As technology and artificial intelligence gain more of a primary focus from governments and corporations, this film festivals theme is: “The Future: Robots and Artificial Intelligence.” The festival features three separate films that range the vast expanse of cinema and encapsulate cinema’s visual representation of the future and its incorporation of robots and artificial intelligence. These three films are: Metropolis (1927), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Her (2013). It is important for University of Phoenix students to learn about the fictional influences to the contemporary artificial intelligence movement, as artificial intelligence has long been the human race’s real-life envisioned future. These films, while fictional, echo the perceptions of artificial intelligence that existed at the time of each film’s creation. Metropolis is a legendary film, a masterpiece of early cinema, which features Maria, a robot that has assumed the likeness of a real human being. 2001: A Space Odyssey is another storied and highly regarded classic that features the Hal 9000, the artificially intelligent computer system that operates the spaceship in the movie. Her is one of the latest cinematic takes on what the future will look like with robots and artificial intelligence. Her stars Joaquin Phoenix and the plot centers on his character’s relationship with Samantha, an artificially intelligence computer operating system. Each of these three movies showcases the theorized complexities that might come with artificial intelligence and how they might affect projected future societies. Further, these three films also demonstrate three different reasons artificially intelligent robots might be utilized in upon inception. Finally, these three films are also visually stunning. Thus, for the central audience that is University of Phoenix students, these three films will provide quality reference points in the history of cinema and the capabilities cinema allows.
The first film featured in the festival is Metropolis. Metropolis is a visionary film of early cinema. Produced in 1927, Metropolis tells the tale of a dystopian 2026 society wherein citizens of the title city are severely separated by class; there are the workers that run the city and the upper ten thousand that reap the rewards of that toil. However, Metropolis also features one of the first allusions to science fiction and robots in cinema. In an effort to topple the empire of Metropolis, antagonistic inventor Rotwang combines man with machine with his creation of the false Maria. The false Maria is in many ways an early conception of an artificially intelligence being; she is a robot with the mind of a man (or in this case a woman). The director of Metropolis, Fritz Lang, beautifully and stunningly presents the false Maria to the world in a groundbreaking scene halfway through the film. This scene alone highlights the reason why Metropolis is an important film to include in this festival.
The birth of the false Maria begins with a shot of Maria, the hero of the worker’s city, strapped onto a table in Rotwang’s laboratory. The next composition is one of the best images in the entire movie. Rotwang is hard at hard, checking Maria’s table and his laboratory to make sure everything is ready to go. Behind the preoccupied Rotwang is his robot, Hel, sitting center screen on a chair in preparation for the human transfer. As the scene continues and the transfer accelerates, director Lang employs the use of groundbreaking special effects to demonstrate the futuristic aspects of the transfer (Lang, 2003). Golden rings floats up and down the body of the seated Hel and lightning bursts from Rotwang’s equipment. This scene is an excellent example of how one time period envisioned the future, however fictional, and how it imagined the joining of man’s intelligence with robots. Moreover, the false Maria is a representation of how robots might be used. Rotwang desired to create Maria for revenge, to tear down the city of Metropolis and its master. The false Maria was an early example of the negative theories of artificial intelligence and the free use of robots.
2001: A Space Odyssey is Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece whose plot is largely driven by the actions of the Hal 9000. Kubrick is masterful in his representation of Hal given that the audience only sees the artificially intelligent spaceship operator in the form of a red-pupiled camera lens with a subhuman voice. Kubrick represents the Hal 9000 as menacing at times simply by adjusting the tempo and distance at which the audience views the Hal 900 camera. There are honestly too many scenes featuring the Hal 9000 that can justify 2001: A Space Odyssey’s inclusion in this festival, because the film is the ultimate representation of artificial intelligence in cinema. However, one scene that craftily distinguishes Hal as an artificial intelligence, as opposed to the false Maria, is the scene in which Hal is observing crewmembers Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole privately discussing Hal in the EVA pod (Kubrick, 2001). Bowman and Poole sought privacy following a possible error by the Hal 9000 unit, and subsequently ventured into the soundproof pod to discuss the possible error. Kubrick conveys Hal’s cunning and almost human curiosity when he reveals that the Hal 9000 is actually reading the crewmembers’ lips.
The final film to be included in the film festival in Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her. Her is far different from the other two movies mentioned above because its artificially intelligent entity is explored through love, as opposed to malice and violence. Samantha, the A.I. in Her, develops a romantic relationship with her owner, Theodore Twombly, who is played by Joaquin Phoenix. Her is a worthy inclusion into the festival because is represents the theorized uses of artificial intelligence from a contemporary perspective. Samantha is an A.I. that serves as the operating and organizing system for Theodore’s entire life. She does what Hal does but on a more personal and non-interstellar level. Further, Her should the exploration of emotion in artificially intelligent entities. This is best represented in the scene in which Theodore and Samantha are talking late at night in Theodore’s bed (Hawthorne, 2014). With only the timbre of Samantha’s voice, and a fantastic acting job by Joaquin Phoenix, Jonze is able to showcase Samantha’s inquiry into intimacy and love. Her is a film that brings a different and more “positive” perspective to the use of artificial intelligence in films set in the future.
Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Her all provide audiences with varied glimpses into the theorized future of robots and artificial intelligence based upon the time at which the films were released. Each one of these films is also visually stunning. Metropolis includes artistically influenced city portraits, groundbreaking filming techniques, and fantastic composition. Further, Metropolis, being a silent film, includes a majestic score. Together, these elements make Metropolis a must-see for any film aficionado, let alone a visitor to this film festival. 2001: A Space Odyssey is arguably the most visually spectacular film ever produced. Stanley Kubrick’s perspective, camera work, and composition are unmatched in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film is similar to Metropolis in the fact that 2001: A Space Odyssey makes great use of music, with much of the Kubrick film relying on Classical orchestral arrangements to convey the mood of individual shots and sometimes even entire scenes. Finally, Her creates a specific world of color, in contrast to the sound-heavy Metropolis and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Her incorporates a visually stunning color palate centered in red. Spike Jonze uses color in Her to augment different emotions experienced by the movie’s characters: loneliness and love, among others. When these three films are included in the same festival, the audience receives an experience that explores the history of cinema, provides stunning visuals, and showcases varied perspectives concerning artificial intelligence, robots, and the future.
- Lang, R. E. (2003). Edgeless cities: Exploring the elusive metropolis. Brookings Institution Press.
- Kubrick, S., & Clarke, A. C. (2001). A space odyssey. EUA, Reino Unido: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
- Hawthorne, C. (2014). Spike Jonze’s “Her” a Refreshingly Original Take on a Future LA’. Los Angeles Times.