This Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) movie has received only lukewarm reviews, but while highly imperfect it is more interesting than most critics seem to realize. The initial premise is that in a few years’ time South Africa resorts to AI-driven, robot policemen. I see the film as revolving around three key questions:
1. What will a robot be like, if he grows up under rather brutal conditions? This is first and foremost a movie about education, and it could have been written by John Gray. Don’t assume that people (robots) have an irrevocable tendency to support liberal values, at least not when the chips are down and they have been beaten up. The gang motive is both popular and enduring.
2. Can a society dependent on robots for law enforcement become/remain a liberal society? Or will the “arms race” between the law and the criminals result in brutality and a loss of liberty?
3. How robust is a robot society to the eventual possibility of human error and depravity?
Along the way there are references to Asimov, “Silent Running,” Blade Runner, Verhoeven of course, and other android sources. I can’t endorse every angle of the ending, or every character decision, but still I didn’t consider leaving this one.