Thursday 6 February 2014

ROBOCOP – the future of ‘justice’?

Are you robophobic? 

If so, then don’t go and see the newest incarnation of RoboCop, which as a reboot of the Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 ‘new bad future’ sci-fi film, portrays a bionical manborg taking on the criminal element of Detroit, USA.

Directed by Jose Padilha, the film provides an update to the cyborg concept by combining human and machine to create a new law enforcement product. The new and improved RoboCop (complete with one human hand, visible face and updated robotic wardrobe) is charged with stemming the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit.  

It is the year 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Their drones are winning American wars around the globe and now they want to bring this technology to the home front. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a loving husband, father and good cop, but he is critically injured by a planted carbomb. OmniCorp then utilizes their remarkable robotic technology to save Alex's life, and they outfit him with the Robocop body and software, which gives him enhanced strength along with instant computing information in his brain. 

As the movie progresses we quickly see the outworking of the blurred boundary between humans and computers with the underlying question: When will a human become a computer and a computer become human?

Although this consistent sci-fi paradigm of unease surrounding the relationship of humans and technology is intriguing, what interests me more is the implications of integrating robotics into law enforcement. What does it say about our contemporary systems of justice that we envisage our future as needing high-tech tinmen to provide justice? 

If you watch the trailer (click here), you can see the pervading message that the only solution to a criminal justice crisis, is NOT human. Indeed, Alex Murphy as RoboCop is touted in the trailer as the ‘future of American justice’ to provide support to a new dispassionate justice ‘system’. 

And what is even more fascinating is that, by indicating the human elements of instinct, fear and compassion as inevitable interference with ‘the system’, the film again alludes to the underlying premise that non-human actors devoid of emotion and passion, are the only vessels capable of providing true justice. 

I am looking forward to seeing the film to see how it actually treats the tension between robotising the human, and humanising the robot, as ways of achieving the never quite satiated public desire for ‘justice’.

If you see this film, feel free to let me know your thoughts of the vision of ‘justice’ that is played with and presented.