Technology In Movies (Part 2)
Posted by Charlie Recksieck
Rating the Computers, Robots, Programmers, Droids, Hackers and A.I.s
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Movies Involving Hacking
Sneakers - 32 (Social Impact: 3, Computer Portrayal: 8, Science Fact: 8, As Plot Device: 7, Drama: 6)
The Net - 13 (Social Impact: 1, Computer Portrayal: 2, Science Fact: 5, As Plot Device: 3, Drama: 2)
Ocean's Eleven - 34 (Social Impact: 8, Computer Portrayal: 9, Science Fact: 5, As Plot Device: 7, Comedy: 5)
Superman III - 16 (Social Impact: 4, Computer Portrayal: 4, Science Fact: 3, As Plot Device: 3, Comedy: 1)
Sneakers is actually a sneaky-good movie (see what I did there). It's really a caper movie with actors too good for the material; even so, they kind of nail the tech with cutting-edge encryption ideas and effective, low-tech methods of pointing a camera to a guy typing a password. (Apologies for not listing Hackers, I never saw it.) The Net, like too many computer-based thrillers, devolves into basic chase scenes. Their tech ideas were better than you might think, but the graphics we see on the monitors are laughable. Computers are always a big part of any modern caper movie (also not listed: Fast & Furious franchise), and Ocean's Eleven gets away with a lot because the film is so good and just moves so fast. All of the devices looked good, although implausible; the gadgets actually drove more of the film than I remember, now that I think about it. Superman III is famous for the bank micro-cent rounding (aka "salami slicing") plot idea that Office Space openly salutes. I'm torn about this because the early part where Richard Pryor is an employed computer programmer is really pretty good, tech-wise. But then even after the goofy recipe to make Evil Superman, the machine/robot stuff at the end is a gutterball.
TV/Movies About Surveillance
Snowden - 33 (Social Impact: 5, Computer Portrayal: 7, Science Fact: 9, As Plot Device: 6, Drama: 6)
Citizenfour - 38 (Social Impact: 5, Computer Portrayal: 10, Science Fact: 10, As Plot Device: 7, Documentary: 6)
Enemy Of The State - 32 (Social Impact: 7, Computer Portrayal: 6, Science Fact: 5, As Plot Device: 9, Drama: 8)
CSI - 13 (Social Impact: 2, Computer Portrayal: 2, Science Fact: 2, As Plot Device: 5, Drama: 2)
24 - 20 (Social Impact: 7, Computer Portrayal: 2, Science Fact: 2, As Plot Device: 4, Drama: 5)
Both Oliver Stone's Snowden and the Oscar-winning doc citizenfour have an advantage in these ratings about realism (especially citizenfour). Ultimately, though both films scratch the surface of surveillance and encryption, they end up being more about the captivating story of Snowden's personal decisions. Despite some on-monitor nonsense in the NSA scenes, Enemy Of The State makes for a great thriller and introduced plenty to the public about the levels of surveillance the U.S. government can employ towards its citizens. Enemy Of The State at its worst never approaches the level of tech, magic tracking computer nonsense of both CSI and 24.
Glorified Amazon Echos
Iron Man - 28 (Social Impact: 9, Robot Acting: 8, Science Fact: 6, As Plot Device: 2, Drama: 3)
Moon - 28 (Social Impact: 2, Robot Acting: 10, Science Fact: 7, As Plot Device: 6, Drama: 3)
In fairness, J.A.R.V.I.S. really isn't the star of the Iron-Man series (we are ignoring the merits and tech of the suit). As for Moon, it's a shame that Kevin Spacey is the voice of the onboard A.I. which retroactively hurts the movie, because it's a good one. Personally, I feel like the filmmakers really nailed it for a computer that you could argue logically with, but didn't have phony anthropomorphized personality traits.
Star Wars - 37 (Social Impact: 10, Robot Acting: 9, Science Fact: 5, As Plot Device: 6, Comedy: 7)
Blade Runner - 43 (Social Impact: 8, Robot Acting: 9, Science Fact: 7, As Plot Device: 9, Drama: 10)
Alien - 38 (Social Impact: 8, Robot Acting: 8, Science Fact: 8, As Plot Device: 7, Drama: 7)
A.I. - 36 (Social Impact: 5, Robot Acting: 7, Science Fact: 6, As Plot Device: 10, Drama: 8)
Heartbeeps - 9 (Social Impact: 0, Robot Acting: 0, Science Fact: 0, As Plot Device: 8, Comedy: 1)
Westworld (movie) - 30 (Social Impact: 5, Robot Acting: 4, Science Fact: 3, As Plot Device: 9, Drama: 9)
Westworld (tv series) - 37 (Social Impact: 6, Robot Acting: 9, Science Fact: 4, As Plot Device: 9, Drama: 9)
When you hear "droids" you have to think Star Wars. It's cultural impact was so huge and C-3PO and R2D2 were huge phenomenon's themselves in the 70s. If I can pour water on it, their schtick gets pretty old, pretty quickly (at least as an adult). Bonus points to anybody in your life who refers to them as "Threepio" and "Artoo" with the shorthand. Blade Runner is our unofficial android movie champion. They nailed some real-life innovations, it's a great movie, and driven by what-is-consciousness ideas that will age well as the singularity nears - and all of the action is driven by the androids' decisions. Alien is rock-solid and even though it doesn't seem primarily like an android movie, it's really Ash who drives the decisions that move the plot. A.I. is a beautiful mess from Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg; it grapples with these same android mindfulness issues, but it’s clearly a couple of notches below Blade Runner. Heartbeeps is something I expect none of you to know, but if you want to Google a trainwreck that stars Andy Kaufman and also Jerry Garcia(?!), then look this one up. Westworld, the movie was a great concept, but moviemaking wasn't ready to do it justice. The more recent HBO series really gets into the ethical, social and technological issues we are going to contend with in the coming decades (although Season 2 was a big dip in quality from Season 1).
Movies About Artificial Intelligence
Star Trek I: The Motion Picture - 20 (Social Impact: 4, A.I. Acting: 1, Science Fact: 2, As Plot Device: 7, Drama: 6)
2001: A Space Odyssey - 49 (Social Impact: 10, A.I. Acting: 10, Science Fact: 9, As Plot Device: 10, Drama: 10)
2010 - 31 (Social Impact: 3, A.I. Acting: 10, Science Fact: 8, As Plot Device: 5, Drama: 5)
Terminator Series - 40 (Social Impact: 8, A.I. Acting: 7, Science Fact: 6, As Plot Device: 8, Drama: 9)
Her - 42 (Social Impact: 4, A.I. Acting: 10, Science Fact: 10, As Plot Device: 9, Drama: 9)
The Matrix - 38 (Social Impact: 10, A.I. Acting: 7, Science Fact: 5, As Plot Device: 8, Drama: 8)
The first Star Trek movie had some great ideas and ended up with a great plot twist about a self-aware machine, but they said the word "V-Ger" about 30 times too many for me to respect this movie. Despite still not quite knowing what the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey is about at all, this is the gold standard: prescient on lots of tech, spectacularly filmed, scientific limitations drove the plot, and HAL 9000 is quite possibly one of the most interesting villains in film history. Now stay with me, 2010 is completely underrated in further dealing with HAL's psyche as shown when Bob Balaban's character gets to the bottom of HAL's conflicting instructions that caused his "mental" breakdown in the original. Terminator 2 is one of the best action movies off all time (and the original Terminator is a very good one) with androids both organic and liquid driving the action; but T2 gets way deeper (with some time-travel gordian knots thrown in there) about the SkyNet intelligence. If 2013's Her was seen by more people, it would have a bigger score in my book. Basically a romance between a sad guy and his souped-up Siri named Samantha. It goes so deep into what could be seen as a logical progression for the AI's of the world, almost the happier answer to the future than The Matrix. As for The Matrix itself, the sequels hurt the mythology - but this was a late-90s gamechanger which is still blowing 16 year olds' minds about AI and reality; it only suffers in comparison to these other greats when it comes to the singularity.
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There you have it. Yet another pop culture tech article which rates You've Got Mail as one of the 5 best tech movies of all time.