In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.
1. Brazil (1985)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Gist: In a sad Orwellian future adrift in bureaucracy, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) gets mistaken for a terrorist rebel and is ensnared in a would-be rebellion, while finally meeting and trying to protect the beautiful woman (Kim Greist) of his dreams.
Offensive Technology: The whole damn system is a giant, bureaucratic disaster, with endless offices and committees and piles of paperwork that just confuses everybody and leads to glaring inefficiency and ineptitude. To make matters worse, the technology of the future is always breaking down at the worst possible moments, and seems barely functional when it does operate.
Counter Argument: Not much to be said here. The future in Terry Gilliam’s brilliantly realized satire is a very familiar hell of incompetence, mismanagement and endless paper pushing.
End Result: Poor Sam is eventually captured and tortured, even though he’s entirely innocent of the charges against him, and is left shattered and mostly brain dead by the state authorities.Very cheery.
2. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
Director: Jamie Uys
Gist: The seemingly innocuous act of dropping an empty Coke bottle over a Kalahari desert bush by an airplane pilot, leads to a cultural upheaval for Xi (N!xau) and his small tribe, who take the bottle as a gift from the gods and fight over it, leading to disharmony. In an attempt to restore order, Xi takes the bottle to the edge of their world to return the “gift” back to the gods and meets modern technology (and modern civilization) in the process.
Offensive Technology: The empty Coke bottle, to begin with, but then, just about every car, house, school and gun Xi encounters along his journey. The absurdity of modern society is put in distinct relief by the simple wisdom and level-headedness of the tribesman.
Counter Argument: As the film is an uproarious comedy (there is much slapstick) and satire, it doesn’t really make much of a case for the modern era, though I suppose we can be relieved we aren’t all stuck with the Farrah Fawcett-like hairstyle of female lead Sandra Prinsloo.
End Result: Eventually, Xi reaches the top of a cliff high above a thick floor of clouds and disposes of the offensive bottle, restoring harmony and order to his small, but harmonious, world.
3. Modern Times (1936)
Director: Charles Chaplin
Gist: The tramp (Chaplin) first attempts to keep up at a busy production line, before being singled out for further technological experiments, which eventually leads to his ouster. He’s arrested at various points, first for being a suspected communist, where he inadvertently foils a would-be jailbreak, and finally escapes to a happier, less technologically dependent sort of life.
Offensive Technology: Chaplin made this silent film in an era when talkies had pretty much taken over the medium, so it stands as thematically linked to the film’s insistence that increased industrialization and our growing reliance on technology was leading to our dehumanization. The infamous eating machine bit remains a timeless comedy hallmark.
Counter Argument: Um, production leads to profits? The U.S.’ technological innovation helped establish it as an economic superpower? Chaplin, a deft satirist, makes a pretty strong argument for the cause of the Great Depression.
End Result: After suffering numerous hilarious setbacks and further arrests, the Tramp is eventually united with a pretty café dancer (Paulette Goddard), also on the lam, and the two escape off together for parts unknown.
4. Her (2013)
Director: Spike Jonze
Gist: Set sometime in the near future, a lonely writer named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his computer OS, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who is so advanced as to be sentient.
Offensive Technology: It’s not so much that the technology itself is offensive — Jonze crafts a pretty beguiling romance between Theo and Samantha — but ultimately, our infatuation with whatever’s new, shiny and advanced takes us further away from the tactile world of true human sensation.
Counter Argument: It’s entirely possible to like Samantha more than slightly creepy, sad-sack Theodore, which might say something about humanity in general, or just how adorable Johansson is in general.
End Result: Samantha eventually yearns to be with other sentient OS’s that can totally understand her, and along with them, takes leave of the human race. Theodore is left wistful, but perhaps better in touch with his humanity.
And the antithesis:
5. Iron Man (2008)
Director: Jon Favreau
Gist: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire playboy weapons manufacturer, is forced to create a life-saving suit of electric armor to help him escape after being kidnapped by a militia in Afghanistan. Once free, he decides to use his power, money and technology to fight crime and injustice all over the world.
Awesome Technology: Did we not mention a gleaming suit of incredibly high tech, super-weaponized armor? Perhaps we need to be a bit more forthright: It is unbelievably awesome!
Counter Argument: Yes, but Stark is a belligerent, egocentric, alcoholic party boy whose idea of responsibility is to drive a Bentley filled with playmates into a 150-foot yacht. The more the armor protects him, the more it insulates him from his own selfish capriciousness.
End Result: Stark wins, the armor is an unstoppable weapon, and at the end of the day, he and his beautiful female assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), fall in love.