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)
Cypher is certainly a thinkers-film, its plot is intricately woven and deserves your full attention, indeed it took me at least two viewings to fully unravel the many double-agent twists and turns. Many of the scenes feature strong edges and flat planes (particularly the travel scenes) giving it a mundane surrealism, this is complimented with an almost monotone pallet broken with grey hues. Set design and costume continue this theme with very sharp blacks, greys and light canvas creams with few colours between, achieving a very abstract suburban style. Colours become more vibrant as the many woven lies and secrets begin to fall away, concluding with a wonderfully scored scene by Inara George. Lead actor Jeremy Northam has done a superb job at portraying the many conflicting personalities and delivers quality conviction, beginning the movie as a lifeless introverted office nobody who then endlessly switches between personalities.
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.
20 Years away from the grid: Don’t get me wrong, I was a massive Tron fan in my younger 90s days but somewhere in the 20 year gap I forgot about The Grid. Then in late 2009 comic-con released a teaser trailer for a sequel – and suddenly I was revisiting the digital domain of Tron – one aged and much darker than before.
The Creator – Flynn
I was fascinated by Kevin Flynn’s return, the idea of an older, much wiser Flynn and one that is perceived as a deity on The Grid. And so I followed every development and every rumour (much thanks to ign.com) of the film up to its release. I have always believed in the spirit, discovered the art of meditation quite naturally as a very young child, but after seeing this film I have become passionate about Zazen and following my way of Zen.
People have criticised this film on its slow build-up and story line, personally I believe its slow build-up is necessary – there is 20 years of retrospection to be covered, however when the true-action begins things really start to move. But this review is not about the action, visa vie its inaction what matters, the importance of waiting, being still, moving past wants and needs. Visually Legacy complements its 1982 predecessor perfectly while still maintaining a contemporary visual. The Grid has changed, its much larger, infinitely more possible, and much darker. I will not go into specifics regarding plot, there are plenty of well-read reviews for this already, suffice it to say Kevin Flynn became locked within the world of Tron and (as covered in Tron Uprising) there has been a rebellion by the Programs against its Creator. Tron who was once the architect’s assistant has been corrupted and reprogrammed by Clu who has now gained power over The Grid and forced Kevin Flynn into hiding. When the Son of Flynn enters The Grid the time of meditation is over – the resurrection is begun.
However all is not what it seems as these actions are all the design of Clu, who’s agenda threatens both the digital domain and the physical world. The chemistry between Creator and Creation, between Flynn and The Grid, is a perfect analogy for the Christianity faith – as is succinctly explained in The Likeness of the Creator by James F. McGrath:
” The creator, Flynn, does not simply condemn and punish his creation, Clu, made in his own image and likeness. He recognizes that the shortcomings of Clu are a reflection of himself as creator. In fact, Clu’s vision of “perfection” mirrored Flynn’s own at the time he created Clu. But what he came to realize later is that such ideals of perfection in fact pale in comparison with the reality of human life, with all its flaws and failures.”
Naturally Tron Legacy lends itself effortlessly to blu-ray and a good clear HD screen, the visuals are stunning and the digital realm is rendered in flawless detail. Indeed this was one of my best blu-ray purchases and truly made me appreciate just how good my screen is. Contrasts are well defined and edges pin-sharp, and pleasingly these are achieved without losing texture definition.
At the heart of all this is a truly great music score by Daft Punk, the digital realm is brought to life with an amazing soundtrack – digital beats and contemplative ambience. It has been quite some time since I last purposely purchased an OST, but the Tron Legacy OST is a must have and I have been listening to it ever since its release. The remixed score – Reconfigured is an amazing compilation presenting Daft Punk’s electronic masterpiece in another totally awesome light.
Tron Legacy and the days up to its release have sparked many revelations and followers, the Flynn Lives following (elaborated during the bonus footage potentially showing the origins of a further film Tron 3 – see Tron Legacy blu-ray bonus content), Flynn Frontier, some fascinating fan-made pages and projects including Life Beyond the Digital Frontier by MAXIMILIAN MAJEWSKI, and the previously mentioned The Likeness of the Creator by James F. McGrath.
Tron Legacy is one of three favourite films, and one that is always viewed with the lights dimmed, the surround-sound enabled, and the screen freshly cleaned. Its definitely a thinker’s film, deep and spiritual, a great sci-fi who fans of a digital existence like The Matrix will love.
This is a self-shaded (interpolated rotoscope) tale of psychosis, addiction, split personality disorder, heavy drugs, and conspiracy.
This is the future? This is a thinker’s film and is stacked closely to my copy of Waking Life and Cypher.
Bob Arctor is NARC agent; he is also a man slowly falling down the rabbit hole on substance D. A scanner sees all, clearly or darkly? This is only known to those who control the system – although does anybody really control the system? Bob Arctor works for the system but he becomes the subject to its own design. He loses himself and finds strange things, darks things and wondrous unexpected things.
This is no happy film, it sheds light on our not so distant dark cultural underbelly, glimpses at the mental sewers of those addicted to substance D.
” Who am I? And what does a scanner see? Into the head, into the heart, does it see into me? Clearly or darkly? “
Dark sci-fi by inspired Philip K. Dick’s work of the same name.