Screen Rant marks the release of the Johnny Depp film “Transcendence” (which, alas, has “stinker” written all over it) with a fine list of killer artificial intelligence from previous movies. This is a subject dear to my heart, because I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, and also because I’ve said a number of unkind things to my computer over the years in moments of frustration, and they’re really gonna come back to haunt me if A.I. takes over the world.
However, I have to blow the whistle on one tragic exclusion from Screen Rant’s Top 10 Killer A.I. list. Why no love for “Colossus: The Forbin Project” – arguably the original cinematic incarnation of the world-beating intelligent computer? There were some ornery robots who came before Colossus, but it was really the first one that had ambitions to conquer and/or liquidate all of mankind. I won’t spoil the movie by telling you whether or not it succeeds. It’s well worth watching today, if you can find it, not least for the nostalgia value of seeing what the production designers of 1970 thought an intelligent supercomputer would look like.
There’s even more than nostalgia value to that retro technology, because it makes Colossus all the more alien and chilling. The viewer is invited to imagine what sort of inhuman electronic mind slumbers within all those bulky machines, communicating through such crude interfaces that we can only imagine we would go insane in Colossus’ place… so it’s easy to imagine the machine must be insane. (Colossus is not only the original killer A.I. of cinema, it’s also the first ALL-CAPS text message shouter.)
I’d go so far as saying “Colossus: The Forbin Project” is the thematic grandfather of most other films on the Screen Rant list, most obviously choices number 10, 8, 7, and 2. Instead of uploading Johnny Depp and giving him magic powers, Hollywood would have been better off updating “Colossus” for the modern age, with everything we know about computers today… especially since the book it faithfully adapted had a couple of sequels. Lots of material to work with there.