You'd think a PG rated sci-fi, family comedy staring a wisecracking robot and perhaps the only performance of a white actor in Indianface (way to bridge the racial gap Fisher Stevens) would be pretty safe, wholesome viewing.
You, my friend, would be wrong…oh so tragically wrong.
In addition to setting Indian culture back 500 years, cramming about 1000 robot one-liners into every scene, and featuring a snazzy 80s synth jazz score, "Short Circuit 2" was also a diatribe on the dangers of the big city. This was the late 80s, back when you were just as likely to get murdered in NYC as find a great slice of pizza. And at its core this movie is really about maintaining a sense of self, even when surrounded by nothing but negative influences, as Johnny Five's well-meaning naiveté collides head on with the murkier elements of the big city. He's got a choice – he can cave in and let the city destroy him, or he can wise up, get smart and learn to navigate the pitfalls and dangers while still remaining the same, lovable (if not slightly annoying) Johnny.
If you think about it, it's actually a pretty great message: The world will destroy you if you let it, but, like Johnny, it's important to never let go of that special, caring part of you that just wants to read books at breakneck speed, hang out with your white-Indian friends, and generally have a synth-jazzy good time.
It warms my heart…
Many of the scenes in this regard are handled pretty light-heartedly. Johnny thwarts some would-be robbers while quoting "The Honeymooners," he uses his deus ex machina radio device (that can literally control ANYTHING electronic) to play music, he even joins a Latino gang, whose modus operandi is kicking various things (including your balls) into outer space!
But then, right at the end of the second act, shit gets real. Waaaaay too real. Johnny is assaulted by the movie's three villains and mercilessly beaten within an inch of his life with a fire axe and crowbar. And not in any kind of amusing way: He gets the kind of beating that would make Rodney King and Alex Murphy think they got off easy.
And he BLEEDS! As if seeing a loveable, kind-hearted robot get the shit kicked out of him isn't effed up enough, the FX people in this movie decided it would be cool if Johnny had red battery fluid. The result? When Johnny gets hit you get a nice "blood" splatter to go along with it. Outside of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" I don't think I've ever seen a robot bleed before and I have to say it's easy some of the freakiest, most disturbing material ever put to celluloid. They tried to lighten things up toward the end of the scene by having Johnny use his god antenna to rescue himself using model planes – the very definition of too little, too late.
The dangerous ol' big city shoves it's dick up in Johnny – HARD! – on this one. On the upside Johnny gets a brand new body in the end. A body made of solid gold that is probably worth hundreds of thousands of 1980s dollars. I can only assume there was never a Short Circuit 3 because Johnny probably eventually rolled his foolish, 24 karat ass right into the heart of gangland, caught another fire axe/crowbar special, and was smelted down into about 8532 custom grillz.
…R.I.P Johnny "Number 5" Five.
And in case that scene has left you rattled (which I know it always does for me) you can cheer yourself up by reciting the Los Locos chant (preferably in your office; in front of your boss)!