The Rock might not be fans’ first choice to play Officer Alex James Murphy in a RoboCop reboot, but he might be the right one.
Only a handful of sci-fi action flicks of the 80s and 90s could capture the raw, hopeless feel of a cyberpunk dystopia quite as vividly as 1987’s RoboCop. What could have easily been conceived as a lighthearted buddy cop movie about futuristic Detroit police officers turned into a dark world of criminals who enacted their own brand of law enforcement and corporate overlords who used lethal force without any consequences instead.
Thanks to Paul Verhoeven, there’s a clear “before and after” in the wake of RoboCop’s release. Movies were now more brutal than ever, never shying away from depicting scenes of brutal violence and even some of the goriest kills in action flick history. Still, all of this would have amounted to nothing if it wasn’t for the sterling job of the film’s titular character, Alex J. Murphy, also known as RoboCop: “the future of law enforcement.”
The film proved that such a violent film could be appealing to mainstream audiences, leading to the film quickly becoming a bona fide franchise. Comics, action figures, Saturday morning cartoons – it seemed like everywhere you looked, there would be something with RoboCop’s name printed on it.
As was to be expected, this sudden popularity also meant that there would be more RoboCop films coming to theatres. After all, RoboCop wasn’t the only cyborg with guns in cinemas at the moment, as Arnold Schwarzenegger can attest.
RoboCop 2 came to theatres in 1990, a year before Terminator 2. While the second Terminator film is widely regarded as one of the finest action films ever made, the same sadly can’t be said of RoboCop 2. With Paul Verhoeven out of the picture, the sequel had an entirely different tone from that of the original movie, something that fans were quick to point out.
The final nail in the RoboCoffin came in 1993 with the release of RoboCop 3. Not only wasn’t Verhoeven back to direct, but the studio even had the audacity of replacing Peter Weller as RoboCop. This one was even campier than the second movie, effectively signalling that RoboCop’s days of violent mayhem were finally over.
Finally, in 2014, Sony Pictures tried to reboot the RoboCop franchise by releasing a new version of the character in what was to become a new trilogy of RoboCop films. While it’s definitely a step-up over the last two films, 2014’s RoboCop lacks the edge that made the original film so iconic. In the end, the movie faded out into obscurity, where the franchise has resided for a while now.
However, with the news that a new RoboCop video game might be coming next year, and the character having been added to the rosters of both Mortal Kombat 11 and Fortnite, fans of the sharpshooting cyborg are clamouring for a revival, and if there’s one thing that’s been made abundantly clear these last couple of years, is that if you wish to make a successful movie, you better have Dwayne Johnson in it.
“The Rock” might not sound like everyone’s first pick to play RoboCop. Heck, he might be more suitable to play an ED-209, but the charming wrestler-turned-actor has proved that he’s the right guy to reignite dormant franchises. Just look at what he did with the Jumanji series.
Having the Rock play RoboCop will essentially mean that the film can finally go full-throttle with its violence once again. Sure, Dwayne Johnson might have become something of a family-friendly icon these days, but when it comes to action films, few can match his natural charisma and ability to bring down the house. The suit might need some minor adjustments, but Alex J. Murphy’s spirit would live on to reach a whole new generation of RoboCop fans.
While they’re at it, get Zack Snyder to direct.