AI add a lot to cinema. People have been writing AI characters since before movies even existed, and it’s no surprise that they’ve only become more commonplace over the years. Although there are certainly some AI that serve a technical purpose more than anything else, many AI also exist as an appealing character just like any human character. These AI in movies end up affecting the audience as much as any human characters, if not more.
HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
When you think of AI with a personality, you might not immediately think of HAL 9000. In fact, he’s one of the most human AI simply because of his juxtaposition with the truly human crew. In critical analyses, many people note that it seems like HAL 9000 only starts harming the crew when he starts expressing human emotions like paranoia and jealousy.
R2-D2 (Star Wars)
This is one of the original AI with a personality, made even more interesting specifically because R2-D2 doesn’t ever talk. If he does have any dialogue, it’s only evident because of implicit or explicit translation from another character. Despite the fact that he doesn’t speak, R2-D2’s beeps carry with them the same amount of expression as a human voice, making them irresistibly charming.
Marvin the Paranoid Android (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Marvin’s pessimism makes him an oddly charming character with a truly unique personality. People may love him so much because he builds on classic literary characters like Eeyore, which evokes a sense of childhood nostalgia. His character helps to build the world of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, while also offering a dash of humor for the audience to relate to.
Data (Star Trek)
A basic facet of Data’s character is that he doesn’t really show emotion, but that’s actually why he’s such a humanlike character. Throughout Star Trek, including the movies, the TV shows, and more, Data struggles with understanding and trying to express human emotion. His struggle with emotion as a whole is what makes him such an appealing character.
As a character, Bender tends to be much more chaotic than anything else. Characters variously describe him as a womanizer, a rude individual, a thief, and a criminal, among other things. However, he’s a beloved character among fans. That might be because he’s a reflection of some of the most integral pieces of humanity, despite not even being human himself.
Her is a movie that’s based entirely around deconstructing the differences between AI and humans. Samantha is the eponymous “her,” and as the main character falls in love with her, audiences are left to contemplate what it means to be human. Their love affair is clearly genuine and real, and that’s why she’s such an interesting character.
Ava (Ex Machina)
In Ex Machina, every character’s morality is under scrutiny at every point. The intent isn’t to offer a cast of characters that’s full of “good” and “bad” people; it’s to showcase people being people. That’s also the case with Ava, the AI character in the movie. She hurts people, but does so to make herself free. The philosophical questions she raises makes her character intimately compelling.
When someone sets out to create a “good character,” they actually want to create a compelling character. AI from all types of cinematic backgrounds can be compelling and interesting to the audience. They may even be more compelling than some human characters. Next time you watch a movie with an AI character, consider their humanity as well.
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