As we all know, while Black Friday is the massive retail phenomenon that sees hordes of shoppers stampeding en masse to grab the latest steals at brick-and-mortar stores, Cyber Monday is its arguably more successful online counterpart. With ‘cyber’ being such a catchy term, our favorite sci-fi movies popped into mind so we figured we’d share them with you!
Why artificial intelligence? Call it an homage to all the tech that has advanced our human lives and made the world that much more fun to play in. So for this Cyber Monday, grab some (or all) of these gems, sit back, relax and pray the machines don’t turn on us!
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
With its forward-thinking, minimalist cinematography and special effects techniques, this 60’s masterpiece was lightyears ahead of its time and hands-down beats any CGI-heavy films of today. Stunning visual sequences including the 360-degree rotating jog around the space station and the eerie appearances of the black monolith immediately pop into mind. This, along with Stanley Kubrick’s distinct storytelling methods keep you glued to the story and make you feel the helplessness of being stranded in space, especially when your spaceship’s AI software decides to go rogue! We’re talking about Hal, of course, who only appears as a blinking red light with an uncomfortably soothing computer voice - all the movie needed to create a ruthless villain driven solely by cold, calculated logic. Ever wondered what you would do if Siri decided not to set your morning alarm but chose to kill you instead? “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that…” We shudder at the thought.
The Matrix (1999)
"Mr. Anderson…” Is there anything more menacing than a piece of software trying to wipe your entire species from existence? To be fair, Agent Smith has a point - astutely laid out in one of the movie’s best scenes as he educates Morpheus on the likeness of the human species to a virus, spreading to an area like a disease that consumes every resource before migrating to the next. But this movie does more than raise existential questions and challenge the nature of reality, it also provides heaps of fanservice with gratuitous martial arts choreography, cyberpunk/goth outfits (I need a pair of Morpheus’ sunglasses), and guns. Lots of guns. Unfortunately, Reloaded and Revolutions don’t deliver the same impact but are still fun to watch anyway, if only to experience the story in its entirety. Is Neo still in the Matrix?? Actually, nevermind Neo - are we in the Matrix??
If there was ever a great kids’ movie about saving the environment, this would be it. After trashing the Earth to the point of near-uninhabitability, humans have flown off to live sedentary lives in a spaceship and left behind WALL-E, a tiny robot forever tasked with compacting garbage. When another robot, EVE, is sent to Earth to scan for remaining signs of life, WALL-E shows her a plant that proves Earth is habitable once again, which sets the course for an adorable adventure to save the planet. Eco-sustainability themes aside, this movie also features a refreshing way to warn of the effects of unhealthy living - depicting all humans as round masses of fat with muscles and bones atrophied so badly that they can’t even walk! Preach on, Pixar.
Ex Machina (2014)
This is probably one of the most underrated movies on this list. A programmer is invited to a genius’ remote home to evaluate whether his latest creation, a fully-functioning android, is truly sentient. Eventually we learn of the more sinister aims of the android’s creator, the true motives of the android itself, and just how the programmer fits into the whole mess. Mostly shot in the backdrop of the scenic Scandinavian wilderness and within the glass and concrete confines of Norway’s Juvet Landscape Hotel, the settings are ideal for isolation, the sense of being trapped, and the urge to escape. But who needs to escape? Who’s the bad guy, really? What does it mean to be human and how much of our emotions are we willing to let dictate us? It’s a story that’s as fun to watch as it is to indulge in a discussion of the multi-layered implications post-show.
Is it possible to develop romantic feelings for something devoid of emotion? What defines a romantic relationship? These are only a couple of the questions posed in the story of a man who falls in love with a new type of operating software, personified only by a human voice. You can’t help but place yourself in the protagonist’s situation and assess it for yourself. After all, once the tangible aspects are taken away, our interpersonal relationships are actually not much more than social interactions that are informed by our remaining senses - sight and sound - both of which could be replicated pretty convincingly by AI, right? Or so this movie seems to imply. What follows is a moving drama that swirls around the notion of whether or not this relationship can actually work. Could you do it? Or more importantly, would you?
What are your favorite AI movies? Do you think we’re on track for a peaceful, meaningful existence with our machines? Let us know, we’d love to hear your musings.
Ok, fellow Earthlings, that’s all for now - live long and prosper!
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