Weekend Short: Kid’s Story (The Animatrix)

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.56.01 PM.jpgTitle: Kid’s Story
Release date: June 3, 2003
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe
Producer: Stephan Zlotescu
Writer: Andy Wachowski, Lana (Larry) Wachowski
Starring: Clayton Watson, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss
Production company: Studio 4°C

Today’s posting is part of the collection of Matrix-related short films that comprise The Animatrix. I’ll write more on The Animatrix later, and in particular how it featured in an attempt at transmedia story telling across film, DVD, computer games and other cultural texts.

This particular short film focuses upon a teenage boy who is pondering whether the reality he is encountering is truly real, as well as asking a number of other existential questions. In some

ways it intersects with transhumanist Nick Bostrom’s writings such as “Are you living in a computer simulation?” which opens with the contention that at least one of the following propositions is true:

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilisation is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The film itself is fairly short, consisting mostly of a chase scene where ‘the kid’ is pursued by Matrix agencies, but it ends with scenes where ‘the kid’ is able to actualise his own salvation through believing in Neo, sacrificing his life in the Matrix, and then being ‘resurrected’ in the physical world. In fact, it’s kind of a reverse form of Gnosticism, standing against the common gnostic themes pointed out in The Matrix. Sure, there’s still the idea that special knowledge can free you, but here it is not so much knowledge that saves, but faith in the external person (Neo) or reality, and that then allows the fleeting of the spiritual/virtual existence into the plane of matter – which is not necessarily the paradise sought but one with potentially more human freedom.

This short film, along with the ‘Final Flight of the Osiris’ and ‘Detective Story’, is my favourite on the DVD (though ‘World Record’ is worthwhile a look too). The collection also joins some of the dots between the Matrix films and games.


Related vacancy – Assistant Director, Future of Humanity Institute at University of Oxford

Related to the material on this site, the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford has a position going for an Assistant Director. The FHI has a strong interest in things post- and trans- human, with its current director Nick Bostrom being a transhumanist advocate (http://www.nickbostrom.com/).

Source: Assistant Director, Future of Humanity Institute at University of Oxford

Weekend Short: Tears of Steel

324px-Tos-posterAnother short film for the weekend, this time Tears of Steel from the Mango Open Movie Project, a project showing off the capabilities of the capabilities of the Blender open-source 3D graphics modelling software.

Title: Tears of Steel
Release date: September 26, 2012
Director: Ian Hubert
Producer: Ton Roosendaal
Writer: Ian Hubert
Starring: Derek de Lint; Sergio Hasselbaink; Rogier Schippers; Vanja Rukavina; Denise Rebergen; Jody Bhe; Chris Haley
Production company: Blender Foundation
Running time: 12 minutes 14 seconds

Part post-apocalypse, part love-story this film is set in a future where a small group of humans are trying to put right the events that lead to a world of destructive robots that threaten human life. The short film picks up the themes of the cyborg, human essence as information pattern, and the technology escaping from human control, and throws some action scenes in there too for good measure. Good effects and average acting.

Official site: https://mango.blender.org/
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2285752/
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tears_of_Steel
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6MlUcmOul8

Weekend Shorts: True Skin

TrueSkinTitle: True Skin
Release date: 10 October, 2012
Director: Stephan Zlotescu
Producer: Stephan Zlotescu
Writer: Stephan Zlotescu
Starring: Stephan Zlotescu
Production company: N1ON
Running time: 6 mins

True Skin is a short film writer, directed and stared in by Stephan Zlotescu which depicts a world in which we’ve become colonised by technology. The plot has a tech-thriller edge to with, and captures a world that brings back memories of the cyberpunk worlds of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Pat Cadigan. The film’s official web site gives the following synopsis:

True Skin – A sci-fi short set in the not too distant future where augmentation is the way of life. For Kaye, still a natural, augmenting will help him keep pace in this now hyper-paced world. However, after acquiring an off-market prototype, Kaye quickly finds himself fighting not only for his own humanity, but something much larger.

