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RoboCop Returns - Will It Ever Happen?

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Directed by provocateur Paul Verhoeven, "RoboCop" is a sci-fi classic — the perfect blend of over-the-top action and edgy satire. While Alex Murphy blasts bad guys to bits, the movie takes aim at everything from the media to corporate greed. It's provided us with an all-time bad guy in the unhinged Clarence Boddicker, one of the all-time kill scenes with ED-209 absolutely annihilating a terrified businessman, and some of the very best '80s one-liners, like "your move, creep" and "dead or alive, you're coming with me."

Since that first film, "RoboCop" has inspired an entire franchise, but none of the follow-ups have really compared to the original movie. However, Hollywood has long wanted to bring that trigger-happy police droid back to the big screen. Ever since the '80s, we've been waiting for the arrival of "RoboCop Returns," a film that promises to do the series justice. However, while we've gotten a few updates over the years, the movie seems to be stuck in development hell. So will we actually ever see Alex Murphy back in chrome-plated action? Well, here's what we know so far about "RoboCop Returns."

Why isn't RoboCop Returns happening yet?

"RoboCop Returns" has been in the pipeline for a long time. In fact, it was intended to be the immediate follow-up to Paul Verhoeven's classic 1987 action flick, with the script penned by Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner — the scribes who wrote the first film. However, multiple issues eventually sank the project back in the '80s.

First, Verhoeven didn't want to direct a sequel. Second, Neumeier and Miner were busy working on a screenplay for Oliver Stone, so they couldn't solely focus on the "RoboCop" script. Thirdly, the two soon found themselves in a writer's strike, and as a result, they were let go from the project. Eventually, comic book legend Frank Miller was brought in, and he wrote what would become the actual sequel, "RoboCop 2," directed by Irvin Kershner.

However, Neumeier and Miner's screenplay — originally titled "RoboCop: The Corporate Wars" — began picking up steam again around 2016. As Neumeier explained to Deadline, "Right when [Donald] Trump was about to be elected president [MGM president Jon Glickman] called me and said, 'Did you actually predict in your sequel script that a reality star would run for president and win?' We had." This finally got the ball rolling, with both Neumeier and Miner coming aboard as producers, but as of this writing, there's been very little progress on the film.

When SyFy asked Neumeier in August 2020 if there was a formal greenlight from MGM, he responded, "No, we're still trying to get a script right." Making matters more complicated, Bron Studios — a finance/production company that's been involved with projects like "Joker," "65," and, yep, "RoboCop Returns" – declared bankruptcy in July 2023,  which certainly isn't going to speed things up.

What could RoboCop Returns explore?

If we ever see "RoboCop Returns," it'll be based on a decades-old script by Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner. Even though it's gone through multiple rewrites since then, we can assume the basic story structure will be the same.

So what do we know about the unmade '80s script? Well, it's reportedly called "RoboCop: The Corporate Wars," and it jumps about 30 years into the future after a wounded Alex Murphy is revived to find a strange new world. The "I'd buy that for a dollar" guy has been elected president, cities are citadels for the rich and powerful, and an evil businessman plans on using RoboCop for his nefarious schemes.

Speaking with Vice in 2009, Neumeier elaborated further on the plot, saying, "There was some fun stuff that we were toying with, like a sort of ghost-in-the-machine-type spirit that happened to be female and RoboCop ends up falling in love with." As for the bad guys, Neumeier confirmed to HN Entertainment, "We had some ideas about, shall we say, about the future of augmented humans and one of our villains is that and our other villain lives in the corporate world somewhat as before, but you know, the 'RoboCop' thing for me was always exploring man's relationship with technology, coping with technology." A nuclear bomb would also reportedly play into the story somehow.

In addition to using a variation of Neumeier and Miner's script, "RoboCop Returns" intended to ignore all the other sequels. As Neumeier told Zeitgeist! in January 2018, "There's been a bunch of other 'RoboCop' movies, and there was recently a remake, and I would say this would be kind of going back to the old 'RoboCop' we all love and starting there and going forward. So it's a continuation really of the first movie."

Who could direct RoboCop Returns?

