How I love to get scared in movie theaters — my favorite Artificial Intelligence films
Advanced technology has been extremely alluring to the film industry and, at times, has been embodied in an evil character. Clearly, in the coming years it will unseat aliens in their role as the prime source of viewer terror. Contemporary film producers want us to believe that the unknown world of threats and doom is closer than we think — it has infiltrated our homes. Forces of evil reside in our personal computers. PCs have already revolutionized our lives and will continue to do so. Meanwhile, their shady aspects will be fully exposed on screen. Here are some pictures that play on our fears associated with new technologies and their impact on our lives. My favorite Artificial Intelligence films. The kind of cinema I really like.
2001: A Space Odyssey
This particular movie simply had to top my list. Unquestionably a cinematic classic, it is a wise, unsettling movie that turned out to be prophetic. We all wonder about the implications of artificial intelligence going autonomous. We increasingly ponder about whether computers may gain control over humanity and it scares the living daylights out of us. In Kubrick’s motion picture, the onboard computer Hal goes rogue. It resolves to write its own script and take control over the space travelers. It becomes an aggressor, a rival of humans, a living being driven by dark instincts. Precisely these traits terrify us to death. Kubrick’s film is full of secrets. For instance, it is not entirely clear what the mysterious slab that appears in the movie really is. The one thing we know for certain is that it has changed the fates of the human race. I believe that the enigmatic object may epitomize the changes taking place in our world.
2001: A Space Odyssey — 1968
Blade Runner is another groundbreaking motion picture with a cult following. It is actually a perfect time to recall it as its sequel is about to come out. I can still remember its eerie stifling atmosphere. I think Scott’s film has no equals when it comes to presenting a vision of a future world and a mega-metropolis in decline. Interestingly, it is set in 2019, meaning that two years from now we will be able to confront the director’s vision with the world outside our windows. Our world has definitely more sunshine than that in the movie ;-). Any replicants roaming the streets? I dare to say there still aren’t any, although, as we can remember from the movie, these beings were hardly distinguishable from people and I may just not have realized they are already here. I value the film for its epic flair. And I really don’t mind that the world it presents is entirely fantastic. I am curious what its 2017 sequel is going to be like. We will know as soon as October.
Blade runner (30th anniversary collection edition) — Official Blu-ray trailer
One of the most trail-blazing virtual reality movies ever made. Besides being charming and graceful, it conveys a critical and increasingly valid message about the world we live in. I value it for being ahead of its time, for foretelling the concerns that, by and large, have become part and parcel of our lives. When it was first released, the concept of virtual reality was only in its infancy, and the internet has only been commonplace for a few years. Only today can we really see how the Matrix message affects us all. Questions about the relationship between real life and virtual reality are not unreasonable. Who do we become as we delve into the internet? What is this virtual personality, which ultimately all of us have? Does access to unlimited knowledge on the web bring us any closer to the truth? What actually is this web, in times when we are flooded with views and ideas for what to do with our lives? The film seems to have answered all of those questions in a visually attractive way, which is one of its strengths. I think that to this day, many of us remember its uniquely innovative way of filming fighting scenes. Regrettably, the Matrix sequels did not attain the striking power of the original movie.
The Matrix (1999) Official Trailer
A captivating story of people who have devoted their entire lives to developing artificial intelligence. For some, AI holds a promise of moving onto a new level of existence, for others it poses a threat. Generally, both groups believe that the day is nigh when artificial intelligence becomes a force that will outstrip the human mind. Some enthusiasts believe AI advances will definitely be beneficial. They go as far as to claim that AI offers ways to approximate divinity and omniscience. One of them is Will Caster, played by Johnny Depp. Terror creeps in when Caster gets shot while searching for “salvation” through technology. At this point the plot thickens, as the human brain and the virtual world blend together. I think the writers deserve credit for highlighting a wide range of issues that will arise as humans encounter technology. An accurate portrayal was offered of both the hopes and the fears experienced by people facing technological breakthroughs.
