RR Movies: Machines, Robots & Computers

As Samsung realise that spontaneously-combusting phones are probably not the way forward and techies are still scratching their heads about why the algorithms dropped the value of the pound so dramatically last week, let’s have a look at films about the technology changing our lives. You may wish to go back to Chaplin’s Modern Times or dash ahead to a Blade Runner dystopia, but I’ll just jump a couple of years into the future with Her, when Siri gets even more personal.

What films about technology would you recommend?

35 thoughts on “RR Movies: Machines, Robots & Computers

  1. The first thing that I thought of was Fritz Lang’s superb and incredibly influential Metropolis. The False Maria is one of the earliest examples of using an artificial being for evil ends, as well as the filmprobably being one the first ever portrayal of a future urban dystopia. It draws upon written sources for its inspiration, not least the works of H.G Wells, I am thinking of The Time Machine in particular, and the city itself must surely have influenced Ridley Scott when he was planning Bladerunner.

  2. I, Robot was a favourite book and I felt massively let down by the Will Smith movie. Surrogates also did not gel for me. One recent film I liked was Chappie, where a self aware robot, made for policing, is stolen and pushed into a life of crime. Quirky take.
    But I’m still waiting for someone to make a decent version of Dune, which has so many cool AI stuff.

  3. Wall-e. Machines are left on earth to clean up humanity’s mess. Humanity escapes into space. Wall-e becomes sentient (no idea how), finds a seedling in the debris and basically saves the world while falling in love with another robot on the way. A tad over-long but very thought provoking for a film aimed primarily at kids. Like me.

    • I loved Wall-E. In fact, all the adults and little kids seemed to enjoy it at the showing I went to. Then I spoke to a friend who had taken her two children (aged 10 and 11) to see the film and they both thought it was really boring!

  4. Has there ever been a “nicer” computer than HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey ? I don’t think so, even as he is trying to kill the crew ! Also the film Pi, although bloody weird, had a monstrous computer in it, as the mathematician was attempting to find a number that would sort out the world’s problems (I think) !

  5. Did someone put The Departed up recently? That scene where they know there’s a mole, but not who, while they’re all looking at each other while on their cell phones was great.

  6. Some critics found the film too soft-centred (possibly didn’t like the idea of Spielberg finishing a Kubrick project) but I loved AI. Interesting take on the whole idea of what constitutes a “real” person. And an ending that sentimental people like me find hard to watch.

    I just looked it up and Mark Kermode, who gave it a bad review at the time, apparently changed his mind after re-watching several years later and told Spielberg that he had been wrong.

  7. Robby the Robot: Forbidden Plant
    R2-D2: Star Wars
    Gort: The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Ava: Ex Machina
    The Terminator
    The Stepford Wives
    Tetsuo (Okay, shoehorning that in because they become metal machines)

    Very much looking forward to Ready Player One and its virtual world. And also looking forward to Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson.

    Waiting for the day when some meat fucker can realise Iain M. Banks, Hannu Rajaniemi and Ann Leckie’s AI spaceships.

    Seconding all the machines mentioned. Wasn’t it Proteus in the Demon Seed? Horrifying.

  8. Lots of great films mentioned here. Dark Star is a long time personal fave, as is Silent Running, which actually makes me cry whenever I watch it.

    I would love to see someone with a massive budget but also sensitivity and understanding of the subject attempt some Iain M. Banks novels. I think that Player Of Games would be an ideal place to start.

    • Carole: I was not personally involved with Silent Running but many of my friends were, my university was about 3 miles from the US Naval Base where the aircraft carrier the Valley Forge was permanently anchored. All of the interior shots of the spaceship [also called the Valley Forge] were shot below decks on the aircraft carrier. I was actively involved with the art department’s Industrial Design school where the students responsible for Star Wars were recruited from. The same group of [ex] students were hired to do similar work on Silent Running plus several more were current students.
      All of the exterior shots of space vehicles in Star Wars were created from plastic toy car and aircraft kits randomly assembled, hundreds of ’em, that’s also how the exteriors for Silent Running were also achieved.
      The director was Douglas Trumball, he’d created the technology for the Stargate sequence in Star Wars, this was his first directorial project.
      I was very busily involved in creating my own version of his slit scan projector for my UCLA thesis, I never succeeded.
      That was a vey happy and creative period, the ID dept was constantly involved in that film much to the despair for the dept chairman, he was losing students in droves when they discovered the money and careers in film making that were available .

    • i sort of both like and hate the idea of the banks sci-fi books being made. POG would probably be one of the most straightforward, though Consider Phlebas would be the natural one to start with. they should never make Use of Weapons as I’m sure it would disappoint me a lot.

      for the sci-fi fans, Netflix is making a tv series out of Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. i love the book so i hope they don’t ruin it.

      • I suppose that the size of the Iain M. Banks novels would probably lend themselves better to a series treatment than a film.

      • yes, its hard to imagine compression of complex storylines into a 2 hour film without losing something eg Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

        there was a film made of Complicity and at least one TV series of Banks’ work (Crow Road). not sure either was particularly great though.

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