Why it’s Bittersweet That Neill Blomkamp Will Direct the New “Robocop”

Matthew Loffhagen
Orion Pictures
(Photo: Orion Pictures)

I’m a little conflicted over the news that Neill Blomkamp will be directing a new “Robocop” movie.

On paper, this seems like the perfect marriage of a director and a project. Blomkamp is one of those rare genre directors who has found his niche and is willing to stick with it for as long as it’s still interesting.

Blomkamp is a sci-fi guy. He directed “District 9”, then “Elysium”, then “Chappie”. If it’s a dystopian movie wherein not-quite-human characters are used as a metaphor for societal issues, Blomkamp is your guy.

Thus, naturally, he’s perfect for “Robocop”.

This series of movies has always been about social commentary. The original movie is a very smart piece of fiction. It at once appeals to audiences who just want to see bad guys get shot in the genitals, while also providing a cutting indictment of the hyper-violent, unflinching, mechanical world of the ‘80s.

Robocop Mask Off
Source: Orion Pictures

What makes this sound even better is the fact that Blomkamp will be working from a script that was written back in the heyday of the franchise, long before things got stale, and decades before the more recent PG-13 reboot that failed to deliver a meaningful experience.

This all sounds wonderful.

It’s also nice that this is one sci-fi franchise that Denis Villeneuve isn’t trying to grab for himself. I love Villeneuve’s work, but we need a little variety in our ‘80s sci-fi nostalgia movies!

The only downside to Blomkamp’s involvement with “Robocop” is it means that he won’t have as much free time to devote to his self-financed indie stuff.

Goodbye to Oats

Last year, Blomkamp made waves with his production team, Oats Studios, who created a series of short, low budget, high concept sci-fi films. One of them even had Sigourney Weaver in it, providing the director-actor combo that fans had been hoping for in Blomkamp’s cancelled “Alien 5” movie.

The Oats videos are disturbing, gritty, and incredibly inventive. Think of them as a season of “Black Mirror”, but with far more gratuitous violence and the occasional appearance from a Terry Pratchett style deity.

Blomkamp wanted to test crowdfunding as a method of supporting these videos, but that clearly didn’t pay off. He also hoped to spin one of these short films into a feature length movie at some point.

Instead of this potentially wonderful new movie, Blomkamp is playing it relatively safe with an established franchise. This will be a chance for him to earn back some Hollywood clout after “Chappie” failed to wow audiences.

The Horror of Endless Sequels

As logical as this might be from a career standpoint, I can’t help but wish that we’d be getting a more original film instead of a new “Robocop”. As the last of these movies proved, it’s hard to get something new and interesting out of this formula. Frankly, I’d take something original over yet another reboot.

It is for this reason that I will gladly line up to see Blomkamp’s upcoming movie. I’ll happily sit in the theater and enjoy what he creates.

But there’ll always be a voice in the back of my head, wondering whether “Rakka” would have made a better, more original feature length story than simply another “Robocop”.