One of the things we want to do in the Sci-Fi section is to present works of art that influence our worldview and our approach to legal problems.
Today, Yeliz Figen Döker presents a list of her 5 favorite sci-fi movies and discusses why you should watch them.
Stay tuned for upcoming lists!
Metropolis – 1927
Directed by Fritz Lang
“Who told you to attack the machines, you fools? Without them, you’ll all die!”
Who can describe a silent scream that lasts 149 minutes?
Metropolis is by far one of the most revolutionary Sci-Fi movies of all time. Not only because of its unique and mysterious nature but because it screams without words, captivates without colors. Lang’s Metropolis is the proof of showing the immensity of emotions without the use of words or colors.
The narrative is spellbinding, and as you watch it, so many films you’ve seen before come to your mind as you realize Lang’s masterpiece was, well, before all of them. Metropolis is still being influential to the new writers, directors, and probably everyone who tasted one minute of this intensive journey.
It is not a movie that can be described in one sentence, it embodies many things: Class conflicts, uncontrolled technological development and generational conflicts, popular revolt, and demagogy. All epically told in a dystopian silent scream.
The movie’s first half explores the anxieties around uncontrollable scientific progress where the mad scientist’s ambitions are far more influential than the ethical and societal norms of society. Because no matter what, this ‘mad scientist’ holds the string of ambiguous technology. Hence, one more time, Metropolis indicates the significance of ethics throughout the progress of every revolutionary notion.
The need of having ethics of technology holds a special place in its time since The Great War was a true example of showing how technology can be used as deadly weapons. By touching upon the mad scientist theme, it again reminds us of the concept that can be traced back to Dr Frankenstein, ‘would it be rational to leave the responsibility to scientists (manufacturers) of being an arbiter of moral decisions posed by emerging technologies?’ These debates are philosophical questions with no answers that still plague us today.
To grasp that Sci-Fi is a very effective allegorical genre in describing the effects of technology on society, the reader may start delving into Sci-Fi by watching Lang’s masterpiece first.
*Also, check out Rintaro’s Metropolis!
*Last but not least, check Giorgio Moroder’s Score for Metropolis
Fantastic Planet – 1973
Directed by René Laloux
“But is that intelligence?”
Fantastic Planet is the last movie that I’ve watched on this list. Looking from the bright side, it is good that I’ve waited for some time to watch this one; because it is necessary to reach a certain level of perception to fully comprehend some artefacts. Fantastic Planet is a truly fascinating, freaky, and bone-chilling cult movie—a nightmare of the surrealist.
Since the title of the movie is Fantastic Planet, it can be assumed that themes from the fantasy genre domineer the plot. However, as you continue this eerie journey, you may realize the only fantastical thing about this movie is merely its title.
It places in a universe where giant blue (highly intelligent) creatures (“Draags”) rule, and Humans (“Oms”), are treated and subjugated as animals (sometimes pets). Knowledge and education are vital on this Planet and exclusive to Oms’ overlords — Draags. Accumulating knowledge means having power and control; Thus, the story begins when a pet Om starts to obtain knowledge that belongs to his master, turning his fate around.
The plot, at first sight, feels pretty simple. Initially, it seems as a terrific allusion to the horrors humans inflict on animals, then it gets more complicated with various twists, making you think that Draags represent nature and the scenario illustrates the nominal free will that human beings have.
Since Laloux was a political artist, the relationship between Draags and Oms can represent various sociopolitical theories. Some believe that the movie is a perfect allegory to the Nazi Regime since in various scenes the themes of genocide, hubris syndrome, and dictatorship can easily be noticed. However, this also may not be the case. Ergo, the interpretation of Fantastic Planet is tightly coupled with the observer’s perspective of seeing things. For this reason, it is best to leave the interpretation to the reader. However, if we evaluate this movie through the lenses of Sci-Fi, quite unprecedented interpretations can emerge.
I watched Fantastic Planet once again, with the perspective of seeing Draags as ‘us, humans’ and Oms as ‘AI’. Watching this as a possible futuristic scenario about what we’ve created provoked a lot of things. Indeed, it is thought-provoking because it makes you question the concepts usually seen from an anthropocentric lens — intelligence, consciousness, being alive so long. Consequently, it made me ponder about the rationality of making assertive arguments regarding intelligence.
