robocop

RoboCop

Speaking of which, Paul Verhoeven’s cyberpunk classic about preserving a good cop in an ultra-powerful metal body does not look kindly on the future of technology. The conservation of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) by making him a cyborg follows the same plot and logic of The Colossus of New York, where saving an ethical vessel is a priority regardless of the potential negative outcomes (that some villainous fascists are hoping for). It ultimately becomes a deeply skeptical version of The Six Million Dollar Man where the human part of Alex has to battle with the hackable robot part with a shockingly limited number of initial directives. It’s a vision of fascism at the helm of the world’s most powerful weapons, ultimately indicting all of us as accessories to an authoritarian-aided descent into the brutal promise of a privatized police force. RoboCop is a phenomenally well-armed hero who also seems like he could be programmed to kill innocents in about five minutes. Like all tools, weapons, and our minds, what matters most is the intentions of who’s controlling them.

appleseed ex machina

Appleseed: Ex Machina

Based on another manga from Ghost in the Shell writer Masamune Shirow, the Appleseed franchise is like a neglected step-child to the iconic anime. The similarities are all there: futuristic urban warfare featuring cyborgs and an ass-kicking special forces expert pondering the definition of humanity amid war and technology. It has never emerged from GitS’s shadow because the newer model doesn’t offer a lot of innovative bells or whistles beyond the eye-popping animation. The initial entry in the franchise, Appleseed, is a clunky beast, but its sequel is actually a lot of fun. Neither go as deep on the question of identity as GitS does, but they do take a different tack on how technology can hurt and abandon us. Just as the good guys of Appleseed: Ex Machina (SWAT leader Deunan Knute and cyborg  Briareos Hecatonchires) use tech to battle the baddies, the main existential crisis of the film is a villain attempting to use tech to erase individuality through a, you guessed it, interconnected web of communication and information.

Ghost in the Shell Dubbed

The Mix

While digging around for fun movies to watch with the new Ghost in the Shell, it became obvious how negatively American cinema views advanced technology. We’re thrilled by the feats of Iron Man, but we can’t help questioning the extent of that power or wanting to curtail it somehow. Artificial Intelligence – even blending it with human consciousness – affirms that the playing field isn’t level, and that fusion feels somehow more sinister than the wave of first adopters to get iPhone texts on their wrist. We’ve used tech to improve our lives for centuries, and we already have real-life cyborgs, but we’ve constantly got our eye on the tipping point at which we lose control of the creations.

The original Ghost in the Shell contemplates our relationship with robotics (a group that’s currently poised to take all of our jobs) and ends with a sense of how people and machines can create a blended community, even within a single body. Will the new live-action version be as optimistic about that relationship?

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