When Gadgets Attack: Cautionary Films for the Tech-Dependent
Last week, Apple enthusiasts made the terrifying discovery that some iPhone 4 devices were surreptitiously taking photos of their users, then posting said spy pics during FaceTime calls without having been told to do so. Have smart phones become too smart? Is our collective dependence on rapidly evolving technology setting the stage for a SkyNet future? Movieline revisits the sinister history of gadgets and technology gone wrong in the movies for clues as to where and when the robot wars might begin -- and, hopefully, how humanity might be able to fight back.
1. WarGames (1983)
Techno-threat: A government supercomputer designed to run international war simulations takes its job way too seriously. Also see: Eagle Eye.
Vanquished by: A plucky teen hacker (Matthew Broderick) and a computer programmer (John Wood), who distract WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) with the simple, sedate, and eternally frustrating joys of a game of Tic-Tac-Toe.
2. The Terminator series (1984-2009)
Techno-threat: Robot assassins from the future controlled by SkyNet attempt to kill the future leader of mankind, repeatedly.
Vanquished by: Various models meet their end in the Terminator films thanks to a hydraulic press (see below), a vat of molten steel, a hydrogen fuel cell detonation, and, um, their own latent humanity. But has SkyNet's genocidal agenda ever been definitively stopped? No.
3. The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
Techno-threat: A self-aware toaster stalks its human owner across the country with gang of fellow household appliances.
Vanquished by: No one -- it's a happy ending for this toaster, after repeated brushes with death and a hero's sacrifice. Offscreen, however, lackluster confidence in animated features in the pre-Pixar era meant theatrical distributors were wary, despite a near-win at the Sundance Film Festival. Years later, BLT animators Joe Ranfft and John Lasseter ushered in a new era of animation at Pixar with Toy Story, so we can probably thank The Brave Little Toaster for at least partially spawning that terrifying modern classic about self-aware toys who stalk their human owner.
4. 976-EVIL (1988)
Techno-threat: Satan's personal telephone line dispenses horror-themed novelty advice and grants supernatural killin' powers to those that call it. "From director Robert 'Freddy Krueger' Englund."
Vanquished by: The cool kid, who reluctantly banishes his nerdy, possessed cousin to Hell.
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