How I love to get scared in movie theaters – my favorite Artificial Intelligence films

The apprehensions, concerns and obsessions about the future that many people have been experiencing in recent years make perfect movie material. And, arguably, the most captivating of all recent characters to have appeared on the large screen is artificial intelligence.

Share

facebook twitter google+ linkedin email
Norbert Biedrzycki AI

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

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

 

Matrix

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

 

Transcendence

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)

 

Ex Machina

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

 

Black Mirror

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

 

Her

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.

 

Related articles:

– A machine will not hug you … but it may listen and offer advice

– Living brains beget Artificial Intelligence

– Artificial brains save the earth

– Can machines tell right from wrong?

Machine Learning. Computers coming of age

What a machine will think when it looks us in the eye?

The lasting marriage of technology and human nature

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

20 comments

  1. TommyG

    AI movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a great book of the same name as the film was being made, explaining much that had left the movie audience somewhat lost.

  2. CaffD

    AI treat has been a popular fantasy in Hollywood since at least the late 1960’s with movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, but set in 2001), where the machine-wreaked havoc was confined to a single space ship, and Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970, and set in those times) where the havoc was at a planetary scale. The theme has continued over the years, and more recently with I, Robot (2004, set in 2035) where the evil AI computer VIKI takes over the world through the instrument of the new NS-5 humanoid robots. [By the way, that movie continues the bizarre convention from other science fiction movies that large complex machines are built with spaces that have multi hundred feet heights around them so that there can be great physical peril for the human heroes as they fight the good fight against the machines gone bad…]

    • DDonovan

      At some point, an artificial intelligence is…intelligent. It is no longer a machine. I advise all of humanity that when these machines do cease to become machines and do become self aware…it is in humanity’s best interest that we have already established a track record of treating them honorably. Leave robots to the Japanese. It would be better for all of us if it’s the cuddle-bots and elder care bots and sexbots that become self aware, rather than DARPA war machines.

    • JohnE3

      Of course, all knowledge and tools, including AI, can be used for good or for bad. This is why it’s important to think about what AI is, and how we want it to be used. We need to think about the ethics of AI research.

  3. johnbuzz3

    Only two of those focus on AI’s to my memory. And Her was just the backdrop to exploring relationships, with like 5 minutes of pseudo philosophy on “ascending to a higher existence” with a courtesy of disembodied Alan Watts.

  4. TomCat

    Worst one was a Transformers. Where to start? How about robots who speak and are deciding America, China, and Russia’s fate. Aliens from outer space are trying to enslave us. What do we do? We try to incorporate their tech into our defense. We have no understanding of this super advanced AI and fuck shit up. Like, really fuck shit up. By trying to use the super advanced AI’s AI technology against them, we find ourselves outsmarted by the Decepticons yet again. We are super gullible as humans. So.. It takes another super advanced AI to butt in and save us yet again for the nth-time, because our understanding of AI is so naive.

    • TommyG

      Do not even compare Transformers with these movies. Here we have an examples of a great movies where AI played vital role

  5. John McLean

    Bottom line, majority of AI related movies trying to say that petty wars are being faught by super advanced AIs. Our weakness is that we assume technology is neutral, but it was obviously made for wars. The obvious logical conclusion of having super advanced AI is super advanced interstellar fighting. They already blew up their homes, therefore we should use their technology to defend ourselves.

    Uuugh. There needs to be a parody of these sorts of puppy mill movies.

  6. TomK

    I’d like a movie in which the AI, perhaps due to restraints in computational power, is forced to “dumb down” its analytical superiority in order to fully run an authentic consciousness. Somehow, authentic consciousness and god-like analytic abilities can’t co-exist. Thus, you have an artificial moron. It can be a buddy flick.

    • CaffD

      The well-known example of paper clips is a case in point: if the machine’s only goal is maximizing the number of paper clips, it may invent incredible technologies as it sets about converting all available mass in the reachable universe into paper clips; but its decisions are still just plain dumb.

  7. TomK

    I want to use my skills at editing to ‘remix’ some of these movies. With the removal of a few scenes here and there terrible movies emerge from the chrysalis as adequate movies! And some good movies become superior (e.g., the Director’s Cut of Dark City, but the fingerprint subplot could have been cut.).

  8. Adam Spark Two

    Her was so bad. Apparently she can read a bunch of advice from the internet but doesn’t understand that most people aren’t willing to be shared and involved with 5,000 others on a romantic level. It’s as if she glossed over monogamy. And, why would she need to read up on that (again) if she has 5,000 other relationships going on simultaneously – or even pretend to have read it for the first time? Her’s AI is so smart and sassy that she breaks up with the dude and essentially says: It’s me, not you.

    • TommyG

      … and how that adds value to the threat of this discussion ?

  9. Adam Spark Two

    Seriously, this new trend in movies is boring and filled with shitty wide gaping holes you can cartwheel through.

    Is this all that sci-fi movies end up being? Some kind of new tech and war?

  10. Check Batin

    New idea for a sci-fi film: The war between humans and AI ends when the machines read Norbert’s post and realize they don’t real, and that robots don’t have qualia. The end.

    • Norbert Biedrzycki  

      Very valid point. Thank you very much

  11. John Accural

    Very interesting. Great examples. This topic reminds me of my childhood. Thank you