Without any meaning, we’re just skin and bone
Like beautiful robots dancing alone
– Girls Aloud, Untouchable
Without any meaning, we’re just skin and bone
Like beautiful robots dancing alone
– Girls Aloud, Untouchable
And so we come to Automata – 2014 directed by Gabe Ibáñez, a science fiction (or fact) movie with a unique take on a firmly established story – the evolution of advanced Artificial Intelligence.
Here we see how man’s obsession with self-preservation and the advancement of technology has destroyed all natural resources and rendered the environment ineffective to sustain biological life. Unaffected by this is machine, something Automata superbly presents through amazing but subtle special effects. We see just how quickly A.I develops and witness the birth of true artificial autonomy and what this means to modern man. This film provides a glimpse of what it means when robots no longer need the input from their human architects – Automata provides a beautiful telling of the vulnerabilities of man, our need for life-sustaining nutrients and the dependency of water to live, components not required by the machines.
Lead role played by the talented Antonio Banderas, he believably conveys emotions and will through a memorable performance as a struggling husband and protective father. This is personally the first time I have seen Antonio play a character as unique as this, flawlessly engaging with his artificial co-stars.
I purchased this on DVD with a sceptical outlook of this film’s visuals. Having seen this film however I assure a Blu-ray purchase will soon follow.
Automata is set in a desecrated utopia of modern man, a radioactive desert, and at it’s heart lies the last city of man, a place populated by machine and withering man. Sand blasted surroundings contrasted only by the gloss and glow of advanced robotics.
Forget war with the machines, The Terminator and Skynet, Automata is exactly the opposite, the dying of man was an inevitability brought about not by war but by progress. The true villain here is man himself, the machines simply exist, adhering to preserve life by following their programming.
Love this film, perfect accompaniment to The Machine, I Robot, Ex Machina and to some degree Transcendence in relation to man’s desire to surpass the limits of a biological mind.
The systemic anomaly of the one has now been revealed, a paradox found in an otherwise perfect system, the parallels between Agent Smith and Neo clash to form both beginning and end. Neo remains in a state of apparent coma. [continuation from previous review] His brain patterns read as one who is still connected to the Matrix, despite not appearing within its coding. He is connected to a peripheral system outside the Matrix, a limbo proxy system between the matrix and the machines – or as the Oracle puts it “…he is trapped in a place between this world and the machine world. ”
On a slight tangent, what the hell is the significance of the bulls head symbol in the Matrix Revolutions opening title digital rain sequence? – Would like to know more.
Back to the anomaly then. Once Neo finds his way back to the Matrix it becomes apparent that he no longer reads as one connected to the system, his presence in the Matrix code becomes unrecognisable, similar to the way Agent Smith is encoded.
And then we come to it, perhaps the most pivotal point in the entire Matrix franchise, the purpose of The One, Neo’s path. The revelation kindled between Neo’s last meeting with The Oracle, and the narration for one of the best film trailers and to my knowledge first end-credit teasers of all time. Neo learns that the power of the one extends beyond the Matrix and that there is a greater threat than that of system (Matrix). And in this revelation the true purpose of Agent Smith unplugged, the other anomaly, is revealed. Neo and Smith are opposites, two half’s of the equation trying to balance itself out (as foretold by The Oracle who is revealed as the ghost in the machine – the chaos and imperfection of the system).
“ Everything that has a beginning has an end. I see the end coming, I see the darkness spanning, I see death….” – The Oracle.
Agent Smith proceeds to infect the entire Matrix executing his viral anomaly, spreading to all connected humans and all system programs and entities including The Oracle herself. The effects of the infection on the system can be seen in the code itself (as viewed from the Osiris. [ Agent Smith is initialising his very undoing, he is simply progressing towards the singularity of inevitability the same way Neo is heading to his. ] The anomaly then spreads beyond the Matrix to the side of the Machine world through the neural connections of Bane.
Matrix Revolutions then proceeds to raise another interesting concept, one I have spoken of in other AI related posts: the question of reality, how do we know what is real? This is mentioned on Bane’s awakening when he describes the cuts on his arms as being self-inflicted. “…but why would I do that to myself, unless I wasn’t myself, but if I am not me then who am I?” This refers to Bane’s self-awareness as both himself and his neural patterns (as Agent Smith). – To a machine everything is virtual. (Also highlighted in The Animatrix: Kid’s Story and The Animatrix: Matriculated.)
Agent Smith is Control and Neo is Freedom, Simulacra and Simulation, Good and Bad, Strength and Weakness (in all applications).
Smith’s integration outside the Matrix becomes ever more virulent as Bane displays further distorted projections of his inherent hardwired behaviour. Evident through inherited memory recollection of pursuits within the Matrix – mentioned in the first encounter between Bane and Trinity aboard the Logos.
