Hardware (1990)

Hardware, a British-American science fiction horror film directed by Richard Stanley is a cult classic, set in the year 2000. In the 21st century, it seems that most of the world has been debased down to radioactive wasteland desert.

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People can only live in slums that run on outdated, decaying computer technology. Some of the images shown in the beginning of the movie serve to echo the images that soon follow.

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In the above image, this unidentifiable object which is seen only briefly looks like a rock until it starts to move, at which point if begins to like a hand.

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The movie begins with a nomad zone tripper wandering this red-sand, post apocalyptic desert. The wanderer then comes across buried pieces remaining from a robot in the sand. The robots hand is extended up above the sand echoing the image of the hand-like shape that that we previously saw.

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He digs out the head of this robot and later sells it to “Hard Mo’ Baxter” who is in Alvy’s junk shop.

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The film then cuts to this close up of this robot’s head in the hands of the nomad.

The film’s soundtrack then tunes us into the radio show personality, Angry Bob’s voice (Iggy Pop) as we see images of this post-apocalyptic world.

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This tune gives us a funny and sarcastic narration of the movie’s setting: “This is Angry Bob, the man with the industrial dick… Coming at you, loud and clear on WAR radio. Rise and shine folks, it’s a beautiful day! Just look at that sky: it’s a work of art. Ha, nature never knew colors like that! And a friendly reminder: when you look at it, be sure to wear your shades!!! The radiation count is way up and the heat wave ain’t expected to let off either, weather control tells us that it will probably hit 110 downtown before nightfall. As for the good news, there is no fucking good news, so let’s rock with one of our golden oldies…”

I must say that I thought this movie was not only extremely violent and bloody, but also very creepy. If I had to make some judgments, I would say that at the time this movie was made, the advancement of technology made a strong and fearful impression on people. The setting shows the fate of a world that is developing computers as quickly as ours was in 1990. (Although this advancement obviously doesn’t even compare to how fast we are moving now.)

The fear of technology manifests itself very clearly in this movie. It affects how people interact with one another. I would say that the stereotype of the “creepy stalker guy” might have been created around this time in our history. For an example, there is an archetype like this in this movie, a stalker (an ugly, fat, gross man) who watches Jill while she is in her apartment, and makes love to her partner Mo’.

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Above we see an image of the stalkers phallic shaped camera. The director shows us the “manhood of this camera” as it follows its long shape from the window to the man looking through it to comment on invasiveness of technology. This device is one of the instruments that allow people to probe into each other’s private affairs, like this man who watches Jill in her apartment.

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He watches her. And she is now the subject of this man’s gaze.

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He takes digital pictures with this camera of her as she has sex with Mo’.

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And he gets off to this. Thus, the stereotype of the computer hacker and stalker is born!

There is simultaneous fear of government control of the people with the use of technology. It is clear from the movie that technology is a medium that is feared so much because of its inherent nature of advancing and becoming more complex, to the point where humans will no longer understand these computerized functions. In other words, machines and computers will ultimately become self-aware if we continue to develop their operating functions and depend on them, which we do.

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The film foreshadows the self-awareness that computers will ultimately gain in the image above. In this snapshot above from the movie, we see Mo’s girlfriend Jill, a blow-torche metal sculptor and artist, getting the idea for her newest project out of metal parts. In the image above, we see, a picture of the anatomy of an animal’s head behind her own head. Of course, the missing piece will be given to her by Mo’ as a Christmas present. Jill says, “I’ve been basing my work on organic forms… [but] it seems like the metal is winning…” This line serves to foreshadow the fate of humans.

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In the movie, there is a new government initiative to enforce sterilizations that will reduce overpopulation, although the means through which this will be done are not explicitly specified, creating suspense and fear for the viewers. In this movie, (and maybe also NOT in this movie) the government uses technology as a means of control and manipulation of the people.

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Unfortunately, Mo’ discovers from a friend that the machine head that he brought home to Jill accidentally turns out to be a component of this government initiative. Of course, Mo’s girlfriend, is an artist who used this machine head (which also coincidentally happened to be the missing piece to her work) to make a sculpture.

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She paints the head the colors and patterns of the American flag with red stripes and blue and white stars. This sculpture that is made up of these classified machine parts, becomes self aware and begins to kill anything in it’s vicinity. It just screams God Bless America, doesn’t it?

Therefore when (not if, since it is obviously doomed to happen at some point in the future of technological progression) the computers become self-aware, we will be at their mercy. As we see in this film, the moment they become self-aware, they will rebuild themselves, like the machine has in the snapshot below.

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We have a fear of computers gaining control and becoming self aware or conscious, like humans.

Hardware, established Richard Stanley’s career as a feature filmmaker and showcased his unique visual techniques. The inspiration for this film came from a short 2000 A.D. comic strip called SHOK! Walkter’s Robo-Tale.

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