When a successful movie franchise stumbles, the standard operating procedure is to order up a reboot. But what happens when the reboot faceplants? Why, reboot the reboot, of course! (We need a better term for this phenomenon.) It’s becoming the latest craze in Hollywood, probably to the chagrin of a lot of studio executives — or should I say, former executives.
Hollywood is a high-stakes gamble. Even the most buoyant of movie properties can run out of gas. For example, we’re onto our third Spider-Man reboot in the last fifteen years. Other franchises, who’s best days are behind them (see: The Terminator), have blended sequels and reboots to such a degree that their entire timeline becomes unrecognizable. And yet, bless their hearts, they keep trying.
The reality is, nothing lasts forever. It’s sad when studios water-down great films with misguided or mishandled sequels. Unfortunately, the allure of chasing such magic — that kernel of originality, which initially sparked everyone’s interest — is very hard to deny. While it’s not impossible to recreate the magic of these films, history says it’s damned unlikely. Which leads us to the reboot: everyone’s favorite silver bullet (except that there are no silver bullets). If you’ve run out of new ideas, recycle the old ones.
But what happens when the reboot fails too?
That’s how we arrive at our latest reboot of a reboot: RoboCop. Paul Verhoeven’s dark, cynical, sci-fi-action masterpiece about corporate greed, societal decline, and the working-class cops that stand between them. It’s a great, thoughtful, and entertaining classic that stands up today, even when weighed against the best films in the genre. Sadly, two atrocious sequels and a lukewarm 2014 reboot failed to reach the heights of Verhoeven’s epic original.
Writer Ed Neumeier, who crafted the original Robocop, starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, and Kurtwood Smith, is working on a new story, which picks up where Verhoeven left off. MGM is backing Neumeier, because who knows, it might even work. Speaking with Zeitgeist Magazine, Neumeier had this to say:
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. In my mind. So it’s a little bit more of the old school thing.”
Neumeier is diving headfirst into this reboot-the-reboot trend. His plan is to basically ignore everything that occurred after the original film, and go from there. Robocop follows in the footsteps of other long-running franchises, like Halloween and The Terminator, which are similarly going back to their roots. To hell with the sequels and the reboots!
For Hollywood, this is an odd business solution for what is essentially a creative problem. What happens to Robocop 3 or Terminator Salvation or Halloween: Resurrection? Will networks or cable outlets pay to re-run any of these films after they’ve been wiped-out? Why would a fan buy or rent these films from iTunes or Redbox if they’re erased from franchise continuity? Granted, the potential revenue lost is probably insignificant, but it still seems like a short-sighted decision.
However, it’s also possible that top Hollywood talent would drawn to a back-to-basics restart of Robocop, or Halloween, or The Terminator rather than associating their names with the umpteenth iteration of a faltering franchise. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fine example of a rebooted-reboot getting it right. So yes, it’s weird, but that’s the Hollywood we’re living with today.
Good luck Robocop, we remember you well.