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RoboCop

Jun 2014

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Joel Kinnaman becomes a half-cyborg for justice in RoboCop

Science frictionWith the remake of RoboCop premiering onboard this month, Michael Adams takes a look... at the long-standing struggle between man and machine in the moviesMankind’s fascination with machines dates all the way back to the ancient Greek myths of the god of fire, Hephaestus, and his great golden robots. It’s no surprise then that when the movies were born, big-screen depictions of humans grappling with their mechanical creations weren’t far behind. Almost a century ago, magician Harry Houdini starred in The Master Mystery (1919), which pitted him against an automaton, while Metropolis (1927) gave us the seductive cyborg Maria, who unleashed destruction on a futuristic city. Films continued to deliver a cast of supporting robot characters who held the fate of humans in their cold hands, such as Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).But as sci-fi cinema and technology progressed, so did audiences’ perceptions of the divide, or the lack thereof, between man and machine. In the 1980s, two movies addressed this grey area so successfully they’ve endured in sequels and reboots. First is 1984’s The Terminator, which saw Arnold Schwarzenegger as an incredibly human-like cyborg sent back through time to assassinate the future leader of the resistance against an artificial-intelligence dictatorship. Arnie returned in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) as the same robot now reprogrammed to save rather than destroy humanity. Two more sequels followed in 2003 and 2009 and, proving that the Terminator is indeed hard to kill, the series gets a reboot next year in Terminator Genesis. The other notable ’80s movie that highlights our relationship with machines is RoboCop. Originally released in 1987, the film follows critically injured policeman Alex J. Murphy, who is grafted into a mecha-suit to become a human-cyborg hybrid and unstoppable dispenser of justice. While the original was a marvellous action-satire, sequels released in 1990 and 1993 focused more on shoot-’em-up exploits. But this year’s thrilling RoboCop remake, starring Joel Kinnaman as the titular character, sets the story in a drone-infested world of 2028. While it delivers on the excitement, it also questions what it means to be human when we’re increasingly merging ourselves with technology.

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