In July 2018, it was announced that Neill Blomkamp would direct "RoboCop Returns." The South African-Canadian filmmaker burst onto the scene in 2009 with "District 9," a movie about aliens landing on Earth and being forced into internment camps. After that, Blomkamp returned to the sci-fi genre with "Elysium" and "Chappie," and he was poised to bring Alex Murphy back to the big screen in style, telling Entertainment Weekly, "If I can be honest to what Paul Verhoeven did and almost try to emulate that in a way, then I feel like ['RoboCop Returns'] does have value, and we're not doing it for the sake of just doing it."

A little over a year later, Blomkamp revealed that he would no longer be directing the film. "Off 'RoboCop.' I am shooting new horror/thriller, and MGM can't wait/need to shoot 'RoboCop' now. Excited to watch it in theaters with other fans," he said in a now deleted tweet (via Yahoo!). We're assuming this "horror/thriller" was "Demonic," a possession flick that's seen as one of the worst movies of 2021. After his departure, MGM hired Abe Forsythe to direct, a move that went down well with Ed Neumeier. The screenwriter told SyFy that Forsythe's ideas "felt relevant and really crackled."

Unfortunately, Forsythe's version of the film is now dead, too. Speaking to UPI in October 2023, the filmmaker (who directed Lupita Nyong'o in the zombie movie "Little Monsters" and works as the showrunner on "Wolf Like Me") revealed that his plan was to have Peter Weller reprise his role as the cyborg cop. "It was a great way of bringing the character back," Forsythe said. "This is why I'm really disappointed. It was the best way of re-, or continuing, the story of Murphy and of Peter Weller playing Murphy. Alas, it's not going to happen."

Who would write RoboCop Returns?

"RoboCop Returns" started life in the '80s as "RoboCop: The Corporate Wars," which was meant to be a direct follow-up to Paul Verheoeven's 1987 classic. Needless to say, that didn't happen, but Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner's unused script is supposed to be the basis for "RoboCop Returns" — assuming it ever gets made. Of course, "RoboCop" is one part action movie, one part satire, and when your movie needs to comment on relevant social issues, a 1980s script might need a bit of an update. A reality star becoming president isn't quite as hard to imagine now as it was back then, so the screenplay has seen multiple rewrites in recent years.

Once Neill Blomkamp signed on to direct, screenwriter Justin Rhodes ("Terminator: Dark Fate") was brought aboard to rewrite Neumeier and Miner's script. However, when Blomkamp stepped away from the project and Abe Forsythe came on to direct, Forsythe took his own stab at the script, injecting his own ideas into the material. Unfortunately, there was something about his script that seemed to spook producers.

"I really wish there was a way that my version of 'RoboCop' could be made," Forsythe told UPI in October 2023. "Unfortunately, there is an element in the script which will stop it from ever seeing the light of day. I have to be careful of what I say and how I say it. My version can never ever be made. I spent a lot of time talking with Ed [Neumeier] as I was working on the script. I feel like I ticked all the boxes for everyone." The filmmaker's cryptic comments have left fans guessing about what was in his script that couldn't be shot and wondering who (if anyone) will take over from him.

We might get another version of RoboCop

According to Abe Forsythe, he spent around a year and a half planning his "RoboCop" film before the plug was pulled. This means there's been no movement on "RoboCop Returns" since 2021 — at least, no movement that's been reported. However, we may still see the return of Alex Murphy — just under a different title ... and perhaps in a different medium altogether.

In April 2023, Deadline reported that Amazon had purchased MGM's massive film and TV catalog and that the streamer had selected several properties ripe for new installments and franchises. Amazon is reportedly very interested in exploring IPs such as "Stargate," "Legally Blonde," and "The Magnificent Seven," among others. But the crown jewel of their MGM acquisition has to be "RoboCop."

As Deadline went on to say, big names have been reaching out to Amazon about adapting some of these properties. The trade also reported that "RoboCop" could see life in both movie form and TV. In fact, Deadline said that a "RoboCop" TV show might actually happen first. In other words, while "Robocop Returns" might be dead, you can never stop RoboCop himself.