Hollywood has rarely had much faith in the future. Just look at the sheer number of cinematic dystopias and post-apocalypses, at the deadly desert wastelands and rain-soaked urban nightmares. In the movies, tomorrow is not just another day, it’s just another step toward a world where technology consumes us and then kills us. According to the world of film, the human race is constantly on the path to being enslaved and murdered by the machines we create. Although Hollywood’s stance on the evils of technology has softened in recent years, ‘Transcendence‘ is a throwback to a different age, when computers were not just terrifying unknowns, they were pretty much Satan. It’s a position that may seem silly in our modern, tech-infused culture, but it’s another chapter in the long history of technology trying to dominate humanity on the big screen. Although it’s worth noting that cinema’s very first artificial intelligence was a menace concocted by a mad scientist in Fritz Lang’s legendary silent epic, ‘Metropolis,’ it took the movies a few decades to start truly fearing technology. In fact, the 1950s and 1960s often positioned science as a saving grace; the tool necessary to defeat the rampaging monster or repel the alien invasion. Shows like ‘Star Trek’ presented computers as being the most vital tool on board a starship (although it wasn’t beyond corruption) and films like ‘Forbidden Planet’ are in love with the concept of a personal robot. Yes, this is an era where “Robby the Robot” could receive his own screen credit despite being a guy in a suit. For a while, technology was a secret weapon, the only way to overcome the darker sciences that birthed the Cold War. There’s a strong undercurrent of optimism in many science-fiction films of the ’50s, the idea that forward-thinking will allow mankind to pull itself up by its bootstraps and put the troubled age of the atomic bomb behind us. Read them all at ScreenCrush.
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