Spielberg Uncancels the Robopocalypse

Earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter acted as the bearer of some pretty disappointing news, announcing that Steven Spielberg’s follow-up to Lincoln— an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s science fiction novel Robopocalypse— is being put on ice for an indeterminate period of time. That’s a king bummer of a bulletin if I’ve ever seen one; Spielberg and genre, particularly sci-fi, go together like peanut butter and jelly, the film had him working with Anne Hathaway and Chris Hemsworth in lead roles and Drew Goddard in a screenwriting capacity, and the book (so I’m told) happens to be pretty great. It’s a shame to hear about a project like that grinding to a halt.

Except that it hasn’t. As it turns out, Spielberg still has every intention of making Robopocalyse— he’s just searching for the perfect “in” for the story while musing over checks and balances:

“We found that the film was costing a lot of money and I found a better way to tell the story more economically but also much more personally,” Spielberg said. “I found the personal way into Robopocalypse, and so I just told everybody to go find other jobs, I’m starting on a new script and we’ll have this movie back on its feet soon.”

(Source: Entertainment Weekly)

If there’s a single popular criticism about Wilson’s book, it’s that it lacks that “personal” quality the Beard talks about here, so this sounds like a good deal to me. As far as money’s concerned, well, no budget has been reported as far as I’m aware so it’s hard to comment on that matter, but the nature of the novel suggests a heavily FX-laden adaptation. Robopocalypse details the emergence of a sentient, self-aware artificial intelligence that initiates the destruction of humanity in the name of natural preservation; that’s a clear platform for CGI creations and big-scale action set pieces, which cost a pretty penny.

Maybe Fox wants the Lincoln treatment Dreamworks has enjoyed in the wake of that film’s massive domestic success, and maybe Spielberg is toning down computer-generated mayhem in favor of reduced costs below the line. I’m honestly not sure how anyone makes a movie like this without funneling a triple-digit budget into it, but I have a feeling money’s less the issue here than cracking the story and making it work on a cinematic level.

Either way, Robopocalyse is on. EW suggests a six to eight month timeline before shooting begins, though it’s not clear what those figures are based on. (It’s also not clear whether Goddard’s script is being used as a foundation at all, since Spielberg is working on a new one.) If all goes well, we may still see this hit theaters within the 2014 calendar year.