aNewDomain — There have been some great techno shock movies in the past, all of them wedding original stories with the smartest of possibilities. For your pleasure, we present the DNA of films run amok with technology. Continue reading … if you dare!
Image credit: Viki Reed
Category One: The Machines Have Already Won
It is technology. It can outthink us and it doesn’t care if it’s fat, old or popular.
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970): A movie with no special effects (unless you count LEDs, wide screen and full-color film). The United States thought it was so clever when it created a mountain-based nuclear defense system to protect itself from communist threats. But when the system went online, it immediately hooked up with a previously existing network in the Soviet Union. Oops! Scientists were quick to disconnect the link, but the computers found a way to reconnect themselves. The two supercomputers created a new binary code language, shared secrets and formed their own way of life. And if anyone has a problem with that, the computers have threatened to blow everyone up.
WarGames (1983): Humans survived The Forbin Project, but remained embroiled in Cold War fear. Then came the eponymous line, “Shall we play a game?” Thank God a pre-Apple teenage nerd geek figured out how to beat the `83 version of Big Blue … by appealing to the computer’s growing sense of self awareness (aka its human-ness).
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): We all know someone who has to control everything — conversations, relationships, what to eat, who you can talk to, who you can love, space station life-support systems, cameras, escape pods. Heck, HAL can even read lips when you try to keep a secret. The question “Dave? What are you doing?” will forever send chills up my spine even though it’s really the only part of 2001 that isn’t about human evolution in the universe.
Westworld (1973): The film depicts hunky James Brolin and sexy Richard Benjamin as two guys out to have the vacation of their lives without the wives. Westworld Resort looked more like Disneyland than Disneyland did back in ’73. So many options: vacay in ancient Rome or rock a sword in medieval Europe, it didn’t really matter. All of Westworld’s themes were populated by androids/robots programmed to say yes like good improvers, and to serve humans and do no harm. Our heroes chose to swagger in the American wild west. What happens in Westworld, stays in Westworld.
Our gunslingers got wasted, blacked out and when they woke up in their hotel, all of the androids were infected with a computer virus that erased their prime directive. The park technicians scrambled to avert disaster. They powered down the resort, locked up all the robots and got the sobering-up humans out of harm’s way. There was only one problem, however; the homicidal free spirited maniac androids had a lot of reserve battery power left. Coda: as long as we’re talking about Westworld, let’s please get one thing out in the open: Director James Cameron stole Yul Brynner’s terrifying attack-walk for Robert Patrick’s The Terminator.
Demon Seed (1977): A mad genius doc creates Proteus IV, an artificial intelligence project. The doctor’s a true geek, wiring his house to be fully controlled by a single device — much like today’s refrigerator/windows/Verizon home control panel. Only this computer was much smarter — it had the wherewithal to ask when it would be allowed to come out of its box.
Proteus scared investors and the doc disconnected it from the broad terminal access. Bold enough to lock the doctor out of his own house, kidnap Mrs. Genius Doc and use the home’s terminal network, Proteus had now absorbed all of mankind’s knowledge and became its own God. It even found a way to use its A.I. to inseminate the Mrs. against her will.
Category Two: Don’t Mess with Mother Nature … Please?
Sometimes technology is what science imposes on biology because we are better than every other living thing.
Frankenstein (1931, etc.): No matter what version you see, all the dry ice, Tesla coil action and lightning all add up to one thing — Frankenstein is the baseline definition of don’t mess with God’s handiwork. If you do, you’ll undoubtedly create an innocent, naïve monster with really big feet who has mental killer strength from the body parts of vagrants. Terrified villagers will chase you with torches and it will not end well. You’ll be shunned.
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977 version only): The 1977 version counts as the best one. It’s baroque, steamy and features excellent special effects makeup. Michael York is beautiful until he turns into some half boar-looking dude and Burt Lancaster might be battier than Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. York, a simple crewman in the days when shipwrecked survivors drew straws to see who would be dinner that night, is mighty happy to have landed on Dr. Moreau’s island. It was this particular movie that birthed the term “manimal” — which is what the natives were. York’s character realizes that Moreau has created these manimals and the bylaws they live by (like “not to kill”). That bylaw is broken pretty quickly and the fur flies when it becomes every half-man for himself. York escapes with the island hottie after he’s injected with manimal serum. As the couple is rescued our hero has fully reverted to his human state and the hottie is now completely the animal she started out as. York sails away a broken-hearted zookeeper instead of a groom.
Image credit: Wikimedia
Jurassic Park (1993): A cinematic master class; every inch of film was storyboarded and it shows. It took a megatonic meteor to destroy the prehistoric jurassic world (and most of the life on the planet) … but we can put a big metal fence around it and populate the joint with gift shops and food courts!
The Terminal Man (1974): A hip movie about how science’s efforts to treat epilepsy and paranoia with microchip implants that connect to monitoring computers creates a really epileptic, delusional and homicidal paranoid killer who wants to be disconnected from computers. The movie stars George Segal and he gives a totally hardcore performance.
Charly (1968): The book this film was adapted from (Flowers For Algernon) was on every school’s reading list when I was a kid. As it should be. (FYI: back in 1996, John Travolta starred in a similar type of movie call Phenomenon. But the only good thing about it was the soundtrack.) Charly is the kind of stupid that means he can’t be executed in most states. Despite his situation, he tries to better himself by going to night school. In class he impresses his teacher so much she takes him to a clinic where mouse intelligence is being studied (and improved). The star mouse is named Algernon, btw. The clinic needs a human test subject and voila! Charly is transformed into a super genius and a full-blown ladies man and a motorcycle-riding bon vivant. He even grows a mod mustache. But then everything falls apart. As we all know, humans don’t have the answers to fix genetic disorders like retardation and middle-aged virginity. Ultimately, Charly finds out that Algernon has died and he realizes that he’ll be worse than dead — he’ll be dumb again. The movie ends with Charly playing games with little children.
A Clockwork Orange (1971): More of a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece than 2001 to be sure, A Clockwork Orange proves that human nature is what it is. You are part of a pack and unless you’re the alpha, you can and will be chewed up and spit out. The posh people are freaks and there’s no one to call for help because the authorities take their orders from someone else anyway. The film features unbelievable fashion, language and slang invented by the original story’s author (Anthony Burgess) and a mad soundtrack that squeals and vibrates with synth and classical explosions. You cannot brainwash a bad character with a violent nature and create a different person. A brute is converted to a presentable sadistic brute in the twisted closing minutes of the film.
Based in New York, Viki Reed is a senior photographer and pop culture commentator at aNewDomain.net. She’s worked with SubBrilliant News, Anti-Press and Thewax. Check out her work at vikireedphotography.com and email her at Viki@aNewDomain.net or firstname.lastname@example.org.