This weekend saw the release of mega-star Tom Cruise’s latest science fiction actioner, Edge of Tomorrow. From the box office numbers, not nearly as many of you went to see is as should have since it only managed third place (though it did top $100 million worldwide, so there’s hope). We here at GFR are in total agreement that it is one of the best movies of the summer, a fantastic mix of action, dark humor, invading aliens, and Tom Cruise dying in a many, many ways. Before you read on, you should step away from your computer and go watch this movie. Maybe buy an extra ticket while you’re at it, just to tell Hollywood that they need to keep making movies like this. Doug Liman’s film is one that wears its influences on its sleeve. As you watch, you notice a variety of scenes and elements that definitely call to mind other notable genre movies. In that spirit, we’ve put together a list of movies to watch, or most likely re-watch, after you see Edge of Tomorrow repeatedly.
The argument over the greatest science fiction movie of all time is a constant, heated debate among genre fans. There are always a few staples, including the likes of Star Wars, The Matrix, and War of the Worlds. Recently, the Discovery Channel’s DNews YouTube Channel explored some of the cinematic options in one of their latest videos, arriving on a top five. The results might just surprise you.
Host Anthony Carboni sat down with filmmaker and Film Riot host, Ryan Connolly, to talk about their top sci-fi movies. While the discussion was purely anecdotal, Carboni injected how the films link to real world situations and technology. The conversation, not only circled around the movies that form the core of the genre, but also how science fiction influenced hard science and the real world.
It’s both humbling and disconcerting to know that while I think I’m telling my brain to stop wanting me to eat another peanut butter and bacon jam sandwich, my brain could have already told anyone listening that I’m an overeater and that I would probably do anything for another sandwich. I doubt I’d commit a crime, but maybe…
It turns out our brains may also play stool pigeon by ratting out which of us may be prone to repeated criminal behavior, as preliminary tests have shown, with results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Kent Kiehl of the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico and a team of neuroscientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 96 prisoners just prior to getting out of jail. The scan focused on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), located at the front of the brain. It’s involved in executive functioning and some motor control, and so the test surveyed the prisoners as they made quick decisions while inhibiting impulsive reactions.
Four years later, Kiehl and his team concluded that even after other risk factors were accounted for, it appeared that men with lower ACC activity had a 2.6-fold higher rate of rearrest in all criminal activity, and a 4.3-fold higher rate in strictly non-violent crimes. That’s a pretty solid connection, but of course it’s anything but conclusive. As Kiehl plainly states, “This isn’t ready for prime time.”
When Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report was released in 2002, the notion of “pre-crime” led to many discussions of whether such a technology could — or should — become real. A mere decade later, science fiction is becoming science fact. A number of U.S. cities, including Baltimore and Philadelphia, are currently testing software that predicts a criminal’s actions before they commit another crime. Washington D.C. is next on the list to test the new “pre-crime” software.
According to Wired, University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Berk developed the software to track criminal behavior. The software calculates the likelihood of a paroled criminal’s chance of committing the same crime in the future. It doesn’t require creepy precogs in a wading pool, but rather tells a parole officer what degree of supervision a newly paroled convict needs.
Researchers gathered data from more than 60,000 crimes. Berk developed an algorithm to predict the likelihood of a repeat offense from convicts who were paroled or on probation. The software then uses other variables, like the criminal’s past record, geographical location, type of crime, and the criminal’s age when they committed the crime, to predict if they will commit the same crime again. Burk explains:
The look of a sci-fi film is very important to sell the complex concepts in it. Half of the work in selling an audience is done when a world feels fully fleshed out, consistent, and gives the audience something to consider re-locating to. How many times have you heard “I wish I lived in the future world of Back To The Future Part 2?” Sci-fi gives people the option to escape to far off distant lands and making those places realistic is part of the job.
What separates movies like Minority Report from other future worlds in movies like In Time, was that it felt livable and practical. Steven Spielberg accomplished the world building in Minority Report by bringing together scientists, architects, urban planners and engineers in an “idea summit.”
Wired.com brought those same people together to recount their experience working with Spielberg on the future world of Minority Report for the 10th anniversary of the movie based on the Philip K. Dick short story. One of the members of the “idea summit,” futurist, co-founder of scenario-planning firm Global Business Network, Peter Schwartz, talks about the amazing computers in Minority Report…
What about weapons? Surveillance — how did it work? One that moved very quickly was the gesture control of computers. That really began with Jaron. There was pretty quick agreement about what you saw onscreen.
One of the more memorable bits of futurism from Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report was the individualized advertising. As you made your way down the street, ads positioned on the surrounding walls would read your retinal pattern and shout product pitches at you by name. “Hi there, Frank McGilicutty, how about another trip to Maui this summer?” Or, “Say, Finwick Armbrooster, have you tried Valtrex?” It was a sharp satire of ad culture and an entirely too believable guess at what the future might hold. And now, the future is here…sort of. Jalopnik reports that GM has filed a patent for billboards that will offer up personalized advertising to drivers.
Thankfully, it’s not nearly as invasive or unsettling as Minority Report‘s tech. Instead GM will be using its OnStar navigation service to provide only the destination you’ve entered into the GPS to target specific ads at you via the billboards. So you might see an ad for businesses near your destination, or related to it in some way. No doubt anticipating the hue and cry over privacy concerns, GM also explains that the information will immediately be deleted from the server. It’ll still likely make those who like to stay off the grid nervous, but such is the price of living in our increasingly invasive culture.
So far Minority Report is racking up a pretty impressive batting average when it comes forecasting future technology. Aside from these billboards, the government is already working on pre-crime tech of a sort, and the motion-detecting computer interface is basically Kinect with a few more bells and whistles. Then again, it’s only appropriate that a movie about predicting the future would get a few things right…