Man and the Machine

From Fritz Lang?s Metropolis to the newly released
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the film industry has
maintained a love-hate relationship with robots and machines.
Though the treatments vary from film to film, the relationship
between humans and machines has been integral to the plots of
The Day the Earth Stood Still, Star Wars, Stanley
Kubrick?s 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, and
The Terminator trilogy. ?Computers, which figure centrally
in so many lives today, and robots, still mostly toys or
essentially brainless machines for factories and surgeries, have
become the most important powers of potential evil and destruction
in much of science fiction today,? writes Malcolm Johnson for
The Hartford Courant.

The C-3P0-esque female robot on posters for the 1927 film
Metropolis may have been one of the first motion picture
references to the tension between human and machine. However, the
term robot was popularized by Czech writer Karel Capek?s
1921 play R.U.R., which explores the triumph of machine
over humans. Johnson also points out that the term robot
is derived from robota, a Czech word for forced labor or
drudgery.

Over the years, the film industry has had some fun playing up
killer-technology doomsday scenarios. ?In 1936, Charles Chaplin
comically acted out the tyranny of machinery in Modern
Times
, which was really not very modern at all,? writes
Johnson. ?The assembly lines that drove Charlie crazy and the cogs
that threatened to crush him comically posited that factory
equipment serves the owners but wrecks the workers.? Chaplin
battling with the cogs of a machine is representative of workers
struggling not to be made obsolete by machines, just as Neo
battling agents in The Matrix is emblematic of a nascent
struggle between humans and the robots that will be borne from
nanotechnology. Whether the threat of robots taking over the world
is imminent or purely fictional, one thing is for sure: As long as
moviegoers continue paying the price of admission, Hollywood will
continue to scare us out of our wits with digitally enhanced
forecasts of what the future has in store for us.
?Nick Garafola

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Man And The Machine

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