One of the most influential sci-fi films of all time has to be Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, made in 1927. The film, like its horror counter park Nosferatu, laid the codes and conventions of the science fiction genre, it was set in the near-future (2000) and foretold of a an Armageddon like situation where the technologies of mankind bring about its down fall. This prophetic theme was realised by through imaginative settings, creative film production and amazing special effects, resulting in a truly ground breaking film, and creating a formula which has been duplicated and modified throughout film history.
Clearly the themes introduced in Metropolis have been evident in many subsequent films in the genre. One of the more interesting takes on the struggles against machines is the film Blade Runner (1982), by Ridley Scott. Scott painted a picture of a despotic Los Angeles in 2019, in a world where Replicants (human like robots) have been outlawed and are hunted by Blade runners. It is clearly a hybrid film, with its distinctly film noir cityscapes, and it borrows much from the artistry of Metropolis.
However where Blade Runner divers in its approach, is its emphasis on the philosophical problems posed by technology, name the problem of personal identity, of what constitutes a human being. The theme is clearly present by the Replicant character Rachael, who was created with memories and believes she is human, but yet is not considered human by society, posing the question is it a bodily aspect that makes us human or mental a mental aspect. As the science fiction genre has evolved into the modern, there has been a shift in focus, owning much to Blade Runner.
The focus is no longer on the treat of our modern technology (as presented in Metropois) but more on the philosophical, ethical, and moral question posed by technology. This focus is clearly shown in Jurassic Park (1993) where we are awed by our ability to recreate the life of a dinosaur, but yet there is an underline moral issue, even through we can, should we play God with our technology? This question of course is answered very graphically in the film through use of spectacular special effect (another convention laid down by Metropolis).
In modern sci-fi films the fears and questions posed by our technologies no longer need to be manifested into a physical form, such as the robots of Blade Runner or the Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. The film Gattica (1997) focused on the effects of our technologies on the human race itself, foretelling of a time where we are no longer discriminated against by our colour, race or religion, but by our genetics. The issues and themes presented by the film are shockingly current in society as we really are reaching a point where designer babies are possible: we, like in Jurassic Park, can, but if we should is a whole other issue.
The clearest example of the change in how our struggle against technology is presented has to be the film A. I (2001). The films takes the philosophical problems portrayed in Blade Runner and develops them, so much so that it is a source of academic study for philosophy students. It is not the fear of the technology itself, as presented in early science fiction films, but of our responsibilities with that technology. In A. I, it is not a case of fearing a Robot with a true introspective reality, but fearing our liability to that robot and all that entails for us.