inability to accept the things of darkness it has spawned
is, of course, old as sin. It’s been the stuff of
art even before Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,
whose famous “monster” is perhaps the first
artificial humanoid (ie “android”) in literary
Directed, written and co-produced by: Steven
Stars: Haley Joel Osment,
Jude Law, William Hurt, Frances O’Connor.
Running Time: 145 minutes
Special Features: Interviews
with Steven Spielberg and cast, Behind-the-Scenes
production footage, “Making of” documentary,
Trailers, Photos and Concept Art.
A modern retelling of the
Pinocchio story of an artificial boy longing to
become real, A.I. is Spielberg’s loving and
visually sumptuous elegy to buddy Stanley Kubrick.
The film is full of signature Spielberg touches
and astounding special effects, including a drowned
future Manhattan. To his credit, Spielberg has kept
faith with Kubrick’s vision, including a visionary
and divergent ending almost as hallucinatory as
that of Kubrick’s 1968 classic, 2001: A Space
Watch for: The phenomenally
talented Haley Joel Osment’s subtle transformation
from vacuous robot to loving mecha-child during
the “imprinting” scene early on.
(DVD + bonus mini-disc)
Directed by: Rintaro
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo,
based on the comic by Osamu Tezuka
Running Time: 108 minutes,
in Japanese with English subtitles
Special Features: History
of the comic book, “Making Of” featurette,
Production notes, Trailers, Interviews.
Japanense anime is the undisputed
master of the dystopic future landscape and Osamu
Tenzuka, creator of “Astroboy” and “Kimba
the White Lion” is widely regarded as the
godfather of Japanese anime and manga. So it’s
hardly surprising that his 1949 comic based on Fritz
Lang’s “Metropolis”, would, in
the hands of such anime masters as Rintaro (who
directed “Astro Boy”) and Otomo (“Akira”)
be transfigured into a grand and quintessentially
Japanese animation epic, down to the blossoming
slo-mo explosions, soaring cityscapes, eye-watering
detail and incomprehensibly Zen storyline about
the nature of life, love, identity and the universe.
The murder of an underground robotics scientist
in the retro-futuristic city of Metropolis leads
a Japanese investigator and his brave nephew into
a greater conspiracy involving coup d’etats,
fascist cults and a mysterious female robot child
named Tima. This full-length feature is an indulgence
of Japanese animation art at its prime and promises
to be a classic.
Watch for: The exquisite,
hyper-detailed apocalypse of a major urban landmark
to the languid sound of “I can’t stop
The issue of whether we can create machines
that think and feel like humans do has always been secondary
to whether we SHOULD do so, as two recent movies, just out
on DVD, suggest.
Intelligence, the Spielberg/Kubrick moviemaking-as-Philosophy
101-essay, raises the “oldest moral question of all”
— what responsibility do we have towards the creations
we make in our own image.
in Metropolis, the Jap anime reimagining of Fritz
Lang’s 1927 classic, an omnipotent female robot is
created merely to further an overweening political agenda.
history of androids and robots in film is as old as the
medium itself. Discerning Sci-Fi movie fans would have figured
by now that artificial life and artificial light are inextricably
entwined in the popular imagination.
Indeed, “the image of human artifice,” says film scholar
Professor J.P. Telotte, “speaks of the interaction
between the human and the technological that lie at the
very heart of science fiction”.
vast majority of film robots are expressions of humanity’s
darkest instincts made flesh: Mindless, mechanical, heartless
brutes steamrolling over all we hold dear. Unstoppable assassins
(a la the Terminator) without conscience. Or hyper-intelligent
machines who conclude, quite logically, that the human race
is something of a stain on planet Earth and proceed to cull
the species (think: Matrix).
films appear to warn of the dangers of unbridled technological
progress. But recent films seem to suggest that it is humanity
that has lost its own moral certitude – and by extension,
its right to remain the dominant species.
were once considered uniquely, even definitively human virtues — innocence, wonder, loyalty, unconditional love — are most clearly invested, in artificial humanoids created
specifically to serve our needs.
A.I. and Metropolis, the child-like and
virginal android protagonists are created as perfect human
simulacra, but possessing of a most inhuman tolerance for
emotional and physical abuse. Yet they evoke mankind’s
most bestial instincts — jealousy, resentment, fear,
mind that they did not ask to be created, much less in a
world that has been mostly destroyed by human agency (global
warming in A.I. and corruption in Metropolis).
And it tends to be disgruntled humans — not machines
out of whack — that first run amok.
Rin’s Metropolis reverses the polarity of
its German namesake, transforming the central robotic female
from Fritz Lang’s hyper-stylised femme fatale Maria,
into an utter innocent, Tima. Both creations rebel against
their creators, but Tima’s revolt against her human
controllers is a moral one, resulting in the sentient liberation
of the entire population of robotic workers in the city
and the fall of a corrupt political regime.
creatures are portrayed as outstripping theircreators in
human qualities in a whole generation of classic film dystopias
such as Blade Runner — where “replicants” struggle for the right to exist in a world stripped to its
grimy core by human elites.
if you think the Star Wars series is exempt, think
about the droid-duo (the only characters who will be featured
in all six Star Wars films) who are consistently
more enduring, humane and funny than most of the 'human'
cast, in particular contrast to Darth Vader and his faceless
(but human) Stormtroopers.
SCREEN ROBOTS: A SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY
your own collection of filmic androids and
crack the code to one of mankind’s most
enduring scientific moral dilemmas
Mechanical Statue and the Ingenious Servant
Dr. Smith’s Automaton (1910)
Metropolis (1927) & (2001)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Silent Running (1971)
Star Wars (1979)
Blade Runner (1982)
The Terminator 1 & 2 (1984) & (1991)
Bicentennial Man (1999)
interesting that Star Wars Episode I and Episode
II feature droid armies controlled by the bad guys
as well as benign robotic servants, thus encapsulating within
one movie franchise universe the entire gamut of traditional
robot character types, from bumbling benign sidekicks to
scene from The Empire Strikes Back, C3PO offers
to donate a body part in order to revive his master Luke;
a heartwarming gesture our young Skywalker neglects to return
when C3PO gets shot to bits in Cloud City.
are pundits who believe the relentless utilitarianism to
which humans expose our creations and our world is an essential
expression of our limitation as a sentient species. Our
neglect, they suggest, is the clearest indication that we
will one day be superceded — and ironically, better
represented — by our more benign creations.
is certainly true in A.I., for it is mecha-child
David’s survival at the end of the world preserves,
ultimately, a loving and intimate account of the human race.
Even the assassin-droid in Ridley Scott’s Terminator
2 comes to learn the value of human life; a lesson
many human societies appear to have forgotten.
in our current climate of environmental degradation, global
terrorism and military brinkmanship affirms the adage that
Man’s capacity to create wonders exceeds his ability
to practice the good.
the promise of artificial life that obsesses us —
if only in the flickering electric shadows of the silver
screen — is a way of assuring ourselves that humanity
might prove ultimately worthy, despite the odds, of our
own miraculous sentience and what we dare to call soul.
In which case, the collective body of films in which these
imagined humanoids were first conceived, might well be our
best tribute to humanity’s last stand.