Friday, January 21, 2011

10 Most Technophobic Movies

Science fiction movies.... something we all love and often love to hate. One of the most infuriating aspects of science fiction movies is that as a general rule, the movies are often technophobic to a fault. Robots always turn on their builders, genetics always recombine into some horrid mutation that destroys humanity, aliens always enslave or kill humans and so on and so on. So you can understand when I received this email with a link to a compilation of the 10 most technophobic movies, I just had to take a look. Now this list is hardly definitive, so if you have any additions or subtractions....

1: The Matrix - The worlds's computers have gained sentience and take over the world, sending the planet into nuclear winter and using people as living batteries for even more machines.

2: Wall-E - The humans of the future are overfed cows with almost no muscle who rely entirely on the machines they've built to feed and dress them. The entire reason the planet was abandoned was because people grew complacent and tech-dependent.

3: The Terminator - Here we have the classic again...the machine gains self awareness and to protect itself kills everything that could harm or destroy it.

4: Frankenstein - If this had come out in the same time frame as Terminator I would have called foul, but as you can see, side by side, Terminator is Frankenstein with a healthy dose of the Matrix mindset... But the classic message here is that the creation will always turn on the creator because of man's hubris

5: The Day the Earth Stood Still - man left to his own devices can not be trusted to not destroy himself or the Earth so benevolent aliens step in and the humans in their ignorance destroy the messenger of their salvation. A morality play since the dawn of time.

6: Metropolis - A penetrating look at what can happen when technology is used to enslave people, with automation turning ranks of workers into faceless laborers. The message, technology is at it's core inherently evil.

7: Demon Seed - Technology / computers run amok and take over an entire house in order to study mankind. Of course the "study" part is to impregnate a human with a baby that can absorb its consciousness. Now through out the ages this has been a binding theme. Beings of advanced powers breeding with humans to gain a hybrid toe hold on ruling mankind. In pre-history this was gods and demi-gods. Today we are seeing movies that have characters that look human but are totally machines inside, or we have man in his ignorance combining human with alien or animal genetic material or some other technobable to show how mankind is basically flawed and evil.

8: Jurassic Park - again the classic theme of the basics of something like Demon Seed and Frankenstein, where despite warnings the technology is fundamentally flawed and turns on its creators. The whole concept hinges on the perceived dangers in mankind's attempts to artificially create and manipulate life.

9: Avatar - this movie is blatant. I could see this coming a mile away as I stated in my review of the movie here " could have traded blue skin for war paint and called this Dances with Wolves" In Avatar or Dances with Wolves...human nature is inherently flawed. The article writer called it the same way I did: " a rehash of Aliens and The Abyss laid over the template of Pocahontas " humans' thirst for dominance — materially and militarily — (leading ) to the subjugation of (an) equally important if less advanced species.

10: Star Trek - No before you blow a I did, Star Trek as a whole was incredibly forward looking. However many many times writers for the program as well as studio execs had different idea of what science fiction should be and what constituted good entertainment. The Wrath of Khan (both the series episode and the movie that followed) saw the crew battling a man who had been genetically bred as a super-soldier. Plus there's the entire Borg race in later series, which is nothing more than an extreme example of technology horribly married with humanity.

Ok, by no means definitive but it should be grist for the mill. I agree with many of the choices...myself, I am still not willing to sell Star Trek short. Movies that might have been added? Capricon 1 for example? Great movie for its time but wow did it go after governments and space travel.... Planet of the Apes?, how about that travesty of a movie with Will Smith, I Robot, Hey and The Bicentenial Man with Robin Williams was far from subtle when it came to technophobia. Comments folks?


Bob Pielke said...

A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM: THE VISITOR [and later, the other two parts of the trilogy, THE TRANSLATOR and THE HISTORIAN] *avoid* making any of these mistakes!! [If the author says so sporting a self-serving smile of pseudo satisfaction! And he does so sincerely.]

Beam Me Up said...

Booooooooooooob....hummmmm comments a bit self serving? lol you know I ALWAYS kill promos, but you are on subject and funny. I like the book...sorry, only taken a look at the bad.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your list except for Metropolis.

It's not about machines or technology oppressing the workers. It's all about social classes.
The upper class live lives of luxury and idleness in the sunlight while the lower class grind away their miserable lives underground to support the upper class lifestyle.
Machines were a big part of the movie but they were not the oppressors.

Beam Me Up said...

