Artificial Intelligence: great when it’s a robot butler, not so great when it’s exterminating the entire human race
Whether a dystopian robotic dictatorship or a spunky steel-faced sidekick, artificial intelligence has had a place on our screens in cult films like Stanley Kubrick's murderous space machine HAL and Ridley Scott's scarily human-like androids in Alien (1979).
A recent addition to the A.I canon and short film we premiered is Gloria, a film which sees a distribution plant worker, monitored constantly by a female automated voice, edging closer to the deadlier big bad corporation and robot boss. Check out director Liam Fay-Fright’s top ten A.I machines on film.
GERTY IN MOON (2009)
“This is what happens when Moore’s law gets ahold of Video+,” says Fay-Fright. Moon follows Sam Bell, a man mining helium 3 on the far side of the moon, having a personal crisis. With some reference to A.I villainous giants like Kubrick’s 2001's psycho space machine HAL, director Duncan Jones took GERTY, the computer companion of Sam on his job on the moon, and subverted the trope of robot villain. While he's meant to be Sam's friend, Sam overhears GERTY taking orders from somewhere else, and subsequently discovers his own clones. GERTY hovers between friend and foe: a mutinous, enigmatic computer mate voiced by Kevin Spacey – what could be better?
ROY BATTY IN BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Otherwise known as model number N6MAA10816. This Nexus generation replica and film antagonist has seen and done a lot in the four years of his life – “things you people wouldn’t believe” – and he wasn’t ready to give that life up, doing some terrible things to keep himself running. In the sci-fi dystopia, genetically engineered replicants are manufactured by global mega-corporations. These humanoids are banned on Earth, and kept in space colonies to do dangerous work, with rebel robots hunted by the Blade Runners. Roy, who's part of a renegade group hiding in LA, won't go down without a fight though, and it gets deadly. “Tough on people. Easy on pigeons,” jokes Fay-Fright.
BISHOP IN ALIENS (1986)
Bishop is a Hyperdyne Systems model 341-B, synthetic technician and creepily realistic-looking humanoid whose part spans across the Alien franchise. He's the executive officer aboard the Sulaco, a spaceship that picks up the film protagonist Ripley 57 years after she blew up the alien-infested Nostromo ship. Kept in a dormant state in a rescue pod, Ripley is initially hostile towards Bishop, after encountering the murderous android Ash in the first film. Bishop is hard to work out, especially as the films progress. His injuries in Aliens and the spilling of his synthetic intestines are also really, really gross. Fay-Fright says of the android, “The truth is, no one really likes a robot that isn’t murderous. So James Cameron had to compensate for Bishop’s spineless obedience by having him torn to shreds by aliens.” Poor, eviscerated Bishop.
DAVID IN PROMETHEUS (2012)
The prequel to Alien, this Ridley Scott film begins with David 8, an oddly calm and collected robot, as he wanders the halls of a spaceship on a mission to find signs of their extra-terrestrial makers. He chills out, learns ancient languages and watches his fave film Lawrence of Arabia (1962), while the rest of the human crew lies in their hypersleep. As the film progresses, it becomes clear David isn’t all he seems, with a hidden hatred for his human creators. “An automated Fassbender as a camp, psychotic Peter O’Toole,” says Fay-Fright. “Terrifying in every way imaginable.”
AVA IN EX MACHINA (2015)
“Proving it's not just Crocodile Dundee who’s good with a knife,” says Fay-Fright. Caleb is a worker at some kind of search engine company – basically Google – who wins a raffle to spend some time at the CEO's isolated research facility. The worst raffle win ever? Here he meets Ava. His boss asks Caleb to try the Turing test on Ava, a humanoid robot, to see how human-like she can become. She seems to develop real emotions, which turn disturbing. The film traces the shocking consequences of self-awareness from future A.Is. The big question is how capable of independent thought Ava is, and if she is, does this make her human more than some skin and bones would? Her skills with that knife though are next level.
SKYNET IN TERMINATOR (1985)
“Globally linked super computers? Child soldiers? Automated killer drones? A bit too close to the bone to be entertaining anymore...” And we have to agree. Surpassing its creators, Skynet is superintelligence, with a self-made mission of self-preservation; its only option is to exterminate the entire human race with an army of drones, cyborgs and satellites. The terminator franchise is built on the battles that erupt between the tyrannical, murderous Skynet, humans and teen delinquent John Connor's resistance forces. Most famously, Skynet churns out its Terminator models – yes, Arnold – to committ its genocide.
THE ARCHITECT IN THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (2003)
“The guy with the beard. What was that about?” Well, the third installment in the Matrix trilogy is a little ropey. The creator of the first Matrix is the Architect, a guy with a white beard and a whole lot of weird surrounding him. He’s the humanoid image of the entire machine mainframe, and thought to represent a kind of Christian God, or to others, Sigmund Freud, as an ‘architect’ of a generation. In this film, it's the generation run by robotics. He appears in two of the three Matrix films, but it's this one where he's particularly scary, infiltrating the minds of the human race to foster his creepy sense of a utopia. Threatening, with absolutely no sense of humour.
HAL IN 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
HAL stands for Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer, known to Fay-Fright as “the daddy of all killer A.I”. The computer genius villain onboard the spaceship Discovery 1 with eyes everywhere, HAL is a ruthless killer. He lip reads his demise planned by Poole and Bowman because of his strange behaviour, and it all goes downhill from there. “So evil, even his apologies sound menacing (although any character bland enough to be called ‘Dave' probably gets what’s coming to them),” says Fay-Fright. His rendition of “Daisy Bell” will haunt your dreams.
STARSCREAM IN TRANSFORMERS (2007)
The cunning and treacherous Starscream is a robot who won’t let anything get in his way of becoming the leader of the Decepticons, the main, power-hungry antagonists. The Decepticons are evil, known for their air power and military force. Starscream is a former scientist, who has serious beef with Decepticon leader Megatron who he's tried to overthrow. He's terrifyingly indestructible, even in death, but thankfully that arrogance and inability to learn from mistakes is what keeps him from gaining control for long. “He's so pissed off with his boss he takes out entire cities. Bad managers beware,” says Fay-Fright.
KRYTEN IN RED DWARF (1988)
“A neurotic bot that cleans the bogs and wears WD40 as cologne may not seem dangerous, but outliving every crew member on every crashed star ship he's ever been on? Suspect,” says Liam Fay-Fright. A robot servant who’s known to be a bit touchy, Kryten is basically a butler onboard the mining space. He experiences a brief episode as a human in this 90s sci-fi sitcom, as well as a cast change that was explained away as a “space-bike crash” which changed his accent and appearance. Right. He has a brother from the same motherboard called Able, who’s a little bit more of an edgy mechanoid.