neal Moritz – who also worked on last year’s Total Recall remake – talked about about the challenges of getting the film made, the challenge of creating a story that everyone would want to see, and how it was cast.
When asked about similarities to other classic supernatural or sci-fi comedies – courtesy of Collider - Moritz named a few of R.I.P.D.‘s direct influences:
“Yeah, I think that was the hardest part of the movie was, ‘what is the exact tone of this movie?’ We’ve talked a lot about movies like ’Lethal Weapon’ meets ‘Men In Black’ or a little bit of ‘Beetlejuice’ thrown in there, a little bit of ‘Ghostbusters’ …
“There was a balance of humor, comedy, action, that we really had to finely distill – every time we added a little bit more of something or had to take a little bit back. We didn’t want the movie to be broad, we wanted it to feel real but it’s got a supernatural concept, so it was just trying to mix all that and dial that together.”
R.I.P.D. marks the first time that Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds have teamed up onscreen. In many cases, buddy cop comedies succeed or fail based on the chemistry of the two lead actors, and there wasn’t much in the trailer to suggest a significant spark between the two (unless you count the scene where Bridges mounts Reynolds and rides him to the ground).
Moritz, however, seems confident in the casting choices. Here’s what he said:
“We had a number of combinations of cast that wanted to do the movie together, but it just never came together right. When ultimately it started to get steam again, we got Jeff Bridges to play that role. To me, out of all the combinations that potentially almost did this movie, there could not have been a better combination than Jeff and Ryan. Jeff just embodies that character so much, it’s amazing.
“Really the core of the movie is the relationship between Jeff and Ryan. For me, buddy cop comedies are really almost my favorite genre and this is really aimed at that. How do we make the relationship of the buddy cop movie fresh? And I think the two of those guys are terrific in it and their relationship just sparkle.”
For fans of the original comic books and its unique characters, what Moritz had to say with regards to fidelity to the source material is probably going to be pretty disappointing. In fact, it might be disappointing even for movie fans who haven’t read the comic books.
When asked how the film compares to the comics, Moritz replied:
“I think there are concepts, the characters are very similar. We used it as a jumping off point and there’s a lot that’s similar in both and there’s a lot that’s different in both. I like to think that these movies kind of stand on their own and whether you’ve read the comic book or not read the comic book, the movie is enjoyable to you either way.
“I think that sometimes – especially a comic that has a beloved fanbase but it’s a small fanbase – if we don’t expand it a bit, it doesn’t become a movie for everybody. When you’re making movies at such a high level budget, you really have to make movies that really are for more than just a small group of people.”
While Moritz’s view is understandable – Universal is going to want to make its money back, after all – and a lot of comic books movies tend to stray from the source material, phrases like “a movie for everybody” and the hints at pressure from the studio to make the movie as marketable as possible don’t necessarily bode well for R.I.P.D.
Trying to ensure that a movie will appeal to kids, teens, adults, college students and every other demographic can often turn the material into something very bland and generic, whereas making a movie with its own distinct character carries a bigger risk but can often lead to a better end product.
The producer also said that the hardest part of R.I.P.D. was just getting it made in the first place, but that he was determined to see the story make it all the way to distribution, despite the setbacks:
“It was one of these movies that came together and fell apart many, many times. But I’ll never forget reading the script the first time. The first time I read the script I was like, ‘I have to make this movie.’ I just loved the relationship between those guys so much and I just loved the concept of the police for the dead … It’s just really a great concept, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a movie with that concept before.”
Moritz is right in the sense that R.I.P.D. is definitely the first time we’ve seen the “police department of the dead” concept in movies. With that in mind, the trailer suggests that it will be pretty similar both in tone and plot to Men in Black, with Reynolds as the young recruit from the regular police teamed up with Jeff Bridges’ older, veteran mentor.
The concept is also similar to Bryan Fuller’s canceled TV show Dead Like Me in which people are selected at random after death to join the ranks of grim reapers, ushering new souls into the afterlife in the supernatural equivalent of a civil service job.
The footage from R.I.P.D. that has been released so far haven’t been particularly outstanding, but the premise is cool enough that the movie could well be carried by the concept and cast alone. Let us know what you thought of the trailer – and this latest interview with Neal Moritz – in the comments below.
R.I.P.D. is out in theaters on July 19th, 2013.