In a world where we do not even know to what degree human intelligence is utilized or how human emotions are formed, we will never be sure about what will or to what extent something will happen in the future.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence – 2001
Directed by Steven Spielberg
“David is 11 years old. He weighs 60 pounds. He is 4 feet, 6 inches tall. He has brown hair. His love is real. But he is not.”
After Stanley Kubrick handed the movie to Steven Spielberg in 1995, his dream came true, and Spielberg’s A.I. was screened in 2001. A.I. is based on the short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss. The dystopic nature of the short story talks about the widely-known catastrophic scenarios regarding earth being over-populated and leading to have a controlled child-population policy.
A.I., on the other hand, takes place in the 22nd century when the earth was heavily wounded from global warming thus reducing the world’s population. In this universe, where seemingly capable of complex thought but lacking in emotions humanoid robots wander, people are accustomed to living with intelligent machines.
Meanwhile, a prototype of a child robot that is capable of love is given to a couple whose biological child suffers from a rare disease. David, the child robot, loves his mother the same as a human child would. However, his whole life changed when the biological child was cured. Eventually, once the parents were able to receive the love from their biological child, they got bored of the unnatural one. The plot reminds me of the tragic incident that unfortunately happens much more than it should. Oftentimes, people who realize that they can no longer take care of their pets, abandon them in the deserted forests without a backward glance. This movie narrates this incident from a mechanical child’s eye.
It was the first and last Sci-Fi movie I watched as a child. The narrative of this highly emotional and intensive work reminds me of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience; seeing innocence as a state of mind, whether the mind belongs to a human or machine. It is about the perception of seeing love from the perspective of a mechanical creature, not flesh and bone.
It is one of the most influential Sci-Fi works that have a considerable influence on the way we look at non-human things, i.e., intelligent machinery.
Prometheus – 2012
Directed by Ridley Scott
“Sometimes to create, one must first destroy.”
In the Sci-Fi world, the Alien Franchise holds a dear place of searching for extraterrestrial life. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a prequel to the events that happened in the Alien franchise, it created the idea of “engineers” possible creators of the human race.
However, Prometheus was not one of the highly acclaimed movies; in fact, overly criticized due to its deviation from the Alien Franchise.
On the other hand, if the interpretation of Prometheus can be made by ignoring the Alien’s shadow, it tells a lot to the audience. The title of the movie actually speaks for itself. By referring to one of the most influential ancient myths, which tell the story of Prometheus, Titan God of Fire in Ancient Greece, who stole the fire to give humans the knowledge and technology led to his own death sentence, it illustrates the vicious cycle: to build something new, the engineer should sacrifice herself.
Prometheus questions the place of humanity in this universe, the impacts of technological improvement, the reasons for having God Complex. It shows humanity’s downfall due to the evolution of technology and robots seeing humans as inferior entities.
*Fun fact: As in Spielberg’s AI, one of the most important characters in Scott’s Prometheus is named David, and he is also a humanoid robot.
Ghost in the Shell – 1995
Directed by Mamaru Oshii
Finally, closing remarks will be done with one and only Ghost in the Shell, of course, the original anime version. Ghost in the Shell not only had a considerable impact on the Wachowski sisters creating their own Ghost, but it also had a significant impact on many of Hollywood’s filmmakers.
Probably, Nick Bostrom watched this anime on a murky Friday night before editing the ‘Human Enhancement‘ with bioethicist Julian Savulescu. It raises the questions Nick Bostrom and Julian Savulescu pointed out; ‘Are we good enough? If not, how may we improve ourselves? Must we restrict ourselves to traditional methods like study and training? Or should we also use science to enhance some of our mental and physical capacities more directly?‘
It is a true masterpiece, where extraordinary concepts ranging from AI to implanting an idea are almost mentioned flawlessly. However, it is one of the most challenging movies to comprehend due to its philosophical depth; thus, it should be rewatched many times, just like its descendant, the Matrix.
Yeliz Figen Döker is a Ph.D. candidate at the European University Institute, under the
supervision of Professor Nicolas Petit and Giovanni Sartor. Yeliz is working on the legal conditions and limitations for teaching self-defined ethics to AI through Experiential Learning. She is also co-founder of The Digital Constitutionalist (DigiCon) and head of Science Fiction. Apart from that, she is a PlayStation gamer and Sci-Fi
Live Long and Prosper.