The tendency of the entertainment industry to try and turn everything into a franchise sometimes has strange results. Take, for instance, the example of RoboCop, where Paul Verhoeven’s original movie is generally regarded as a classic but where various efforts to create follow-ups and spin-offs have been at best incongruous, at worst just plain bad. There was the inevitable attempt to create a family-friendly kid’s Saturday morning cartoon out of it, for instance, because for some reason in the 1980s studio executives thought that making tie-in cartoons for small children based on films they weren’t allowed to see was a good ideas, and there was also the live action TV show which was watchable but entirely forgettable cyberpunk time-filler.
The 2014 remake came and went without gleaning much acclaim, and it seems like the rights holders have come to agree with the general sentiment that a lot of the stuff that’s been made since the original isn’t up to much. Not that they’re being sensible enough to just let it die, mind – they’re just working on a new movie which will be a direct sequel to the original film and treat everything else as non-canon.
Where did it all go wrong? Let’s look at the original movie trilogy and see if we can work it out.
The first film is, at its very simplest, a superhero origin story, and like all the classic superhero origin stories it’s so archetypal that I really don’t need to spend much energy summarising it here. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is a cop in Detroit in an edgy cyberpunk future. The privatised police force’s contract is held by Omni Consumer Products (OCP), which is researching robotic alternatives to conventional flesh-and-blood police. When the ED-209 project of corporate vice president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) suffers a few setbacks, the up and coming executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) proposes stepping up his own RoboCop project. Blah blah, Murphy gets mortally wounded at the hands of Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his gang, he gets cyborged up, the memory wipe doesn’t work 100% and he sets out to recover his memories and avenge his death with the help of his former partner on the force Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen).