It's still technically in the early phases, but Neill Blomkamp's direct sequel to RoboCop, neatly titled RoboCop Returns, already sounds like it's going to be the follow-up that was supposed to have happened in the first place. Though this doesn't mean that fans of director Paul Verhoeven's initial entry in a franchise where humor, gore, and heart all mixed are going to automatically get the first proper sequel to the franchise in its 31 year history. Going about RoboCop Returns the wrong way could be either merely ok like RoboCop 2, or worse, as disastrous as the PG-13, kid-sidekick enhanced RoboCop 3. A good RoboCop sequel is going to need some ground rules, and such regulations are as follows:
Peter Weller's Return As Alex Murphy / RoboCop
Right out of the gate, Neill Blomkamp has made a pretty bold, but universally accepted claim: only Peter Weller can bring justice to the role of Alex Murphy on the big screen. While other actors have taken a good stab at the role themselves, the preparation and acting craft that Weller brought to what could have been a schlocky, one note cyborg cop was what helped make RoboCop such a hit in the first place. This movie could have everything else in line, but if RoboCop Returns doesn't have Peter Weller as the part badass, part warm human, all cop called Murphy by all of his friends, you're already starting at a massive disadvantage.
RoboCop 3 really was one of those weird sequels that tried to continue a more mature franchise's story in a tonally inferior manner. As if the suits in charge were acting like the OCP executives who tried to soften Murphy's image in RoboCop 2, toning down the humor and action of the RoboCop franchise was as bad of an idea as it was to rush one into production. Luckily, Neill Blomkamp understands that the shock value of flesh, bone, and gore are tools that can be used just as precisely as any sort of story beat and special effect. With his expertise in hand, the studio should have no reservations on giving RoboCop Returns a hard R greenlight.
A Story Worthy Of Following The Original RoboCop
While we're at it, another important factor that RoboCop Returns should keep in mind as it moves through the rewriting phase is the political and societal humor that Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner had at the heart of both the script to the original RoboCop, as well as their draft at a sequel, RoboCop: The Corporate War. Considering they dreamed up a reality TV star becoming president in 1988, it's safe to say that the two writers are on the track in that respect. But the third, and most important, aspect the story for Robocop Returns needs to keep in mind is Murphy's struggle as a man who's not quite human, but not totally machine. If they could land those three factors before, one would think they can do it again.
New, Believable Robot Adversaries
With each RoboCop sequel we've seen come down the pike, a solid theme has been repeated with subpar execution: the idea of Murphy's RoboCop standing off against another robotic adversary. It's certainly a theme worth following up on, as the first film's dissection of what makes Alex Murphy a man and what makes him RoboCop is the heart of that first film's story. Both sequels certainly tried, and to differing extents failed, to provide us with a robot challenger that could help dig deeper into our hero's journey, so naturally RoboCop Returns has a prime chance to wipe the slate clean, and do proper justice to pitting two robots in physical combat.
Practical Effects Over Excessive CGI
While the effects of the RoboCop weren't perfect, seeing a practical version of our hero kicking all sorts of ass made what we were seeing as impressive as it was grounded. No matter which film you saw in the series, pre-reboot, there was always a presence in the character of Alex Murphy and the world that he lived in. There's going to be massive temptation to turn RoboCop Returns into a fully CGI wonderland of carnage and combat, but if there aren't actual, physical effects at work in the film's compliment, it's just going to take the audience out of the classic series headspace this film is trying to invoke. Also, real explosions look a lot cooler.
Officer Anne Lewis
Much as we're amped to see Peter Weller possibly returning for RoboCop Returns, it's not a true RoboCop movie if you're not bringing back Nancy Allen's Officer Anne Lewis back into the fold. The chemistry between her and Weller in the first two films was undeniably perfect, as the new partners became an iconic duo in almost record time. Seeing where the decades of devolution and decay between the first film and Neill Blomkamp's sequel have brought Anne are going to be an important component to seeing how Alex Murphy reacts to the future he's about to wake up in, so if you're going to bring back Peter Weller, you're pretty much required to return Nancy Allen to the fold as well.