In 1990, Robocop 2, the American science fiction action film directed by Irvin Kershner and written by Frank Miller and Walon Green, and starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan and Gabriel Damon came into being.
In this psychological film, Detroit is depicted to be on the verge of bankruptcy after failing to pay off its debts to conglomerate Omni Consumer Products (OCP). OCP incites violence and street crime by terminating the privatised Detroit Police Department’s pension plans and cutting salaries, triggering a city-wide police strike. During the course of the police strike, OCP finds it necessary to kick production of Robocop 2 into high gear.
Struggling to construct a new viable product, OCP fumbles with the development and production of RoboCop 2. To problem-solve the production issues, OCP appoints psychologist Dr Juliette Faxx to the team which oversees the development of Robocop 2’s software.
In doing so, Faxx suggests using criminal minds instead of police officers as the human contribution to Robocop’s makeup. In doing so, Faxx chooses a former narcotics dealer and criminal brain to use with RoboCop 2’s hardware and mechanical body. The result is a disaster. Robocop 2 rejects his programming altogether and attacks civilians in a conference held at OCP headquarters.
This film continues to overlook the psychological canon of modern cinema. This move delves deeper into the psychological makeup of Robocop’s command center, his brain, but also into a number of other profound (and admittedly, less profound) areas when engineering and psychological intersect. For example: what makes a person human? In this film, Robocop’s ex-wife makes an appearance in a few scenes.
Mrs Murphy is filing suit against OCP because she believes her dead husband, now Robocop, is following her home. Well, Robocop was indeed following his ex-wife in life. But this raises important issues. Robocop has memories (another layer discussed in detail in the film) of his human or past life.
Do these memories, or having memories, make us human? In the case of this film, the answer is no. Cyborgs, like Robocop, has memories, and by no stretch of the imagination would I say this part human part machine is either (human or robotic) in totality.
And yet, Robocop’s memories in this film again raise a number of other questions. In this film, Faxx has the opportunity to not only create her own cyborg, Robocop 2, but also reprogram the original Robocop. In doing so, she tries to build on Robocop’s Prime Directives from OCP. While reprogramming Robocop, she takes in feedback from the community and utilises the panel of people she speaks with and incorporates their input into Robocop’s directives. Instead of four concrete directives which allow Robocop to be self-directive, and engage with criminals,
Robocop is inundated with nonsense and long ( and sometimes at odds with each other) commands in which he must operate. This suggests a number of negative things about psychology as a discourse, and warns the viewer to be careful about what he or she believes as unassailable.
Time, and again, in the Robocop movies directives signal why we should ask more questions than behave as if we know all the answers. Asking, why? Or taking time to investigate on our own free of coercion is highlighted in this film all too well.
In the end, no matter what evils this psychology exhibits in the film, we come to understand the behavioral sciences more from Robocop 2. As Robocop would say: ‘We’re only human’, and so is falling in love with this American classic, or the original film, Robocop (1987), as a franchise powerhouse in science fiction cinema.
Image credit: DatBot
Max E. Guttman, LCSW is a psychotherapist and owner of Recovery Now, a mental health private practice in New York City.