DCAU #53: His Silicon Soul

IN THIS ONE... HARDAC's Batman duplicant awakens and thinks itself the real thing.

CREDITS: Written by Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir; directed by Boyd Kirkland.

REVIEW: HARDAC is back! But can we go back to that particular well a second time and get as good a result. I think so, yes! The robot who thinks it's human and must face an existential crisis when it realizes it isn't is one of my favorite science-fiction tropes. Indeed, how do you define personhood? Or the soul? Are the Batman duplicant's memories enough to recreate the human being they belonged to, absent any sensual experience? He certainly seems to have Batman's morals and emotional drive! Enough, in fact, to override HARDAC's programming after it is shocked by its (apparent) murder of a human being (I can't decide if Batman fell or jumped off that cliff).

The first HARDAC story, Heart of Steel, had a couple Blade Runner references, namely the use of William Sanderson as a well-meaning robot creator, and he's back for another round, having learned his lesson. But the silicon Batman is played much more as a replicant, one with a short life span, coming to his creator for help, but offering only violence in return. The Bat-computer also scans using the sound effect of Deckard's photo scanner in the movie. My ears perked up! And of course, there's a whole Terminator thing going on, from HARDAC wanting to be uploaded to all computers like Skynet, to the silicon Batman's look and POV.

And it all looks very cool! The episode probably contains some of the best fight scenes we've yet had, fluid, innovative and hard-hitting. That bit where one Batman swings another by the feet? Amazing. The creepy self-repair function. Its upsetting dead body at the end. And there are some nice character moments too, like Jim Gordon calling Batman's bundles of criminals "pinatas", or the way he jumps when Batman comes out of the shadows. My only problem is with Alfred trying to gas a robot. Come on, bro.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A great-looking sequel to what was a pretty great story, that works well in great part because it has its own story to tell.


LiamKav said...

The animation in this episode is amazing. The whole opening sequence and then visit of the robot-Batman to Wayne manor looks gorgeous, with the rain, thunder, lightning and shadows creating a fantastic mood. Full marks to Doug Yang, Spectrum and Boyd Kirkland.

Interesting that the writers are aware of "the Internet", even though there wasn't a common name for it at the time. (The duplicant Batman mentions that the Batcomputer can connect to every computer on earth throught the "information network" it is linked to. That's pretty prescient for 1992. Of course, they also use "download" when they mean "upload", but everyone makes that mistake.)

I did find Rossum's speech to RoboBats amusing. "Do you remember your first kiss? Your favorite song? The last time you tasted a really good steak?" I'm not sure the real Bruce would have been able to answer those questions.

Chops said...

Something about the final fight's music reminded me of ST: TOS, and it got me thinking that the plot would fit pretty well too. It's basically "What Are Little Girls Made Of" + "The Return of the Archons"! (Of course, TOS didn't invent these tropes either.) Tying it to Batman's personal code of ethics was a nice touch though.

Chops said...

Oh, and I also liked the moment where HARDAC!Batman turns from profile to face the camera. Normally that effect is used for Two Face, but it shows the robot's duality just as well as Harvey's.


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