District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp is going to try his hand at a franchise movie for the first time with RoboCop Returns, a project based on an unused RoboCop 1987 sequel script by writers Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier. Blomkamp's films have long combined gory violence and social satire with sci-fi concepts in the same way that Paul Verhoeven did with the original RoboCop, so it's only fitting that Blomkamp is now getting his shot at making a proper RoboCop film. The director even acknowledged the significant influence that Verhoeven's movie has had on his own career, in the official statement confirming his involvement.
Some may recall that Blomkamp previously came close to making an Alien film sequel, before the movie was cancelled. That project, which began as concept art that Blomkamp made for (mostly) his own entertainment, would have resembled RoboCop Returns, in the sense that it was envisioned as being a direct followup to Aliens that (essentially) ignored everything else that has come in the franchise since then. By the sound of it, this new film will allow Blomkamp to do something similar with the RoboCop property, seeing as it's not connected to the 2014 reboot starring Joel Kinnaman.
Previously described as being a "continuation" of Verhoeven's RoboCop, RoboCop Returns sees the eponymous cyborg police officer (what else?) return to action to clean up the violent streets of his old turf in Detroit. Deadline reports that the earlier script draft by Miner and Neumeier is being rewritten by Justin Rhodes (who also wrote the currently filming Terminator 6), with Blomkamp signed on to direct. MGM is backing the project, but it doesn't sound like the studio has a production timeline and/or release target in mind yet.
Blomkamp spoke to Deadline about Verhoeven's RoboCop, noting that "As I’ve gotten older, the part that really resonated with me is identity, and the search for identity." José Padilha's RoboCop reboot even goes so far as to focus on the exploration of identity over political commentary, arguably to the film's detriment. Blomkamp, on the other hand, has never been one to subtly weave social critiques into his sci-fi offerings (see also Elysium, Chappie) and one suspects RoboCop Returns, for that very reason, will hew closer to the 1987 film in terms of not only satire, but also when it comes to R-rated violence involving half-machine men (something else Padilha's reboot was missing).
All in all, it will be interesting to see what Blomkamp makes of the RoboCop franchise, especially now that he's spent some time away from the studio system working on his Oats Studios projects. Hopefully, he will come back refreshed and deliver a continuation of the series that can go toe to toe with the original film's modern descendants (with last month's Upgrade being the most recent example).
We will bring you more details on RoboCop Returns as they become available.