I like the film – it’s short, snappy and gets to the point, something that seems to point to the short film as a pitch for something longer or as a proof of concept film.

It can be watched at the official site below or at the Vimeo link below (which is also downloadable):

There’s also more comments over at https://www.singularityweblog.com/true-skin-sci-fi-short-warner-bros-full-feature/


Official web site: http://trueskinfilm.com
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/51138699
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETv3eNj46EM

Automata (2014)

Automata_poster.jpgTitle: Automata
Release date: 20 September, 2014
Director: Gabe Ibáñez
Producer: Danny Lerner; Les Weldon; Antonio Banderas; Sandra Hermida
Writer: Gabe Ibáñez; Igor Legaretta Gomez; Javier Sanchez Donate
Starring: Antonio Banderas; Birgitte Hjort Sørensen; Dylan McDermott; Robert Forster; Tim McInnerny; Melanie Griffith
Production company: Ultravi Productions
Running time: 110 minutes

Automata is a film set in a dystopian future where almost all of the human population of the world has been killed off by massive solar flares. All that remains are a (relatively) few human communities, represented in this film as a dark, run-down city with permanently dark skies (to shield the cite from the radiation) and acid-like rain. Outside of the city boundaries there is a seemingly endless, radioactive desert. Within this world, an industrial corporation has created humanoid robots that were meant to assist with the reclamation of the desert, but which have ended up relegated to more menial tasks in the city and are forming a kind of underclass. The plot device in the film is the perennial science fiction device of human creations superseding their human creators – though in this case, it’s less of a robotic rebellion or uprising, and instead a slow, inevitable movement towards the ultimate end of humanity, except that which is remembered by the robots and embodied in them.

The protagonist in the film, Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas), is an insurance investigator for the company that makes the robots, and the film has aspects of a noir-type first part with Vaucan tracking down what looks like robotic anomalies for his employers (in order to keep his job, family and livelihood), and the second part is a trek across the desert to the beginning of the robots destiny. The film plays a little with the Asimov three laws of robotics (see https://transhumanfilms.com/2015/09/12/i-robot-2004/) to develop its own dual laws as follows:

  1. The robot cannot harm any form of life;
  2. The robot cannot modify itself or any other robot.

Needless to say, the film explores the possibility of these two protocols being circumvented – which may lead to a kind of transhumanist singularity event, where the creations reach a threshold that accelerates in terms of abilities transcending humanity and making them obsolete and irrelevant.

This film is only 110 minutes but it feels longer – mostly because it is a long, drawn out journey towards the beginning of the end of humanity. There is little in the way of action sequences – if you’re looking for that in an Antonio Banderas film – and it feels like it could have been edited down to something shorter and more ‘punchy’. The particular themes in the film are some of the more common themes in these kinds of films – of human evolution being transcended by our own technological creations; the nature of intelligence and ‘souls’ as what makes us human; human self-interest as being a key to human downfall; and the creation of technological “underclasses” in a world falling apart socially.

In contemplating the corporation in the film, I was reminded of Ian Barbour’s (1993) comments about human nature and the abuses of power and the institutionalization of self-interest, as well as Ron Cole-Turner’s comments that ‘technology, for all its good, is constantly on the edge of sin, exploitation, and greed. It is, after all, human technology, beset by our weaknesses.’ (Cole-Turner: 1993,102) For me, the thing underdeveloped in the film is the robots’ own ‘child’ they create – sort of a cross between a dog and a cockroach – and the empathy it potentially develops. That would have been worthwhile pursuing in some more depth.

Overall an interesting film, but one which lags at times, and the different themes being explored are often done better individually in other films (e.g. Bladerunner).

  • Cole-Turner, Ronald. The New Genesis: Theology and the Genetic Revolution. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.
  • Barbour, Ian G. Ethics in an Age of Technology: The Gifford Lectures 1989-1991. Vol. 2. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.