Monday, March 10, 2014

RoboConvo - Part 4

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 4 of that conversation.



ER:  Let’s talk about technology.

MM:  Let’s.

ER:  When the original RoboCop came out, nobody had cell phones.  Most people didn't have home computers.  The internet didn't exist - not how it does today.  There was that Ray Kurzweil article you were telling me about that said we are already cyborgs.  Just because the computers aren't inside us, doesn't mean there isn't already this symbiotic relationship between people and their iPhones, their GPS devices, their televisions.

So I was thinking about how we, as a culture
re, are all so... not just reliant but in love with our technology.  So it's hard to present the RoboCop story today as a techno-nightmare.  There's the body horror, yes.  But apart from that, viewers might watch this and say, "oh, those are some nice short cuts he has to his technology.

MM:  The part that particularly kind of hard for me was when they were downloading the case files into his brain, and then all the CCTV feeds, and all of a sudden he's like "I just solved 600 cases."  But that technology already exists, to synthesize those two sources.

ER:  Well, yes and no.  I think that's one of those interesting cases where you see what the symbiosis is between man and machine.  Because computers are stupid.  And you could take a computer and it can store all of that data – how Murphy did – and have access to all those CCTV feeds – like Murphy did, but the computer doesn't know how to manipulate that information creatively.  To connect the dots and draw the conclusions to solve crimes.

At the same time, a human brain is much slower than the processing speed of a computer.  So a person couldn't sit down at that machine and solve 600 cases how Murphy did either.

To me, that was actually a small but interesting moment that presented something that challenges the audience with, "well, wouldn't this actually be nice?  What could you do with an augmented brain?"

MM:  Yeah.  I want to jump back to the third act.

ER:  Do it.

MM:  I do think one of the central problems with the third act of the film is that it's not sure what it's critiquing Michael Keaton for having done in the first place.  What was the great evil he perpetrated?  The big thing that he did was take Murphy of life support.  Which, in the film, was one of the lesser things someone did to mess with him.

ER:  You know, in making the film plausible and not camp, the antagonist can't be twirling a mustache with a hobby of killing puppies.  The Michael Keaton instead is an intelligent man.  Thoughtful, charismatic, empathetic –

MM:  So why is he your villain?  Why is he your "big bad?"  I thought the Jackie Earle Haley character would have made a better opponent for the third act confrontation.

ER:  Well, he was.

MM:  But he wasn't the final hurdle.

ER:  To me, the failure of the third act isn't that the Michael Keaton character wasn't a "sufficiently evil" villain.  But rather that if this was a real world situation... you know, the evil we see in the real world is never intentionally evil.

MM:  No one wakes up and thinks "I'm a villain."

ER:  Right.  So the Michael Keaton character is making money, and making choices to make more money.  And yes there are ethical missteps –

MM:  Or an absence of ethical foresteps.

ER:  Perhaps.

MM:  But from an emotional payoff situation, you want the Quantum Leap thing.  You want them to make right what once went wrong.  You want something avenged in a morality play.

ER:  Well, and that's the thing in the original movie.  In the end, even though he says "Call me Murphy," the character is still for all intents and purposes lobotomized.

MM:  Absolutely.

ER:  So there's no potential in that movie for him to be anything more than that.  This film made the choice to allow him to maintain his memories and his personality and his sense of humor –

MM:  Which to my mind?  That makes Gary Oldman the villain of the movie. Because he's the one that took his emotions and his feelings and his humor away from him.

ER:  Although that made his life easier for a brief time.  That's when he's happiest in the movie.  One could argue.

(Laughter)

MM:  The moral of RoboCop:  prozac is good for you.

ER:  Yes.  On that note, let’s take a pause.  See you tomorrow, faithful readers, for Part 5.

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