Motherhood and The Human Spirit: Jung_E


2023 film Jung_E breaking new grounds in Sci-fi narritives

Leigh Joyce, Jr. Editor

Although the topic of human feeling in reference to robotics is not new to the Sci-fi world, the new Netflix movie, Jung_E has added an unexpected spin on the trope, introducing human rights and consciousness as the main discussion. The $16.3 million budgeted South Korean film sets the scene in a post-apocalyptic 22nd century civilization that abandoned Earth and inhabited new planets, splitting into quadrants that eventually go to war. As the war prevails the Adrian Republic begins exploring more combat methods, including the use of trained AI of which the opposing team has seemed to master. It is here where the conflicts between the ongoing capitalization of replicated human brains and the ethics of forcing such human aspects into a mechanical object begin.

Jung-yi, the movie and fictional organization’s namesake, is a war hero who passed on a mission before she could see her daughter Seo-hyun survive her costly surgery. Because of her expertise in battle, a leading organization in brain chemistry, Kronoid, promises that if they are allowed to replicate Jung-yi’s brain for commercial use they would cover living expenses for young Seo-hyun. In this world there are three types of brain cloning, A, the most expensive but grants the robot, or rather the brain, full human sovereignty, the B class is identical to A excluding full human rights such as voting and freedom, and lastly, C. Type C is the most interesting and sadly realistic as the cloned brain, holding full consciousness and humanity is capitalized and mass produced as servants, they are sold and used in various circumstances, some of which, unsavory. Jung-yi’s replica, Jung-E is, despite being geared primarily toward military use, in the aforementioned C classification and after realizing the true atrocity her mother had been put through, Seo-hyun decides to free her.

Throughout the movie, one is stunned at the evidently limitless mastery of machinery that this civilization has come to. Each time a character was revealed as robotic a viewer would be no short of a gasp as the movie brushes it off in a normalized dystopian manner. This itself is certainly respectable in writing, many apocalyptic Sci-fi movies try to make an advanced world but still contain a more empathetic view for the modern spectator, gasping along with them. However the removed demeanor that Seo-hyun retains is exactly what makes her arch intriguing, she was born in the world of human commercialism, she sees the length that people feel both physically and mentally even if outwardly enginery, but feels no sympathy until aware of her mother’s recognition of her life before death. A change in perspective would be to put it lightly as Seo-hyun has never before questioned her place as human, above robots, exactly as designed. All together, besides the unsurprisingly awful dub and possible mis-translation in parts, Jung_E is fun and energetic, even heartfelt at points. Certainly not the best Sci-fi film discussing this, (I Robot will always hold that place) the movie defiantly explored a new, more political side of the narrative and should be regarded highly.