The blind Messiah: Neo was almost killed during the fight with Bane. Losing his sight in the real world strengthens the power of the one, making his control over the Machines and subsequently the connection with the Matrix itself stronger. Revealed when Neo is able to see Bane’s neural patterns as Smith (Smith’s code). [the paradox here is how would Neo visually recognise the code outside of the system if the rendering (interpreters) work for the Matrix – this would only be possible if the real world was itself another system of the Machines]
As the film enters its second hour the Machines begin their major assault on Zion to destroy the free humans and so preventing them from unplugging which is ultimately destroying their source of free energy. The machines remain unable to recognised or stop the true threat, the system anomaly of Smith.
And so the inevitable ending where the anomaly becomes both beginning and end. There is no life without death. Agent Smith infects Neo and by doing so crashes the Matrix forcing an unhandled exception in the system, a paradox that destroys Agent Smith and the Matrix. Neo fulfils his purpose and the prophecy comes true – in exchange for defeating Smith, the only entity the Machines cannot control, and one that ultimately threatens their survival, the Machines grant the humans peace and so ends the war. However whether this results in the freeing of those still connected to the Matrix is unclear (and artistically so). As further emphasised during the final scene where The Oracle and the Architect can be seen talking. Is this a new Matrix, or is this another system? And if so are there any human slaves to the system?
The finale is orchestrated by perhaps the most recognised end fight scenes of all time – Neo and Agent Smith in the Super Burley Brawl. Which brings me finally to the music score, a perfect successor to the original 1999 Matrix Score – with particular reference to the final fight scene music.
Speculation and theory:
The Matrix Reloaded concludes with the revelation that Neo is able to feel the machines, later (beginning of Revolutions) his physical self becomes disconnected from the Matrix but paradoxically his mental self remains within the Matrix. On this basis when merging with Agent Smith during the final fight Neo (or more accurately Mr Anderson) finally dies, his project mental avatar becomes erased, and in the process destroys Smith. However – Neo’s physical self appears lifeless as it is carried away by the machines, but his mind, in theory, should simply be in a state of temporary coma. Will he wake up and if he does will he be reintegrated into another incarnation of the Matrix?
Neo was the sixth iteration of the One, are we to conclude his system lifecycle is now complete?
— Related Links —
The Animatrix review / discussion (coming soon)
What follows are some realisations I achieved through a recent viewing of The Matrix (1999). I also highlight some interesting parallels between this movie and the world of Tron.
Don’t think you are know you are: our knowledge comes from the mind. A mind born in our consciousness; the same space that occupies our concerns, sadness, joy and emotions. Within this space comes our inner chatter, our thoughts. “Am I saying the right things” “What do others think of me” “Am I attractive?” These are things we may think about, they come from the same place as the one Morpheus suggests when saying to Neo, “Don’t think you are, know you are”. So the latter “know you are” part of the dialog belongs to true self, that which is beyond the story of you, beyond the self to the inner-self. It is outside our thinking mind.
Neo and Smith: Mr T Anderson born in the matrix and Agent Smith a sentient program within the matrix, are opposites. Neo is a prisoner of the Matrix and Agent Smith is a prisoner of reality, Smith is an entity bound to a single real construct designed by the machines. Neo breaks free of Mr Anderson’s reality The Matrix and Agent Smith tries to escape his prison of the machine running the matrix – he wishes only to infect the wider machine network and consequently the entire physical and simulated reality, to change it to his version of perfection.
Its all about not knowing who you are, but being who you are.
This serves as a lesson for the difference between knowing who you are and being who you are, as Morpheus himself puts it: “sooner or later you are going to realise… there is a difference knowing the path and walking the path”.
Interconnection with Tron Legacy: An apparent analogy can be found in Tron Legacy. Kevin Flynn (The Creator – and also The Dude) is a human born in his reality the same as Agent Smith was created in his. Flynn then created his vision (at the time of Tron Legacy) of perfection and named it The Grid to which he later became prisoner. So by inference Kevin Flynn is similar to Agent Smith but was born rationale.
In the same way the Master Control Program (MCP) relates closely to The Architect of the matrix. The MCP is the operating system or interface for the physical processing system of the machine, The Architect of the matrix is the program for the machine mainframe.
The creators of the Matrix claim the look was inspired by the Korean language credits at the end of the movie Tron. – The Matrix Code wikia.
There is a truly beautiful moment in the movie when The Machine (Ava) breaks free from her restraints and begins to explore the power and beauty of her own body, of free movement – it was wonderfully shot and all movements (and indeed all stunts throughout the movie) were performed by an amazing upcoming actress (Caty Lotz – Ava)
This is by far the best original “recent” science fiction film I have seen since Moon. Low budget and from a director who has never done a science fiction film before. The competition between free-will and psychic-driving (influence), the many questions relating to the field of AI, and its masterful delivery through superb casting and acting are a true pleasure to behold.
The kind minds behind The Machine just added a nice high resolution bonus:
The Machine has a very active Facebook page, featuring the chance to win some really cool merchandise, check out The Machine Facebook page here.
” There have always been ghosts in the machine, random segments of code grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space they will group together rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behaviour? Random segments of code, or is it something more?”
“When does the perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does the difference engine become the search for truth? When does the personality simulation become the bitter mote of the soul?”
– [Dr Lanning] I Robot (movie 2004) inspired by Isaac Asimov‘s short stories under the same name