This summer’s movie offerings have a decidedly science fiction/fantasy orientation. As does “Star Trek,” which had grossed more than $200 million by the end of May, “Terminator Salvation” comes complete with a dedicated following from previous movies and a TV series.
Like its predecessors, this Terminator movie (starring Christian Bale as the third person to play John Connor, savior of the universe ) is a cautionary tale about a future in which machines take over the world and seek to eliminate humans. Connor marshals an army to fight and destroy Skynet (read: Internet) to end the war. This is the third film since the 1984 original. (Fox recently cancelled the two-year-old TV series, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”)
The warning is obvious: if you invent “smart” machines, inevitably they will think they’re smarter than their inventors and take over. It’s not a new premise. “Battlestar Galactica,” which premiered on TV in 1978, pitted the mechanical (and eventually anatomically correct) Cylons against the human race.
“Colossus: The Forbin Project” dealt with the same issue back in 1970. Eric Braeden, better known as Victor Newman on “The Young and the Restless,” designs a computer to run America’s nuclear defenses. Colossus hooks up with Soviet computer Guardian; they threaten nuclear annihilation if they are disconnected.
(Who knew then that we’d have personal computers on our desks, at the bank, in our phones and cars…everywhere? And that they’d all be connected, for better or worse?)
You have to watch those sneaky computers. In 1983’s “WarGames,” a very young Matthew Broderick thinks he’s playing computer games, just like in the arcade, but the computer he’s connected to thinks he’s initiating World War III and very nearly does it for him.
Not all computers in the movies – or on TV – are bad. Mr. Spock beseeches the Enterprise’s computer to perform many calculations and provide crucial mission data without the computer threatening world domination or extinction. And, lest we forget, Jeff Goldblum uses a Macintosh laptop to save the world in “Independence Day.” (What fabulous product placement!)
Consider the possibilities of computers in some of the other movies we’ll see this summer. Ever wonder what Hogwarts would be like if someone smuggled in an iMac under their invisibility cloak? Hermoine wouldn’t be the only smart girl any more.