Essay: Science Fiction Film Repo Men

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Repo Men (2010) is a postmodern science fiction/horror film set in the not-too-distant future in which technology has developed to the point where life extension through the use of artificial organs has become commonplace, at least for those with money or good credit ratings. Those who are unable or unwilling to pay their bills to The Union that has a monopoly on these body parts will be visited by brutal and psychopathic collection agents like Remy and Jake, who seem to enjoy ripping the organs out of bodies for a commission. Nor are they overly concerned with causing death and serious injury to their victims, and Jake indeed goes out of his way to inflict pain and suffering on them. Technology that has the potential to enhance human life is in the hands of a cruel corporation that charges monopoly prices and acts as a law to itself. This future portrayed in Repo Men is absolutely dehumanized and dystopian in every way, and human life or emotion lacks any value at all, unless this gigantic monopoly can somehow profit from them. Governments have gone bankrupt in a world controlled by gigantic corporations like The Union, thar make up laws, rules and policies to suit themselves and whose agents can literally get away with murder. It deals with sick and desperate patients who will die without its artificial organs, for which it charges hundreds of thousands of dollars payable in monthly installments at 19% interests. In fact, The Union a parody of the multinational corporation that is answerable to no one but its own managers and owners, while society and the state do nothing to protect the victims of this predatory monster. Repo Men's true villain is the corporation or even the system as a whole that sanctions atrocities against the poor and powerless, while corrupting and dehumanizing everything it touches.

All film genres have recurring patterns of imagery, physical surroundings, expected appearances of actors and character types, as well as technologies that they use. In Westerns, for example, audiences expect to see mountains, horses, revolvers, badlands and saloons, while in film noir and gangster movies, nightclubs, detectives, machine guns, dames and dark, mean streets are commonplace. Science fiction is less restricted in its conventions, since its setting can be literally any time or

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anywhere, no matter in the past, present or future, or even in some parallel universe or alternative reality or time line (Sobchak 4). Spaceships, robots and aliens always figure prominently in science fiction, but are not essential to it, and they do not appear in Repo Men, although like many science fiction movies it focuses on humanity's relationship to machines and technology -- advanced medical technology in the hands of a private corporation. Futuristic technology can be positive and beneficial in this genre, as it often is in Star Trek, for example, although it can also carry and alien menace or invasion force as it does in The War of the Worlds, This Island Earth and Independence Day. Sometimes the machines run amok or go crazy, like the paranoid computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey or Yul Brenner leading the android rebellion in Westworld. Even in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the benevolent android Data has an evil twin named Lor, demonstrating that the machines do not always turn out to be as beneficial as expected, and are no better or worse than those who design and use them. Robby the robot from Forbidden Planet and the Star Wars machines like R2D2 were also benevolent, and even became popular toys (Sobchak 7). Gort, the robot in the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, is basically benevolent in that the aliens use machines like him to keep the peace in space, but at the same time he is also capable of destroying the earth if it shows signs of aggression toward other world. He is indeed a far more serious peace officer than anything the United Nations ever managed to produce. In dystopian films like Soilent Green, technology is turned against humanity and used to 'solve' the overpopulation and environmental problems through high-tech cannibalism.

Camera work and lighting in Repo Men owes much to the film noir and Mean Streets traditions, and to other dystopian science fiction and horror films like Blade Runner and Dark City. This is the world of amoral, uncontrolled global capitalism in which money is the only remaining value and identities are machine-like and artificially constructed. Not only is it dehumanized, but also trans-human or post-human in the sense that human beings have been altered by technology, and indeed treat

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each other like technology or inanimate material (Milner 285). Collectors who rip the artificial organs out of bodies generally have no more empathy for their victims than if they were turning off a computer. If empathy is the quintessential human quality -- the one that distinguished humans from robots in Blade Runner -- little of it exists in Repo Men, at least apart from Remy's fantasy world and Jake's strange attachment to him. Most of the scenes are at night or in darkened, claustrophobic spaces, which is a common feature of horror, gangster and slasher movies.

In these films, the postmodern city also becomes a character in its own right rather than just a setting, and its skyscrapers frequently appear against the background of a dark sky. This city is a sinister and dangerous character, cold and impersonal, with a population consisting of the hunters and the hunted. As usual in this genre, there are extreme divisions between social classes, with large corporations or organizations having all the power, while an underclass of rebels, outcasts and misfits literally exists underground or at the lower levels. At the very least, Remy imagines that that rebels exist and that he has finally had a 'change of heart' (so to speak) and joined them. He also fantasizes that he is in love with Beth and answers Jake's question about whether it was really "worth it" by saying "It's worth every job I ever did." At the end of the film, it appears that like Deckard in Blade Runner, he has rediscovered his humanity and will now live happily ever after with the woman/cyborg that those in power wanted to terminate. Remy even persuades Jake to kill the boss of The Union and then blow up the company's computer system, destroying all its records. Beth, Jake and Remy become revolutionary vigilantes and heroes, freeing humanity in a way that the legal authorities were too corrupt or impotent to do, then go off and live in a tropical island paradise. Remy even writes a bestselling book exposing the evil deeds of The Union called The Repossession Mambo, although the only problem is that none of it turns out to be real.

Repo Men uses quite a few close up shots of the bodies of victims being carved open and artificial organs removed, in the tradition of horror/slasher movies. In horror movies, the monsters are

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usually an offense against the moral and natural order, with vampires, zombies and werewolves attacking humanity. At time, of course, horror and science fiction overlap, with aliens from outer space as the hideous monsters, such as in films like The Thing or the Alien and Predator series.(Grant 18). Repo Men represents an overlap between the two genres, and has elements of both, although unlike horror, the monsters are purely human -- or at least semi-human. Unlike fantasy, which exists in a purely imaginary world like The Lord of the Rings, both horror and science fiction are "structural fabulation" but still "rooted in the real world" (Grant 19). Both the settings and technology portrayed in Repo Men are recognizable, and represent a future or an alternative reality not very far removed from the present day. In horror films, the body and its deformities and mutations is often a central theme, often focused on repressed emotions and desires as well as "fear of one's own body," while science fiction is often focused on fear of technology going out of control, like Frankenstein (Grant 19). Repo Men combines all of these themes, which makes it difficult to classify. In this case, human bodies are being altered by The Union, which is itself a monster or machine run wild, interested only in its own profits and self-perpetuation. Its motives are 'rational' in a narrowly-defined sense, at least within the context of global capitalism, but its methods are insane and immoral in the extreme, and its collection agents little more than high-tech serial killers.

In a classic science fiction twist at the end, Remy illusion of freedom turns out to be exactly that, since he has been hooked up to an artificial neural net that allows him to live a fantasy life on a tropical island with Beth and Jake. In fact, he is simply in storage at the Union and Beth is just a technician who maintains his body, while Jake continues… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Science Fiction Film Repo Men.  (2011, May 30).  Retrieved July 18, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/science-fiction-film-repo-men/95077

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