Saturday, March 8, 2014

RoboConvo - Part 2

Once upon a time, Magnetic Monkey (MM) and Elephant Robot (ER) went to a theater and watched RoboCop.  Then they talked about it.  A lot, in fact.  What follows is Part 2 of that conversation.

ER:  Okay.  So I was thinking about amputees.

MM:  Keeping it light.

ER:  Right.  With amputees, people are familiar with phantom limb syndrome.  But less familiar with the idea that people go into mourning for their body parts that are now gone.  The thing that's interesting about the human body is that we think about ourselves as a single entity, when we really are a corporate structure.  Billions of cells that all come together, and there's no one cell that's you.  Even your mind isn't a single thing.  So that's interesting - when you've dismantled, as they did in RoboCop, all the cells except for a few parts of living anatomy, what does that do?

MM:  Yeah.

Original shot of C3PO's dismantling in Empire Strikes Back
ER:  Well, we sort of jumped right in here.  But let's back it up a bit and ask, what was to be gained from telling this story again?  Why did we need a RoboRemake?

MM:  I think I have an answer for that.

ER:  I'm sure you do.

MM:  But I'm going to hold onto it.

ER:  Clever girl.

MM:  So you first.

ER:  Why do I think we needed a remake?
What's this from?
Option 1: "Heeeeey yooooou guuuuys!"
Option 2: outtake from The Toxic Avenger
Option 3: The original RoboCop because…reasons.

MM:  It was your question.

ER:  Yeah, well I don't want to answer it.  What I do want to speak to is something I liked about this remake, which is that it tried consciously to be something different.  And that started with tone.  The first RoboCop was camp.  At it's blissful, splashiest, unapologetic best, it was pure camp.  But unlike, say, the Adam West Batman, that camp was coupled with this over-the-top violence.

MM:  Which is really cartoony.

ER:  It absolutely is.  And those two elements, camp plus gore, that's really the Verhoeven hallmark.

MM:  Yes.

ER:  And with this movie, I think the thing Jose Padilha set out to do was to take this campy idea and this campy movie, and somehow make it all grounded in a plausible reality.  And that was accomplished not just with the action sequences, but with the characterization.

MM:  And the tone.  The original is much more comedic, but it has to be because it's a very pessimistic film.

I wish this was an outtake from
Newsies 2: Brooklyn Takes Manhattan
ER:  I agree.  And it's interesting that you say that, because a lot of people said RoboCop 2 was this horrible leap where all of a sudden everything became pessimistic and bleak.  Roger Ebert (before he was RoboCritic) very famously decried that the movie had a kid who was a killer.  And this of course was about a decade before Columbine and the subsequent school shootings, so the film was very prescient in that regard.  But there was just as much twisted humanity in the first film, which as you say was pessimistic.

MM:  Hugely pessimistic.

ER:  But entertainly so.

Terminator? Cylon? Robo-fodder?
MM:  Yes.  It was sarcasm, which is the disbelief in the genuineness of something.  But the remake distinctly wants a world free from... well, it's almost like its merging a couple things.  The drone component is identifying that humans are programming computers, and then trying to masquerade that as being free of bias.  But they've been programmed by a human that had a bias in the first place.

ER:  Right.

MM:  So drone warfare is, in one sense, dismantling the humanity of killing.  And on the flip side, they're saying the machines are better to administer justice because they have no bias.  But that's not true, because they're programmed by people with bias.

ER:  It is true.  Well, let’s leave things there for today.  Come back tomorrow for Part 3!

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