This movie did not consciously cast
itself in biblical terms. But as a
practicing believer watching it, I couldn’t help but think of the first
couple of chapters of the Book of Job. And,
for that matter, the first couple of chapters of Genesis.
In the movie, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinneman)
police detective in the near future, who’s getting ready to bust a drug
cartel. What he doesn’t know is that
his superiors over at the station house are protecting this particular kingpin
because he’s paying them. They try to
distract Detective Murphy, and deflect and re-route his efforts to other
areas, but he won’t be deterred. So
the “dirty cops” do the dastardly thing they feel they have to:
they put a bomb under the car of Detective Murphy.
End of problem.
Except that meanwhile, there’s this
security company called OmniCorp that’s not only developed well-armed
behemoth four-legged robots to patrol the streets (they look curiously like
the At-Ats in the “Star Wars” series), they’ve also developed
human-sized robots that can scan people’s eyeballs for identification
purposes, and body-scan them for weapons, and even monitor internal heart rate
and blood pressure for “high anxiety” (read:
suspicious character). Yes, the
year is 2028, and we now live in a Fascist police state.
Where Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) is the pitchman, and Raymond
Sellars (Michael Keaton) the head of OmniCorp, dedicated to making us all
safer. Of course the humans involved
are not only subject to corruption, they also yearn for freedom, and resent
all the intrusions on their privacy. Some
of them will even take up arms and fight the machines, even
self-sacrificially, if for no other reason than to assert their individuality.
In the first couple of chapters of Job,
when Satan, as the Adversary, is conversing with God about the “blameless
and upright” Job, a bargain is struck where bad things are allowed to happen
to him as a sort of test (Ya’ll can debate the theology later).
In “Robocop,” Alex Murphy, a happily married man with a loving
wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish), and a young son, is nearly destroyed by the car
bomb, but at OmniCorp, their top scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman)
is willing to “fix him up” using mechanical parts (except for the heart
and lungs---even the brain is “modified”).
The grieving Clara agrees to this, but when Alex finally wakes up he is
not at all pleased with the prospect of continuing life as a robot.
He still has feelings for his family, but it seems that, too, can be
manipulated by Dr. Norton. The
Practicing Believer wonders if God “fiddled” with creation, making the
human progressively more capable of free will, for instance---but with that
sense of independence also came the potential for rebellion, right?
At first, RoboCop is the lawman’s
dream: practically invulnerable, he
penetrates gangs with impunity and mows all the bad guys down like in some
kind of video game (and that’s the level of emotional impact it has on the
viewer). But there’s trouble in
: the snake has insinuated himself, it
would seem, by tempting others to think they could be like God.
RoboCop himself struggles with his remaining humanity, including the
giant step of thinking about someone else above himself.
Can he overcome his “programming” enough to love?
To be somehow “his own man”?
Those not interested in sci-fi films
might dismiss this as yet another superhero smash-‘em-up, but there’s more
depth here. There are some fine
secondary performances, and some compelling human elements, as well as the
underlying issue of “security” versus “personal freedom”;
oh, and the action scenes are pretty slick, too.
Now, anyone ready to debate the origin
and development of evil?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas