Created in conjunction with the theatrical release of Blade Runner 2049, sequel to the legendary Blade Runner directed in 1982 by Ridley Scott, Artificial Intelligence Film is a page dedicated to films on Artificial Intelligence – starting with the first selection of films that are being periodically enriching and lengthening to find out what cinema has wanted to tell us up to now, what it anticipated and what has not yet happened in reality.
The silent film of 1927, Metropolis, directed by the Austrian director Fritz Lang, is considered among the most symbolic works of expressionist cinema and is still recognized today as the masterpiece from which all modern science fiction cinematography is derived (so much to inspire, for example, Star Wars).
Lang sets the film in 2026 (100 years after its production) in a megalopolis of the future – Metropolis – which however clearly shows all the discomfort of the society of the 20s-30s of the twentieth century: the socio-cultural complexity that begins to deal with the birth and spread of Nazi ideologies is reflected in the film’s society where there is a very strong distinction between the rich and the working class.
The screenplay is the work of Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, who a few years later the film openly declares her political positions by joining the Nazi Party (Lang is instead Jewish and is forced to take refuge in the United States), leaving common already leaking into the writing of the film what his social and political ideas were (it is no coincidence that Hitler will like the film very much).
The plot of the film Metropolis
Metropolis is a megalopolis that in 2026 still lives a socio-economic dualism that leads to the clear distinction between rich and poor, even in the subdivision of the urban spaces of the city (above live the wealthy people, below – underground – the workers exploited by the rich as slaves). The city is ruled by the dictator Joh Fredersen, who heads a group of wealthy industrialists who exploit the labor of enslaved workers to run the machines that run the city (invented by professor and mad scientist Rotwang).
Freder, son of the dictator, lives in a surreal eternal garden where one day Maria bursts into it, taking the children of the slave laborers on a trip. Freder, struck by Maria’s beauty, decides to follow her and thus begins his journey into the subsoil that leads him to discover the horrors in which the workers live (who risk death in case of error at work, with the explosion of the machines itself. on which we work) and the sweetness of Mary who every evening welcomes the exhausted workers and tells the story of the Tower of Babel giving them the hope of believing that, just as the tower was built by slaves to get closer to heaven, the Metropolis was built from the arms of the proletarians to make the rich life but the advent of a “mediator” will soon restore dignity and equity to the working people.
Freder, in an attempt to help the slaves (driven by the love he begins to feel for Maria), warns his father Joh who, however, interprets the vision of his son as a threat and fears reprisals from the poor. He then asks Professor Rotwang to kidnap Maria and to give her features to his new invention, a man-machine capable of replacing man in all respects. The dictator is convinced that a robot can help him keep the slave population under control, but Rotwang programs the android to really lead the workers to rebel.
Unfortunately, the rebellion becomes the cause of other evils (Metropolis collapses, the underground is flooded and the children left in their homes while their parents go up to the city to rebel risk dying, the Maria-robot is burned like a witch) but it is to be here that the prophecy of the true Mary comes to life with the arrival of the mediator …
Artificial Intelligence in the film Metropolis
In this film, androids ( robots not only with human characteristics – with arms, legs, head, eyes, etc. – but also with human features) make their appearance for the first time in the history of cinema: Maria-robot is in fact an android who is perceived by all like the real “human” Mary. The Artificial Intelligence that guides Maria is actually quite limited because in the scenes of the film it is understood that it was programmed by Professor Rotwang for a very specific purpose: to lead the workers to rebellion. It, therefore, does not seem endowed with cognitive and self-learning abilities, even if it manages to confuse human beings with respect to its real nature (and this well before the Turing test which came only after the Second World War).
Ultimatum to Earth (1951 – remake 2008)
Considered a timeless classic of science fiction cinema Ultimatum alla Terra (The Day the Earth Stood Still) is a 1951 film directed by Robert Wise based on the short story Farewell to the Master (1940) by Harry Bates. In 1955 it was inducted into the National Film Registry of the United States Library of Congress and then returned to media prominence in 2008 with the remake directed by Scott Derrickson.
The plot of the film Ultimatum to Earth
An alien flying saucer lands in a Washington park causing a mixture of concern, fear and curiosity in the population and police officers that border the area. A gigantic robot (named Gort ) and an extraterrestrial (the protagonist, Klaatu ) come out of the spaceship; in a climate of high tension, a soldier, in a panic, shoots and wounds Klaatu who, taken to the hospital, actually manages to escape taking the form of an ordinary citizen (Carpenter) taking refuge from Helen, a widow who rents rooms, and son Bobby.
Thanks to the latter Klaatu – in the guise of Carpenter – meets the elderly and wise Professor Barnhardt to whom he trusts the earth is about to be destroyed by order of the Galactic Conference, a kind of super-entity that would have as its objective the protection of peace in space. The order could also be carried out by means of an army of automatons if the war became more bloody and also involved other planets.
Professor Barnhardt manages to introduce Klaatu into the world of politics and science so that the greatest exponents can hear his proclamations, even by resorting to his extraterrestrial powers (which allow him, for example, to interrupt electricity in all continents at the same time).
Helen’s partner does not trust Carpenter and his suspicions lead him to report the tenant; an escape ensues which culminates in the killing of Klaatu following which the mega robot Gort initiates the “destruction mode”. Only Helen is able to stop the imminent end of the earth (thanks to a phrase to pronounce that Klaatu himself teaches her: “Klaatu, Barada, Nikto”, words that have entered the vocabulary of various generations of nerds and science fiction lovers) but the solution is temporary. Gort brings Klaatu back to life who, before leaving with the flying saucer, throws the ultimatum to the ground.
Artificial Intelligence in the film Ultimatum to the Earth
Although the film is mainly focused on the theme of extraterrestrials, there are some first timid attempts to approach the world of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (remember that the film is from 1951 and that the first major studies on Artificial Intelligence begin a few years earlier, in the mid-1940s ).
The robot Gort and the army of automata suggest a scenario in which autonomous and thinking machines are able to dominate humanity. What is decidedly current is the relationship between human beings and machines, a relationship based mainly on the fear and distrust of humans for what they do not know.
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
Considered by many critics, film experts, and even fans a true cinematic masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction movie Stanley Kubrick in 1968. In 1991, the National Film Registry of the Library of the US Congress has entered the Kubrick film in its registers for the relevant aesthetic, cultural and historical significance. A few years later, in 1998, the American Film Institute ranked 2001 A Space Odyssey in 22nd place in the ranking of the best one hundred US films of all time, a position that became 15th only ten years later.
The plot of the 2001 film A Space Odyssey
The film – after two important initial sequences that take the viewer first to Africa four million years ago and then to a lunar mission in 1999 (obviously considered the future at the time of the film’s birth) – tells the story of a group of five astronauts on a space mission – in 2001 – aboard Discovery One, a spaceship that travels under the supervision of HAL9000, a supercomputer equipped with Artificial Intelligence capable of interacting with humans and reproducing their activity of the mind.
Of this mission, only HAL9000 knows the real nature that it must keep hidden from astronauts. The situation that generates an internal conflict in the supercomputer, forces it to deceive human beings and even kill them in the face of the threat of being deactivated.
Artificial Intelligence in the 2001 film A Space Odyssey
The undisputed protagonist of 2001 A Space Odyssey is HAL9000, the supercomputer with Artificial Intelligence that allows him to have a vision like that of humans (through an artificial eye), understand human language, even though the reading of the astronauts’ lips, interact with the man with natural language (and even with a voice that seems human) and to have feelings (those that lead him to the “pain” of inner conflict).
Famous 1973 film, written and directed by Michael Crichton, which then inspired the 2016 TV series produced by HBO. With the title “The world of robots” (although over the years, fans remembered it with the original title) and in 1978 it was also broadcast on TV, in the late evening, enjoying a lot of success.
The film is still considered a cult today, not only for the choice of the leading actor, the western icon Yul Brynner but also for the topics covered (the supremacy of machines over man, in particular of androids, the concept of viruses information, the idea of a computer network) and the technologies adopted (it is one of the first films for which computer graphics were used for some special effects ).
The plot of the Westworld movie
The film is set in 2000 and the director imagines a world where androids (anthropomorphic robots with features similar to those of humans) have reached such a level of sophistication that they are able not only to learn but also to show emotions such as the human beings.
These androids are used inside an amusement park (called Delos) for wealthy tourists willing to pay 1000 dollars a day to try new super realistic adventures (duels and shootings but also sexual encounters with robots) in three different settings: ancient Rome, Middle Ages, Far West. Androids are programmed not to harm humans in any way and are constantly monitored by a control room and a sophisticated computer network.
For a while, everything seems to work for the best but from the control room, there are failures and malfunctions that go beyond the ordinary: some technical (human) experts say they have no idea of the scheme that underlies the functioning of some new androids, designed and built no longer by humans but by other androids (from a previous generation).
From here begins to instill, even in the viewer, the doubt that androids with a perfect appearance are not very reliable. Doubts that take shape more and more as the film progresses when the enormous problems that cause these malfunctions begin to be seen in concrete terms: a robot-snake bites a tourist in the park (John Blane) in the section dedicated to the Far West, a courtesan-robot in the medieval section it rejects the advances of a tourist who shortly after is even killed by an android knight.
A chain reaction is triggered that makes humans lose control over androids (and this is where we start talking about viruses in the computer system): the robot-gunslinger played by Yul Brynner kills the tourist Blane and in the section of ancient Rome is staged a real carnage, impossible to control and stop from the control room.
Without revealing the ending, let’s just say that Martin, the only surviving human being in the amusement park, manages to neutralize the robot-gunslinger…. but with enormous effort.
Artificial Intelligence in the Westworld movie
Although the ending tries to bring back a rosy view on the man-machine relationship, this film plays in a masterly way on restlessness and fear linked even to the mere thought that a machine created by man can have the upper hand.
In this film, artificial intelligence is treated in a “classic” way from a narrative point of view ( the rebellion of machines is a constant in science fiction of all time ), but from the technological perspective, it is surprising how in 1973 one could imagine an android (in features) and the use of artificial intelligence in interaction (including emotional) by robots and humans.
Michael Crichton places this scenario in 2000, in reality to date (2019) we have not yet reached a similar level of sophistication even if the research of Hiroshi Ishiguro (Japanese researcher and scientist who creates robot androids “copies” of human beings, in particular copies of itself, almost indistinguishable, in features, from human “subjects”) is decidedly advanced. What is still missing concerns the software part, that of artificial intelligence which should allow robots to behave (understand, learn, reason, …) like human beings in which, however, the emotional component has a very significant weight and is, for example, today, still impossible to replicate.
Disney’s science fiction film, Tron bears the signature of director Steven Lisberger and is considered by many to be the most interesting cult movie on the subject of virtual reality, as well as being the first Disney film to make massive use of computer graphics.
Curiosity, always in terms of technology:
– Tron was also the first Disney film where the sound was completely and exclusively recorded with Dolby Stereo technology ;
– Tron is the abbreviation for the “TRace ON” command which is used to find errors in the command lines; the director, however, said he did not know at all about this abbreviation in its meaning, for him, it was a simple reference to the adjective elecTRONic;
– the virtual setting is made up of wireframe images (a type of computer graphic representation of three-dimensional objects with which only the edges and perimeter lines of the object are drawn, so as to appear built-in wire) filmed on a black background on 70mm film (double the normal).
The plot of the film Tron
The protagonist of Tron is a young video game programmer, Kevin Flynn, who has developed video games for years for an IT company, Encom, directed by an avid director, Ed Dillinger, whose career is based on the theft of some video games, created by Kevin but known to all as “creations” of the antagonist Ed.
The proofs of this injustice are there but they are kept in an Encom supercomputer, protected by an artificial intelligence called Master Control Program (MCP) which turns out to be a very advanced anti-intrusion system. To be able to penetrate the supercomputer by overcoming the barrier of artificial intelligence, Flynn creates a program that acts as his digital alter ego and gets help from two friends, employees of Encom, Alan Bradley and Lora, to break into the company at night.
The artificial intelligence recognizes the intrusion and activates a laser system that digitizes Kevin, breaks it down, transforms it into a numerical code and then reassembles it in the form of energy inside the supercomputer’s integrated circuits (and so it makes its appearance. the virtual reality).
Kevin begins a journey into an unknown universe where every single video game actually appears as a “virtual being” who must fight for his own existence (in order not to be erased from the network) and submit to artificial intelligence (MCP) that he intends to become increasingly powerful and take control over the entire system (the supercomputer it is actually supposed to protect).
On this journey Flynn allies himself with Tron (a sort of digital alter-ego of his friend Alan) and Yori (Lora’s alter-ego) with whom he searches, first through daring escapes aboard virtual motorcycles and then with a Solar Sail, to reach the base of MCP to be able to destroy it. But also in the virtual world, there is an antagonist, Ed Dillinger’s alter-ego, the commander Sark protagonist, obviously together with Flynn, of the great final battle. And here we stop so as not to ruin the ending!
Artificial Intelligence in the movie Tron
In the film Tron, we talk about virtual reality but the concept is taken a little to the extreme with respect to the real potential of technology. Virtual reality presupposes the use of information technology to create a simulated environment in which a person can “immerse himself” through the use of headsets and headsets (in this virtual environment the person uses all his senses, but to interact with the environment is a digital alter-ego and not the physical person). In the film this “experience” is emphasized leading to pure fantasy, as the protagonist Flynn is dematerialized and disassembled, to be then “recomposed” in digital form.
From the point of view of artificial intelligence, although also in this case by trespassing a little too much into the imagination, giving the system a human personality similar to that of a dictator, the technological potential described in the film in 1982 is not far from what today (2018-2019) these systems can do at the level of cybersecurity (detection of threats in real-time, anti-fraud and anti-intrusion).
Blade Runner (1982)
Considered to be one of Ridley Scott’s masterpieces, Blade Runner is a film that draws inspiration from the 1968 novel “The Android Hunter” by Philip K. Dick. Like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner was also chosen among the best science fiction films to be kept in the famous National Film Registry of the Library of Congress of the United States of America and the American Film Institute also intervened by placing the film among the 100 best US films (97th place in the ranking).
The plot of the movie Blade Runner
With Blade Runner we are catapulted into a very dark Los Angeles, completely shrouded in fog due to pollution (which obscures the sun). We are in 2019, the year in which replicants ( human-like robots ) are manufactured to be shipped to extra-terrestrial colonies where they are used, as slaves, to work in place of humans. Replicants occasionally rebel and flee to illegally return to earth where special policemen (called Blade Runners) hunt them down to destroy them.
The plot of the film revolves around the Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, a replicant hunter already retired but recalled to service to capture and eliminate Roy Batty and his traveling companions (replicants like him who escaped from the colonies where they are used as slaves). The replicants end up being all “eliminated”, apart from Roy Batty who reaches his “natural” end of life (the replicants have a duration of 4 years), making one last unexpected gesture (saving the life of the Blade Runner who gives him the hunting) and saying the words that all lovers of the genre know perfectly by heart:
“ I’ve seen things about it that you humans couldn’t imagine. Fighting ships in flames off the ramparts of Orion. And I saw the B-rays flashing in the dark near the gates of Tannhäuser. And all those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain. It is time to die ».
Artificial Intelligence in the Blade Runner movie
In Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence takes on the appearance of replicants, organic androids produced with sophisticated genetic engineering techniques that make them completely comparable to humans. Roy Batty and the other 5 replicants that are with him belong to the Nexus 6 robots, designed to be “more human than humans” (is the slogan used in the film by the Tyrell Corporation, the company that produces the replicants) since they have an ‘ intelligence comparable to that of the engineers who designed them and physical capabilities superior to those of human beings.
Precisely because of their advanced Artificial Intelligence, the engineers who designed them foresee a short life cycle, 4 years, fearing that they can autonomously develop their own emotions (love and friendship but also fear, suspicion, anger, revenge …).
Within the film, there is also a reference to the Turing test. In order to distinguish a replicant from a human being, robots are subjected to emotional tests where the ocular reaction is checked (it is assumed that the replicant, faced with questions that arouse strong emotional reactions, is unable to control the dilation of the pupils due to the lack of emotional experience that human beings have instead thanks to the experience of lived life). In reality, it is never clear whether the test works at all or not, so much so that one comes to assume (and understand) that the Blade Runner Rick Deckard is actually a replicant as well.
In hindsight, we can say that there could not have been a better movie than Terminator to accelerate the career of director James Cameron , which had not yet taken off in 1984. Terminator is his creature (Cameron wrote the script himself) and he managed to remain at the top of the box office for more than two weeks, finding the favor of critics.
It was precisely from that acclaim from the public and critics that the other films were born ( Terminator 2 – Judgment Day, Terminator 3 – The Rebel Machines and Terminator Salvation ), the television series ” Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles “, comics, novels and video games. In this long journey, there is also the reboot “ Terminator Genisys ” (from 2015) which, however, was not well received by the public or by critics, putting an end to the cinematic journey of one of the most famous cyborgs in international science fiction.
In 2008 Terminator was selected by the Library of Congress for retention in the National Film Registry as it was considered “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant”.
The plot of the movie Terminator
The story centers on the character that gives the title to the film, Terminator, a killer cyborg (or rather, programmed to be one), who in 2029 is sent back in time, in 1984, to kill Sarah Connor whose protection is entrusted to another cyborg, Kyle Reese, a soldier always sent from the future.
Sarah realizes that she is the target of Terminator only following television news reporting murders of women of the same name (the killer cyborg does not know Sarah’s appearance, so he kills all those who in the phone book in Los Angeles, the city where Terminator is sent, they are called after her). Protecting her is the cyborg Kyle who, during an escape, explains to Sarah why the Terminator wants her dead: Sarah, in the future, will be the mother of John Connor, a heroic young man who will rebel against an artificial intelligence – known as Skynet. – which, having reached self-awareness, will rebel against humanity by unleashing a nuclear holocaust but which will then be defeated by John and the resistance movement he will lead.
Terminator must eliminate Sarah so that she can never give birth to John and the Resistance is not created. At the same time, Kyle, sent to the past by John himself to protect his mother Sarah, must save her.
The film is definitely pressing and the Terminator’s various attempts to eliminate Sarah follow one another between daring escapes and moments of intimacy between Sarah and Kyle (including sexual intercourse), the latter in love with John’s mother since the moment he she gave him (in 2029) a photo of her as a young man (when John was not yet born). Only in the film’s finale, once the Terminator is defeated, is it revealed where that photo is coming from.
Artificial Intelligence in the Terminator movie
In the movie Terminator the main themes, from the technological perspective, are linked to cyborgs and Skynet.
Terminator is, in fact, a robotic endoskeleton or, for this reason perhaps closer to an android, whose external appearance is however quite similar to that of a human being thanks to a covering made of “living” tissue, ie human cells which can also self-regenerate if damaged (which is why it falls within cyborgs and not android robots).