REFLECTIONS: CORPORATE WARS
The un-used script for Robo2 begins with RoboCop getting blasted into metallic dust and being resurrected many years later, in a new world. The problem with "RoboCop 2:Corporate Wars" was that it threw the baby out with the bathwater.
By Glenn Orr
"Corporate wars" threw away Lewis and Reed and Old Detroit and OCP. And in my opinion, that was a mistake. I believe the audience wanted to see a sequel that featured these elements again, especially Lewis, a sequel that, like all good sequels, struck a healthy balance between the new and the familiar. In their zeal to be avant-garde and unpredictable, Neumeier & Miner fashioned a script that, because of its extreme wackiness, was virtually unfilmable. They then exacerbated the situation by refusing to meet halfway with Orion on any kind of rewrite. As a result, the studio was perfectly justified in showing them the door and bringing in a new screenwriter.
However, where Orion screwed up was in how they dealt with Miller and Tim Hunter, who was set to direct RoboCop 2 prior to his quitting the project over “creative differences” during pre-production and being replaced by Irvin Kershner.
At the time that Orion hired Hunter to helm RoboCop 2, he was a young, up-and-coming filmmaker whose only noteworthy effort to date was 1986’s "River’s Edge". As a studio, if you’re going to hire a director as green (albeit as talented) as Hunter to helm a project as big and high-profile as RoboCop 2, then you need to be very cautious with him. Take things slowly. Ease him into the enormity of it all. You need to be firm and direct with him, yes. But you also need to supportive.
Unfortunately, for Hunter (and ultimately for RoboCop 2 itself), Orion failed to take this approach. Hunter and Miller spent weeks working at “getting on the same page,” hammering out the entire look and tone and style of the film on paper and in their minds’ eyes, only to have Orion repeatedly step in and completely f*ck up their momentum, sending them all kinds of idiotic script notes about reducing the amount of dialogue and upping the volume and frequency of action scenes, ordering wholesale script rewrites about as often as most people change their socks.
Hunter tried to soldier on through this onslaught, hoping that things would improve and the studio would back off a bit as the start-date for principal photography approached. But Orion’s barrage of “advice” only seemed to grow more intense as that all-important day drew nearer. The final straw came when the studio brought in a total outsider, veteran scribe Walon Green, during pre-production to “punch up” Miller’s work, leaving Miller and Hunter feeling confused and betrayed. Hunter decided to walk, leaving the entire production in the lurch until Kershner could be coaxed into the director’s chair at the eleventh hour.
But the damage was already done.
Kershner and Miller tried their level best to “get on the same page,” but they were short on time and they knew it. By the time Kershner was hired, the ship had basically sailed. For better or worse, the die that would become RoboCop 2 was already cast. At that point, all Kershner and Miller could do was try to make the best of it and hope that there was enough good, solid material already in place to make RoboCop 2 a good film.
But there simply wasn’t. There was enough there to make RoboCop 2 a watchable and halfway decent film, but not a truly good one.
To be fair here, though, Hunter picked a terrible time to walk away from the sequel and should be held partially responsible for the less-than-stellar way in which it turned out. He’d already stuck around that long, and I think he should’ve just “sucked it up” and saw the project all the way through.
However, in my view, if Hunter and Miller had been given more creative freedom by Orion, RoboCop 2 would’ve ended up as a much better film. Would it have been a great film? Who knows? But it would’ve at least had a chance to be great. For one thing, Hunter’s filmmaking sensibilities are quite different from those of Verhoeven, so Hunter wouldn’t have made RoboCop 2 the kind of redundant, cookie-cutter flick that most sequels tend to be. He and Miller seemed to share in common an appreciation for in-your-face grimness and dark, violent (some would even say, “mean-spirited”) comedy.
Of course, there are those that feel RoboCop 2 is mean enough as it is. So, for them, the prospect of an even meaner RoboCop 2 would likely be anything but enticing. However, if I had my druthers, Orion would’ve given Hunter and Miller a little more space to make the film they wanted to make.
NEXT: Another Reality