There are a number of R-rated classic franchises that received heavily sanitized television live-action adaptations. Mortal Kombat, RoboCop, and Starship Troopers. are just three examples. While it gave a need to those who wanted more, it felt like a complete disservice to the original material. Which is why – in the day and age of the streaming service – they deserve another chance at success on the small screen.
Mortal Kombat is a video game franchise over 25 years old with over a dozen titles, two live-action films, an upcoming live-action film reboot, an animated series, and a 90s live-action TV show. The original plot focused on an interdimensional tournament between Earthrealm and Outworld. Combatants fight to the death using their specialized skills. The franchise’s signature feature is finishing moves for execution.
Aside from martial arts and the supernatural, what stands out about Mortal Kombat is its grit and gore. The animated series and live-action TV show took those away for general audiences. With loosened standards and wider platforms available, showrunners get total creative autonomy. A highlight of Mortal Kombat: Conquest was the choreography, but the series also had B-movie-level dialogue.
With series like The Warrior and Enter the Badlands, demand exists for such stories on TV. The upcoming live-action film currently shooting provides a golden opportunity for another show to arise. With improved CGI, the latest successful game in Mortal Kombat 11 and wider market, the timing is right to capitalize on the IP.
It’s not hard to imagine the popularity of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven R-rated masterpiece. Crime overwhelms a futuristic Detroit. Their only hope is a cyborg police officer known as Robocop. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) was once a beat cop on a trail of a drug bust. He’s violently gunned down by a ruthless ganglord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith).
On the brink of death, Murphy transforms into Robocop. Funded and created by Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the megacorporation looks to clean Detroit’s streets. They also own the local police department. The film’s popularity came two lackluster sequels, a 2014 remake, an animated series, and a 2001 live-action TV show. Like Mortal Kombat, the TV adaptation removed the ultraviolent gore for the masses.
With the upcoming Robocop Returns, the franchise looks to return to its unapologetic graphic ways with guidance from creator Edward Neumeier. A TV adaptation could not only benefit from expanded network options but also modernized commentary on contemporary corporate culture and technology.
Another project from Neumeier and directed by Verhoeven, the 1997 science fiction war film satirized humanity’s fascination with nationalism, fascism, and propaganda. Verhoeven modeled Starship Troopers‘ messages from World War II serials. The enemies in the story aren’t the Axis Powers, rather an alien bug race threatening humanity. Starship Troopers, based on the Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same name, chronicles the rise of a space marine Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) rising through the ranks to become a military leader. Citizenship is only achieved through the draft.
While the film had direct-to-video sequels and an animated TV adaptation (again for children), there is talk of a live-action adaptation with the film’s original cast. Not an alternate cast like Mortal Kombat: Conquest. The film’s political and social satire is as relevant today as ever before – with rampant digital manipulation of media, social barbarism, abrasive leaders, and lack of efficient gatekeeping.