Back in 1982, when THE THING was released, the appearance of a desk top computer was something really special. The home computing boom hadn’t really started, so we were gleefully ignorant about how ridiculousness of the computers in THE THING.
Losing a game of chess to the computer is one thing, asking it the chance of survival of an alien encounter is another thing entirely. The Vic-20-like characters fill the screen announcing their certain doom: “Probability that one or more team members may be infected by intruder organism 75%. Projection: If intruder organism reaches civilised areas … entire world population infected 27,000 hours from first contact.” Where is it getting its information from? What kind of programme is that?
Film makers have a problem with computers. Usually they appear as glorified adverts, usually for Apple, but they date the film quickly and, I’m afraid to say: They are just not that interesting.
If the plot hinges on the dramatic tension of a computer screen, then the film-maker has to work hard to engage the audience in the slow movement of pixels. Many directors, even accomplished ones, usually result in producing something daft in order to make it more interesting.
Here are some of my favourite silly computers, and one really stupid one:
1) DISCLOSURE (1994) is a subtle, tense and brilliantly executed office-politics thriller, much better than you remember – watch it again and you’ll see what I mean. It is completely let down by its overly literal interpretation of the internet as it is depicted as a sort of ‘second life’ where Demi Moore’s face is more static than in ‘real life’.
2) eXistenZ (1999) Cronenberg’s virtual-reality-body-horror features computers made from the contents of a KFC bargain bucket.
3) TRON (1982) If there wasn’t TRON then the world would never have had The TRON Guy:
4) MINORITY REPORT (2002) The dream of sedentary middle-managers everywhere, computers that work by waving about like tai chi in the fog that pre-dated the Wii by some years.
WHAT THE HAL?!
5) JURASSIC PARK (1993) “You forgot to say the magic word,” must be the most irritating giffs ever. ‘Amusing’ avatars are one of the annoying ticks of the web #justsaying (that’s another).
Coming soon – next week sees the return of the Dom and a new look for the site!,