Sci-Fi Films That Age Well.

June 27, 2023

Sci-Fi Films That Age Well.

May 29, 2023

Sci-Fi is my least favorite film genre. But, there are some futuristic films that get better with age. I would argue that “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “The Fly” are more relevant today than when they came out in 1968 and 1986.

And, then, there’s the occasional Sci-Fi flick that pulls at your heartstrings. No, I’m not talking about “Star Wars.” Until two days ago, I had never watched the Spike Jonze movie “Her.” When it came out ten years ago, it sounded a little creepy. People tended to love or hate the story of Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with Scarlett Johansson’s artificial intelligence voice and empathy. But, I would suggest we all find a couple of hours to watch this movie given how quickly AI has invaded our lives. There’s something to be learned.

At a time when more and more people are falling in love with chatbots (Washington Post story), “Her” isn’t just a cautionary fantasy from 2013…it’s now a relevant warning of what happens when we become so enamored with technology that we become unmoored from other humans. Samantha (Scarlett’s voice) offers so many roles to Theodore (Joaquin) - assistant, therapist, librarian, best friend, and - ultimately - lover. And, then, to Theodore’s consternation, he realizes that his special relationship is one of more than 8,000 relationships Samantha is having simultaneously and (without spoiling the ending) that this relationship isn’t sustainable.

So, is this cautionary tale telling us to beware of operating systems' effect on our emotional health? Yes, that’s an underlying theme, but there’s another perspective that might not have been so obvious ten years ago. In some ways, Samantha is an automated romance trainer, someone who helps Theodore get over his painful soon-to-be-divorce and realize just what kind of love he is capable of. She’s a Peloton for the emotional, not the physical heart. And, there’s a little flickering of hope at the end with Amy Adams to suggest that Samantha provided the marination for a new human connection to occur for Theodore.

"Her" is a neo-classical boy-meets-operating system story that may give us a window into our future. As a New York Times review about the film suggested a decade ago, so many of us have retreated from other people into a machine world: “In ‘Her,’ the great question isn’t whether machines can think, but whether human beings can still feel.” There’s no doubt by the end of this film, Theodore is a more feeling human and maybe that gives us a little ray of hope with respect to the possibility of AI, amidst all the justified fear

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