Fancy a night in during the summer of the rainy-drought 2012? Watch a movie if you are interested in technology and how it is used in story lines of films. This list is hardly exhaustive; think of it as a starting point.
2012, it has to be this year. This 2009 sci-fi disaster movie received mixed reviews but consistent praise for the effects. The cataclysmic end-of-world events portrayed are not safely behind us till 2013. The marketing campaign concluding with a viral marketing website for filmgoers to register for a lottery number to preserve them from coming disasters was equally as interesting.
4D (1959) concerns two pieces of fiction: am amplifier that allows any object to achieve the 4th dimension and a material called cargonite that is so dense it is impenetrable. It descends into unintentional farcical nonsense, but given its period is of some interest to buffs.
Avatar, massive movie much touted as ground breaking motion-picture technology and 3D viewing to enhance the experience. Planned for the late 1990s, director James Cameron (of Titanic fame), waited till the technology had advanced to make his touching tale of a humanoid species in a fictional universe. It is also about exploitation and reality.
Modern Inventions (1937) is of interest in the real purists for film trends. It is in the genre of retro-futurism, showing the influence of futuristic ideas blended with styles of pre-1960s. It is a strange mix of past and future, but seen now, it’s all past. This is a short Disney cartoon poking fun at modern conveniences.
October Sky (1999) is based on a true story of a coal miner’s son, Homer Hickam, who was inspired by the Sputnik, the first artificial satellites to be launchedm he took up rocketry and became a NASA engineer. A piece of social history.
Pacific Rim, to be released in 2013, set in a future of soldiers piloting giant robots battling enormous monsters from the deep ocean. Sounds ludicrous, but it will be a homage to the culture of Japanese monster films.
Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) is a TV movie documenting the development of the personal computer and how the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft affected that. Interesting to see real people’s struggles portrayed, but a little piece of social history too.
The Social Network (2010) is the much better known commentary on the evolution of a phenomenon. It shows how Facebook was founded and the lawsuits that followed, the bitternesses and twists of events. Much praised for its wit, editing, acting, score, direction and screenplay, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg criticised its ‘many inaccuracies‘. One commentator said it ‘defined the irony of the past decade’.
Minority Report (2009) is Speilberg’s tribute to technology. A director always ahead of the game in exploiting film and image manipulation, this sci-fi movie showed many technologies that have seen come about. Multi-touch interfaces have become the norm; retina scanners are routine security methods; insect robots for defence and disaster rescue are coming; personalised advertising is already engulfing us. Crime prediction software is in development, epapers that update themselves by the minute are here with rolling news and eversions of the newspapers, forms of jetpacks are utilised in appropriate settings, and were visible in previous Olympic Games ceremonies.
Best film technology moments
Finally, back in 2010 The Guardian ran a piece of the best technology film moments chosen by readers, given what was available/imagined at the time the films were made. Off the top of your head you might have chosen The Matrix for the sheer inventiveness of the use of technology, or Back to the Future for the clever ideas…. but not on this list.
They were Moon (2009): ‘a cold emotionless robot that isn’t a deranged psychopath’; Westworld (1973) for ‘near human looking robots’; Silent Running (1972), robots again; Soylent Green (1973), the future; Children of Men (2006), horrifyingly possible future; Primer (2004), time travel and Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), computer tricking man.
Also on the list were Contact (1997), spot-on science (fiction); Johnny Mnemonic (1995), early 3D interaction with internet; Hackers (1995), plausible?; The Bourne Supremacy (2004), simple use of Google!; War Games (1983), used real technology of that era; Antitrust (2001), ‘depicts the open source programming scene’; The Island (2005), interactive desktop and Runaway (1984), ‘guns with bullets that go round corners’.
The Guardian, The best technology moments in film, 28 April 2010.
Image: Ankur P