Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Robocop was one of the few movies on the list that I've seen previous to this class, and I have to say, I didn't really enjoy it the first time around. However, after watching it a second time I completely retract my previous statement. I still don't think Robocop is a movie for everyone--mostly meaning my thirteen-year-old self--but I do now realize that it is more than just a cheesy 80s action flick with a corny central storyline and lower-budget special effects. In fact, I would chiefly describe Robocop as smart, which is not a word I use for most action movies.

Satire is one of my favorite genres, be it more dramatic or more comedic, so I was pretty pleased when this it came up as one of the "categories of cool" for the week. I especially liked the satire in Robocop because it is noticeable enough so that the film isn't written off but it is not overt enough to be obnoxious. Even though the film focused mainly on satirizing issues facing the 1980s, such as the Reagan administration and looming privitization of any and every business, the commentary is still relevant today. We're undergoing a major change between privitization and socialization and I think that capitalism will be an issue for quite a few decades to come.

There is also the issue of the place of science in business and society. In the beginning the major corporation in Robocop uses science to build potentially dangerous weaponry that has no human judgment or discretion to deal with the issue of crime, which is to me a very frightening idea. The scene in which Jones' pet project ED-209 blasts the hell out of a company drone when it malfunctions seems a bit over-the-top (as it is meant to), but when you think about it the idea isn't totally far-fetched. Even if the scientists had been able to stop it in the boardroom, what if it had malfunctioned when on duty? Do heavily armed machines really need to be out on the streets patrolling for crime with little to no human control and involvement? I know I sound kind of paranoid, but in an age where literally almost anything is technologically plausible, I don't feel so silly.

When it comes to these scientific advances, we not only have morality problems of creating a robotic weapon, but the ethical issue of Murphy, Robocop himself. The moral question of whether or not it is humanistically right to create a cyborg from someone who was once fully human looms large over the entire movie. Sure, there is the obvious ethical faux-pas of erasing his memory and the entire Directive Four thing that is definitely not right, but what of the idea of using a dead guy as a super crime-fighting robot in the first place? Even if they hadn't erased his memory or gotten rid of all of his body parts, is it in any sense right? We discussed in class how corny the storyline of Murphy and Lewis and the whole buddy-cop thing was, but I believe that it was there to make a point about the extents to which science should be used. The beginning when Murphy is still Murphy and he comes into the station as the new kid in town, gets assigned a pretty lady cop partner, and talks about his kids is pretty hokey, but I think that (like everything in a Verhoeven movie) the hokiness has a purpose. As we see later on in the movie, Murphy as Robocop can't relate to Lewis or anyone else in that same way. As a human he can be hokey and cheesy and build bonds, but as a robot he is primarily a product. There are still parts of humanity left, but it definitely is not the same.

This movie gave me a lot of food for thought; in fact, more than enough to digest in just one blog. I can already tell this is a film I'm going to revisit several times in the months and years to come, and hopefully I can find even more nuances of satire in every viewing. Domi arigato for now, Robocop, and I'm sure I'll see you again soon.

1 comment:

  1. One of the most interesting ethical questions that I have always found in the movie was the way in which it is suggested that Murphy was deliberately moved to a precinct that he was likely to die serving. Sure Murphy signed away the rights to his dead body, but does that really give his employers the right to get their hands on it as soon as possible?