We created them to serve us – and some of them want to be us! Artificial intelligence has become too intelligent, synthetic humans want a longer lifespan, and androids desire emotions. With the Westworld TV series and Blade Runner sequel raising these themes once more, now is the time to follow this quest to be human in a movie marathon that runs the gamut from philosophical to comical.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
“I want more life, father,” replicant Roy Batty tells his creator in the Ridley Scott classic. “More human than human” may be the Tyrell Corp’s motto, but what does it really mean to be human? There’s also the matter of memories to be contemplated – are we simply the sum of them? – as well as the ethical question of playing God.
BICENTENNIAL MAN (1999)
A robot manservant named Andrew develops an individual personality and a desire to be more than the sum of his parts in this adaptation of Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg’s story, The Positronic Man. Following a makeover that leaves him looking like Robin Williams, his quest for flesh and the validation of his humanity spans 200 years.
EX MACHINA (2014)
Writer-director Alex Garland takes the questions raised in Blade Runner to the next level. A computer whiz (Domhnall Gleeson) is enlisted by a robotics genius (Oscar Isaac) to determine whether or not his beautiful AI creation Ava (Alicia Vikander) has developed true consciousness. A cautionary, thought-provoking modern classic.
SHORT CIRCUIT (1986)
“Number 5 is alive!” An experimental military robot is struck by lightning and becomes self-aware, developing a taste for The Three Stooges and dancing to the Bee Gees. The cute factor and cheap laughs overwhelm the deeper implications, but by this stage of the marathon you’ll be wanting something a bit lighter to soothe your aching brain after so many mind-bending concepts.
STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996)
Data, the Enterprise’s android Lieutenant Commander, has possessed an ongoing desire to become human, and is even programmed for intimacy. Having been fitted with an ’emotion chip’, Data gets even closer to achieving his dream when the Borg Queen grafts organic skin onto his exoskeletal structure. “Was that good for you?”
Ok, this one doesn’t really belong here. The robotic creations that populate the titular theme park aren’t looking for sentience, they’re simply androids who go haywire. But the question of robot consciousness is a major theme in the spin-off TV series, so why not revisit the film for context before diving into the show.