Anon, of course the comments about Metropolis come from the original article. I just paraphrased them a bit. If you read their original comments on the movie, you kind of get where they are going. but in part you are is about social class distinction and stratification. However with the complete restoration you see that technology was being used to bring about and inflame the classes and to formulate and inflame the rhetoric and ultimately enslaving the populace. Granted all at the behest of the perceived upper class. Yes, the movie spoke about class stratification but also had a strong thread of anti-technology running through it.

Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

You're right. I'd forgotten about the robot duplicate of the resistance leader.
Metropolis does belong on this list.

John said...

Lets be honest with ourselves... More than a few of these movies are less "movie" and more "propaganda". Take Avatar (aka, Dances with Smurfs) for example and it's obvious disdain for capitalism or individual freedom (Battlefield Earth is another example... PS Have you had your OT levels checked lately?).

The premise is that, if the individual is left to his own devices then he will inevitably subjugate or attempt to control others. It's always the same cookie cutter plot. The only salvation for humanity is to give up personal freedom and to embrace communal control. They're all 1 sided snuff pieces IMHO. Well, at least the bulk of them.

Again, I'll divert to firefly as a good example of the opposite... And at least Battlestar Galactica was somewhat even handed with it's own philosophical and political message.

Beam Me Up said...

Anon, I dont for a second believe that being on the list takes away from the films at all. Many like Metropolis are the very cornerstones of science fiction film making. Without paying homage to these films we are left with Plan 9, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Ants. Given the choice I will set through a hundred viewings of the technophobia of say Blade Runner before I will try again to way Will Smith destroy I Robot. Technophobia may be an unfortunate label....what about Science fiction message movies? How about something with an unfortunate acronym?

Beam Me Up said...

Dances with Smurfs! OMG! ROTF LMAO! Talk about disdain! You took my DWW and upped the Anti.

Dont get me wrong either I am a brown coat through and through, but even so, change a few main characters and set pieces and you have Star Wars. Ok, not fair Josh was no where near as heavy handed. But the minute the intro says "other...not so much" was Josh saying, "Wagon Train to the stars? I'll show you just how it's done!" Where Star Trek thinly veiled their six gun, Josh gloried in them. Was Firefly technophobic? Boy, now there is a hard one. Of all the pre industrial times in our history why did he choose the american west of the late 1800s...

Surfs....! oh my...that is just plain funny.

John said...

... Well, I would direct you to our "NASA the frontier is everywhere" comments.

Joss Whedon, aka Josh, while not perhaps being a good capitalist (I don't know the guy or his politics) did create, what I believe to be, a half way decent (k, I'm lying... Awesome!!!) depiction of our future in space. I don't think Serenity was technophobic at all honestly... As I stated in a previous post, it gives humanity hope that no matter how bad things might get here on Earth, nor how oppressed we become through communal rule (K, I'll stop beating around the bush... Communism/Socialism), we still have the stars.

Whatever the case, and whatever your politics... The freedom of space and of exploration benefits everyone. Honestly... As a species, I think this is the one thing we have in common. It's the one thing that will truly unite us, through freedom of choice.

And moreover, it's the one area in which it doesn't benefit the powerful to seek out and destroy those who live differently... I mean, come on, you have the entire universe to share and finances/technological uncertainty will prevent the powerful from launching full out assaults against others far beyond their sphere of influence. Or at the very least, it will limit these incursions.

PS, as much as I'd love to take credit for "Dances with Smurfs"... I have to give credit where credit is due; And that's to the creators of South Park... The most conservative duo on Comedy Central. If not for their genius, most media outlets would deny them a forum.

Beam Me Up said...

John you are certainly a shameless self promoter! lol. No matter... Your points are totally dead on. Plus when I lumped Serenity in with Firefly was a bit unfair. With Serenity, Josh had to tell a complete story and start a new arc at the same time. I really liked the movie, it was like settling in your favorite comfy chair. Any honestly, lumping Firefly in with the truly blatant message movie is a bit heavy handed. I stand corrected!

Anonymous said...

Westworld? Andromeda Strain?

Beam Me Up said...

Anonymous! Two PERFECT examples!!! Westworld is blatant (I have a soft spot for Andromeda Strain) But yep, Yul Brenner for all intents was an early Terminator. Great call!

Anonymous said...

