2001: A Space Odyssey is still considered one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s “art”, not some movie. It was therefore never classified as a “computer”-movie. It was so much more than that. Wargames suffered a similar fate. It’s considered more of a Cold War movie, an anti-nuclear weapons movie, than a “computer”-movie. I found that quite disappointing since “a computer” played a central role in each movie, as a real character, driving the storyline.
There have been dozens and dozens of tech-movies since 1983’s Wargames, but they’re all different. Computers became the hottest thing in the mid- to late 1980s. Since then we therefore don’t see them very often as “the villain” in movies. Even in so-called espionage and spy-movies, we don’t really see villains doing nefarious things with “a computer” – we see them blow things up, kill people, hijack things to further their devious agenda.
From the mid-1990s the Internet begins to blossom and that’s when we get the 1st movies where people do nefarious things with computers and we see protagonists finding things out – furthering the plot – using computers. “A computer” cannot be “bad” – it’s simply a tool. People do bad things (sometimes using a computer).
There are exceptions to that rule, most notably James Cameron’s two Terminator movies, where a computer becomes self-aware and decides to destroy its human creators. It does so with a flair of overkill by launching all of the US’ nuclear missiles towards Russia/China, knowing that the response will eliminate its enemies (creators) in the US. The computer/netwerk in question is named Skynet. This self-aware artificial intelligence doesn’t feature much in either of the movies. We mostly gawk at its agents, killer cyborgs called Terminators. I thought the 2nd movie T2, Judgement Day from 1991 was very good and quite gloomy – again dealing with nuclear war.
I am sure there are others, but none that made an impression such as Wargames or 2001… or is there?
Our final computer-related-movie-that-made-a-lasting-impression-for-whatever-reason is Pi.
(Click on the movie poster or link below).
Pi was released in 1998. It’s a fantastic movie by Darren Aronofsky. It’s a low-budget, black-and-white movie with superb acting and music. The premise is this: Max Cohen, a brilliant mathematician, has been working on some predictive algorithms. He wants to be able to predict the stock-market, which stocks will fall and rise. Our surroundings (including the stock market) may appear as utter chaos, but if you graph the numbers in any system? Patterns will emerge.
Max is a bit nuts. He lives alone in a shithole, spending all his time behind his computers. Three parties try to influence Max. His former teacher, who wants Max to relax and take a break from all his research. A sinister government? or private? entity that want him to keep predicting what the stock-market will do. And then finally there is a Jewish Orthodox group who uses to Thorah as their data-set. Hebrew characters can be represented as numbers and this group thinks Max might be able to find hidden messages from God himself using the numbers from the Thorah,
I watched Pi for the 1st time in early 1999. On my way home from work I strolled by the video-store (yes, remember those?) read the back-cover and took it home. It blew my mind. It’s an absolutely wonderful movie that I totally fell in love with. No nefarious computers or people here. Just mathematics, numbers, data collection and analysis.
Check out this classic trailer!
Piratenbios #3 Pi