With a passable but not outstanding box office haul last weekend, RoboCop's chances of getting a sequel may hinge on how well the film does overseas. In the meantime, we're faced with the question of whether or not the film needs a sequel. Do we want one? Would we see it? Gabe weighed in yesterday with his reasons for why the film shouldn't get a sequel, and I'm here to present the counterargument. I liked the new RoboCop and not only would I like to see a sequel, but I think we need one.
One of the worst things Jose Padilha could have done with this remake would have been to try to retrace the footsteps of Paul Verhoeven's film. The 1987 movie was especially violent and the original concept was perfectly timed for the post-Terminator era. It was the 80s. Robots were cool and so were bloody-violent movies. With its PG-13 rating and the fact that we don't often see movies quite as bloody as the original RoboCop these days, there was no way the remake was going to hit the same spots the original did, so taking the story in a new, updated direction while maintaining a few core elements of the concept was the right approach. In the end, RoboCop (2014) is a decent film. Not amazing, but entertaining and different. And I liked Joel Kinnamen as Murphy. I'd argue that the movie could've used a lighter moment or two, but over all, it worked in introducing us to Alex Murphy, the OmniCorp agenda, and a heated political climate where society is uncertain of how beneficial the robot soldier technology is. It's a solid movie, and it feels like the starting point to a bigger story, which is why it needs a sequel.
-- Here's where we get a bit more spoilery with the plot of the film, so if you haven't seen the new RoboCop yet, stop reading now or prepare to be spoiled! --
The focus of this remake is more about RoboCop being allowed to exist and less about Alex Murphy patrolling the streets of Detroit, taking down gangs and saving the city. He does a bit of that, but with so much time spent on OmniCorp's challenge of getting their technology on the streets and Murphy's attempts to acclimate himself to his new situation, which includes learning how to use his new body and dealing with the emotional and mental effects of what he's been through, there isn't a whole lot of time spent on RoboCop actually being RoboCop, which makes this film feel more like an origin story than anything else. The film leaves off with RoboCop relieving himself and the world of some of the people who were trying to use him as a puppet and mascot to further their own agenda. Newly suited up and sporting the Detroit PD logo, Alex Murphy is ready for work when we last see him on screen. So, what's next? There's the sequel.
In my mind, I see two movies following this one. The first one is RoboCop the crime-fighter. We saw Murphy use his technology to solve his own murder at lightning speed in the first film, so obviously an exciting new villain would have to be someone with high-tech resources. The kind of bad guy that couldn't be thwarted simply for having one of his guys forget to turn his cell phone off. Maybe RoboCop has to dig his way through layers of criminals to get to the kingpin and take him down to save the city. Maybe the villain has enough technological resources to build some scary machines to fight RoboCop. Whatever the plot is, it has RoboCop working full-time as a detective, and maybe the other part of that involves Murphy trying to re-acclimate himself to being a cop. Aside from busting a couple of corrupt cops and reconnecting with his partner, we don't get much of a read on how his coworkers feel about having a RoboCop in their midst. There's potential for interesting conflict there, especially if part of the sequel involves Alex Murphy having to prove himself, his worth and his loyalty to the Detroit PD and earn their respect and support.
And then there's the next stage of Omnicorp, which could factor into the sequel or take center stage in a second followup, which would bring one or more next-generation hybrids into the mix. One of the arguments Michael Keaton's Sellar raised in the first film is that RoboCop is "incorruptible," but really it's Alex Murphy that's incorruptible (assuming he isn't hacked or manipulated by OmniCorp.) What if a newer RoboCop isn't so virtuous? The man-machine hybrid element is one of the things that makes RoboCop such a great concept, as it explores Murphy's humanity while most of him is actually machine. Who's in control and how does one side affect the other? What happens if the guy inside the machine isn't a good man? And if he's modified to be technologically superior to Murphy, there's all sorts of potential for an amazing showdown, built within a story that emphasizes why Murphy is better, not only as a machine but as a cop and a human being. And maybe the Detroit PD would factor into that too, aiding Murphy in another rise against OmniCorp.
The point I'm trying to make with the above plot pitches is that the remake left a lot of room for great franchise potential, but for it to be good, the followups need to build on the original. They need to take the story and character development further. It can't simply be a sequel that only wants to show us robot-battles and explosions. Sure, those have their appeal, but story matters, and the first film leaves a wide window for more and better story. Whether or not RoboCop performs well enough to warrant a sequel remains to be seen, but I think it could be great if done right.
Does RoboCop (2014) need a sequel?