The live-action movie adaptation of the Robotech animated series sounds like it's getting back on track again, with a new director lined up to helm the project. Rhys Thomas, who recently helmed the Hawkeye TV show for Disney+, is now in line to take on the project.
Robotech aired in the United States in 1985, having been assembled from three unrelated Japanese anime series (Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada) to tell a new story unfolding across three different generations. The first, and most popular, chapter tells the story of an alien spacecraft (the Superdimensional Fortress or SDF-1) crash-landing on Earth in 1999. Its arrival galvanises humanity to work together to unlock the potential of the alien technology and rebuild it to defend the planet, in case its creators came looking for it. Ten years later that happens when the alien Zentraedi attack the planet in an attempt to retake the spacecraft. In an attempt to avoid destruction, the vessel accidentally hyperjumps to the orbit of Pluto, burning out the hyperdrive in the process, and has to make its way back to Earth under normal engine power over two years. The jump also maroons 50,000 civilians in the ship's hold, resulting in tensions between the civilian administration and the military commanders. Eventually the crew of the SDF-1 defeat the Zentraedi with the help of a fifth column of alien sympathisers. In the subsequent series, other aliens arrive on Earth in search of the missing spacecraft, only to get embroiled in further conflicts.
Robotech was hugely popular in the mid-1980s and, alongside the earlier Voltron, arguably helped create the market for anime in the United States which exploded in subsequent years. However, attempts to continue the story with sequel series have proven unsuccessful. Later anime fans were also unhappy with the editing of three separate series into a new story, instead preferring to watch the original versions. Most contentiously, Harmony Gold, the American distributors and creators of the show, blocked the release of the numerous Macross sequel and prequel series in the USA for fear of diluting the Robotech brand. Recently, however, this hurdle was apparently overcome and plans are now underway to bring the full Macross franchise to an American release.
A live-action film project has been grinding forwards since 2007, when Tobey Mcguire was involved as a producer and actor, with Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan working on a script. In 2013 Nic Mathieu was in line to direct. In 2015 the project was refreshed with Sony picking up the rights, before recruiting The Fast and the Furious director James Wan to direct. In 2018 he was replaced by IT director Andy Muschietti but the project then seemed to run aground on legal issues over the rights to the project.
In 2019 Tatsunoko Productions, the Japanese rights-holders of the three original anime series, and Harmony Gold, reached a new agreement related to distribution and production. One of the primary reasons for the deal was to clear the way for a live-action film to boost the profile of the source material, so it's unsurprising that the film project is now back on track. The reason for the three-year delay is, of course, the pandemic which derailed so many projects. Last year Harmony Gold and the animation studios who created the original series reached a new deal to re-release both Robotech and the original Japanese versions of the series for fresh audiences.
The current version of the project has a script by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man, Uncharted) and is being produced by Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari. Sony are still on board to produce. It'll be interesting to see if this iteration of the project moves forwards after so many disappointments in the past.