What Could Have Been #23 | Robopocalypse

What Could Have Been #23 | Robopocalypse

As a fan of film, I love exploring behind the scenes. Reading about the production process, the special effects and the stories of what could have been.

In 2012, director Steven Spielberg was due to start work on what was then going to be his next feature film, Robopocalypse. Based on the novel by Daniel H. Wilson, the story tells of a future where an artificial intelligence, known as Archos, has escaped from a laboratory and into the world where it infects machines like a virus. This leads to a global war of man vs machines.

Chris Hemsworth was cast in the lead along with Anne Hathaway and Ben Whishaw but then it all went quiet for a while. In 2013 Dreamworks Studios announced the film would be delayed indefinitely. Steven Spielberg’s spokesman Marvin Levy said,

“(Robopocalypse was)…too important and the script is not ready, and it’s too expensive to produce. It’s back to the drawing board to see what is possible.”

As for why Robopoclypse was delayed, Spielberg explained the developments in 2013,

“…I found another way to tell the story. I had an epiphany and I only have had these a couple of time [sic] during the course of my work and whenever those voices occur, I need to listen to them. I found another way to tell the story, it’s a much more personal story for me. I let my cast and crew go make other movies, while I take a half a year to get it to the place that I need it.”

The script was written by Drew Goddard who wrote Ridley Scott’s The Martian and The Cabin In The Woods, which he also directed. He spoke with Creative Screenwriting about his time on the film. Obviously it must have been disappointing not to have the project move forward, but he sounds rather optimistic about the whole experience:

“It’s always positive. You know going in with screenwriting that it’s a volatile business and you have to take the long view rather than the short view. There are so many times when projects don’t go at a certain release date but find a better home later. It’s all about timing. You never want a movie to get made when it’s the wrong time, and these things have a way of working themselves out.

Especially as a director now, I get it. You never want to start shooting until the project feels right, so you take your time to get it right. I think when you look at it in the short term they can seem like setbacks, but the more I do this the more I realize that what seems like a setback in the moment can also be the best possible thing that happens for a film.”

Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson spoke to Den of Geek about the status of Spielberg’s adaptation of the book.

“It’s basically in the queue as far as I know. You know, Spielberg has other movies that he’s directing right now. But Robopocalypse has certainly been worked on. I’m sure that Dreamworks is still very excited about it. That’s what all indications are. It’s just about being patient, you know? I think one of the films on Spielberg’s slate is The BFG, and that’s been floating around for about ten years!. I don’t really know what a timeline is, but that’s certainly normal. So I’m just being patient and working on all my projects. It would be some wonderful bonus points if that ever comes together.”

In July of 2015, a set of concept art by artist Patrick Janicke found it’s way onto the web via comicbookmovie.com. You can see them in the slideshow below.


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Comicbookmovie.com also released these four storyboard panels back in 2013 just after the films postponement had been announced. Drawn by artist Michael Anthony Jackson, these images depict a brutal fight between man and machine amongst the trees of a dense forest.

I really enjoyed the novel and was looking forward to this film adaptation. It was the reason why I read the story in the first place. I do hope Spielberg will return to this project at some later date.

John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves the movies and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990's. Whilst the web page idea became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. Now he's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.

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