Thursday, 10 July 2008
RoboRoboCop: Disagreement is Counter-productive
Harry Knowles' Ain't It Cool News are reporting that Darren Aronofsky has been in talks with MGM to bring a big budget remake of RoboCop to the screen. "Yikes unt yikes!" you no doubt cry.
As loathe as I am to even contemplate a respool of the mighty 80s satire slasher RoboCop, Aronofsky is a supremely interesting choice for such sacrilege; especially when you consider his working relationship with one Frank Miller. Aronofsky and Miller worked together on a film adaptation of Miller's Batman comic reset: Year One. Following the Happy Meal tie-in disaster Batman & Robin, Warners were after a credible kick-start for a new franchise - attuned to violence to distance itself from the previous films stink. Some time in 2000 the duo were contracted to produce a spec script for approval. Aronofsky and Miller indicated 70s crime cinema as major influences; citing Death Wish, Taxi Driver and French Connection as inspiration.
Naturally Warners baulked at such a violent take on the Dark Knight Detective. R rated thump-sleazers don't play to the toy crowd! Receptive to economic concerns, Aronofsky dangled a low-budget grit take produced in tandem with a family friendly feature. Warners weren't interested. Batman 5 would remain in limbo until Christopher Nolan lumbered up for Begins (and arguably took a huge cue from Miller's work - there was a rumour floating round shortly after Begins debuted that Miller received a substantial sum of money from WB in recognition of this). If that's piqued your interest, read the Year One script all up in here.
What's any of that got to do with RoboCop? Well, following the success and mainstream attention of Miller's Batman end caser The Dark Knight Returns, Miller was approached by producer Jon Davidson to flesh out a RoboCop sequel. Ultimately his script was deemed unfilmable, and furiousy rewritten. Despite this Miller was on set throughout the production - making himself available for on-spec polishes. Miller even stars as a nerdy nuke chemist named Frank.
Miller's RoboCop 2 script was eventually revived by Avatar Press, who had recently struck a deal to distribute RoboCop comics. Publisher William Christensen contacted Miller with a view to adapting a draft he owned of the RoboCop 2 script. Frank Miller's RoboCop (the comic adaptation title) dribbled out over the next 30 months, written by Steven Grant and illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp. This RoboCop sequel strays far closer to the root Verhoeven piece - OCP hires unstable private military contractors to empty Detroit to make way for impersonal hyper-town Delta City. Robo gets a cob-one and is replaced by slum vaporising death-bot RoboCop 2; this time sporting the temper tantrum personality of a voluptuous pop psychologist. Eventually winning the day, Murphy scoops Lewis up into his arms, then disappears to become a mechanical Tom Joad.
There's also a rough sketch of another draft of Miller's script floating around out there. This includes much more of the basic skeleton that ended up in the finished sequel film. Murphy is beset by an underhand robot psychoanalyst who tortures him by staging mock reunions with his wife and child. As in the movie, drug kingpin Cain is the subject of the RoboCop 2 programme. Reborn as a cyborg, Cain enjoys a religious epiphany believing himself to be an armoured reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
Read a brief outline of Miller's exercise in excess here (look out for a PDF download of Walon Green's revisions too).
Fill your head full, and march on Mr Aronofsky.