Transcendence Official Trailer (2014)
An intriguing story of human emotions and what we are in for once robots appear in our lives; the film poses many questions about who we are as people and what risks are involved in artificial intelligence reaching a very high level of development. The protagonist is invited to a homestead, which turns out to be a futuristic electronics-filled shelter. He is chosen to take part in an experiment along with an eccentric millionaire and… a machine. The robot, endowed with humanoid shapes and beautiful feminine facial features is the source of tension between all participants. The picture addresses many classical AI-related concerns. For instance, it does so by offering its own take on how the well-known Turing test may be performed. Don’t expect an epic scale in the way the movie is made. Rather, it is a story of emotions set in a confined space. Don’t get me wrong, though: there are moments where its talented authors turned it into a riveting white-knuckle psychological thriller.
Ex Machina (2014) — official trailer
The murky downbeat tale of technology pervading people’s lives summarizes this extraordinary story comprised of a dozen plus self-standing episodes. Its authors must have examined all of humanity’s anxieties, showing how, while being perfectly natural, technology can also be destructive. They depict people who are entirely subjugated to television, social media, tech corporations and politicians. The people of the “future” are surprisingly similar to the ones we pass daily on the streets and are clearly string-puppets.
The latest technologies are used mainly to surveil people and suppress their personal freedoms. Out of fear, humanity plays along, taking part in scripted spectacles created for entertainment. The series offers no easy watching. Viewers are in for satire that lays bare our consumerism and thoughtless use of and addiction to technology. A clearly anti-utopian vision of humanity.
Black Mirror (2014) — official trailer
Can one fall in love with one’s computer’s operating system? Clearly so! This is precisely what happens to the protagonist of Her. After quitting his job in a newspaper, Theodore takes to writing letters to order. His customers commission love stories and intimate memories. One day, he installs a system in his computer that is designed to meet its users’ every need. The system is so good at its job that it wins Theodore’s heart, making him fall head over heels for the machine. And with reciprocity. The movie is a love story that makes the viewer root for its characters. Despite the peculiarity of their relationship, the characters seem to be a regular couple that go through all the usual stages of love. I find the picture to be warm and optimistic. Despite that, it shows that while much of what we go through is fiction, real emotions and feelings are still within arm’s reach.
Her (2013) — official trailer
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
As noted earlier, in the 1980s, Blade Runner wonderfully portrayed a future metropolis in decline. Ghost in the Shell paints an equally suggestive picture, although in a different tone. This, I think, was the first anime production that impressed me powerfully. This 1995 film directed by Mamoru Oshii perfectly combines entertainment with reflection. The story of a cyborg — a brain implanted into an artificial body of an attractive woman who sets out on restoring world order — entertains, while sneaking in food for thought on who we have become as people and the makers of today’s civilization. There is also the usual set of issues that for years have been part and parcel of cyberpunk culture: dehumanized corporations, hackers, implants, shady deals and clashes of good and evil. All this set in stunning visuals. I highly recommend it! As well as the follow-ups: version 2.0 and the two series. Movie theaters are now showing a Hollywood version of the story starring Scarlett Johansson. Does it live up to the Japanese original? I’d say far from it.
Ghost in the Shell (1995) — official trailer
Cinema loves artificial intelligence
My personal cinematic favorites includes classics along with releases from recent months and years. I myself was curious to juxtapose flicks from four decades ago with movies that evolved nearly in parallel with the rise of artificial intelligence. As I wrote this blog, I realized just how genius and prophetic Kubrick’s film was. I was also made to understand clearly how different today’s directors’ approach is to “aliens” in our lives.
One thing is undeniable: the technological advances we are witnessing are incredibly photogenic. And the concerns they bring are ethical and existential — a whole treasure trove of themes for directors and script-writers to explore. Perhaps they are the most discerning observers of changes in our world. A world full of machines, IT systems, surveillance cameras, robots and… human anxieties.