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Retrospective Film Review: ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’

Sunday 24 November 2013
Words Spindle

Raise that weary head, rub away your sandy eyes and be grateful you don’t remember just what it was you did last night. Now cure that hangover with our Bloody Mary of the silver screen; this week’s Retrospective Film Review, Joseph Sargent’s Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Anyone with even a fraction of familiarity with the genre’s tropes and conventions will know that hot-swapping key military, strategic and technological positions previously occupied by actual human people with Artificial Intelligence isn’t going to end all kittens and cookies come the film’s finale. Especially if, as in this wonderfully serious and stoic slice of 70’s sci-fi about computer sentience, the President of the US publicly and triumphantly announces such a daft proposal live on air. Although we’re in classic Humanity-undone-by-its-own-ingenuity territory, our hero, the Dr. Charles A. Forbin of the title (Braeden), is strangely resigned and detached once ‘Colossus’ starts to get all narked at being told what to do, first in scary HAL 9000 dumbshow, as passive-agressive scrolling text flashes up on its LED-board like some cheesed-off London Underground Station Train Arrivals display, and later, through actual speech, as luckily,  the machine acquires a vocoder which makes it sound like a robot. There’s much less hysteria and melodrama here than perhaps we’re used to in more contemporary similar-ilk sci-fi, and the film’s suitably downbeat ending is a welcome relief from tired, last-act heroics. A questionably sleazy score aside, Colossus is a clever and perceptive take on science fiction that’s becoming more scientific and less fictional every day. Now then, why’s Siri not opening my pod-bay doors I wonder?

Here’s a taster to get you going:

Words: Ash Verjee