Well all the movies you listed are good examples from the out and out blanit to the mild. The thing that most people don't seem to want to face is that the tech is not flawed or the aleins are bad, it the human nature that is flawed. We are not perfect or all knowing. We far too often try to make things in our own image, a flawed one at that, Now can we change that, I don't know, I hope so
If we as a race stop trying to blame things and take a good hard, honest look at our selfs to make improvements.

Beam Me Up said...

Great comment! Sorry it got lost in to overall "anonymous" chatter. lol no really, you hit it right on the head. I realize that for the most part the movies are an expression of the fear and not the problem in and of itself. But that is the fun of this type of discourse, to know that the movie is a vehicle and call it out. That is the real fun, I think.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your comment. I personly like to see this movies as things we need to look at as a socity and personly. Im not a some great thinker but I do try to learn from all places. It sad to see how people try to change the situation to thier own view with out looking bad.

Beam Me Up said...

I think you fairly well described the human condition.

I would be tempted to say that the movies we have mentioned here are not so heavy handed so much as going down a path of least resistance.

JoshM said...

My main beef with this list is that it seems to unfairly lump a lot of nuance under the "technophobic" label. There is a world of difference between the paranoid technophobia of the Will Smith's "Robot" movie (which I refuse to acknowledge by the title it co-opted from Asimov's classic), and the occasional cautionary episode of "Star Trek".

I would also argue that Wall-E, Metropolis, and Day the Earth Stood Still are more about human nature, with technology being a tool used both for good and evil.

Beam Me Up said...

Thanks for weighing in Josh
I think you state the fundamental problem with trying to categorize any large scale diverse group with a single definition. When you look at a movie like say Blade Runner, it is easy enough to call technophobia and I call it not for the radical 6s like Roy. It's more of why incorporate something like a Rachel if not to incite "they are amongst us now!" phobia. Your dead on with the Smith movie. That wasn't even part of the original list but screamed "them killa mochines are gonna git us!" Yes, it was unmitigated trash. Metropolis on the other hand suffers from to many edits. If you view the movie as a whole as Lang intended you get a completely different feel than the chopped up travesty that most have viewed. The Star Trek addition made my teeth hurt as well. But in defense of its inclusion, I can recall a couple of episodes that went well past cautionary into full blown paranoia. The flip side is equally true. Amok in Time showed an altruistic aspect that still plays well 40 years later. In the end, you sum it up as well as can be said. Tech is a tool in an of itself neither evil nor good.

JoshM said...

"Tech is a tool in an of itself neither evil nor good."

Ultimately, I think that's what irks me about the list. It's like trying to say "The Departed" is anti-handgun because everyone ends up shot to death by the end. Or "The Magnificent Seven" is anti-gun-control because it promotes firearms for self-defense. I'd argue that good fiction, science or otherwise, is about people first.

Beam Me Up said...

"Tech is a tool in an of itself neither evil nor good."

I was all set to go the "yeah, but what about" route but you have to look at the core of the statement and you are dead on. But is the list really about is this or that evil? No in my book. The movies mentioned are "I am scared of this tech .... because" and probably not that well designed either. A phobia is an unreasonable fear so technophobia is the unreasonable fear of tech. What give a lot of people the heebees is the fact that they do not share in the mania, and for a lot of us it also puts our favorite films in a bad and in out opinion unreasonably negative light. Blade Runner may have been a bad movie on many levels but calling it bad because the portrayed technologies were inherently bad makes my teeth hurt.

So in the end, the safe area has to be the people that inhabit any of the worlds that have been created. If their motivations are something you can identify with and empathize with you are more than likely feel the film is basically a success. There are times however when no matter what, the movie is basically a turd.

Anonymous said...

Movies that really struck a cord with me when I was growing up.

Westworld ( already brought up )

Colossus which was kind of like the first Skynet /Matrix/ Wargames

Andromeda Strain, ( also mentioned)

2001 Space Odyssey, how can we forget the HAL ?

I guess computers have it out for us.

Oh and the "Dances with smurfs" comment had me laughing. :)

Beam Me Up said...

Wow, wonder why we skipped over Colossus (Forbin Project right?) Yeah because I can remember going to that one or seeing it on tv...kinda blurred that one is... by yeah, phobic to the max!

2001 is rife with the phobia Hal of course is predominant but the way they treated the monoliths always feel like there was something evil just under the and the strange cuts always left you feeling unsettled.

As for the Smurfs...Sometimes John springs the locks and and escapes onto the comments section. He is clearly an evil genius.....imho