Sci-fi is a relatively new genre, only coming into existence in the last 100 years or so. H G Wells was one of the first significant sci-fi authors, writing stories such as “The Time Machine” and “The War of the Worlds”. It is almost impossible to define the genre, although the word “Sci-fi” is often associated with aliens and space travel. There are a few characteristics that are almost always found, and expected in sci-fi stories – they are often set in, or are in connection with the future, and the majority of them have a pessimistic outlook. Computers or extraordinary machines are always included in a sci-fi book or film, and are usually the main element in the storyline. The Matrix and Terminator 2 meet these expectations, with the main storylines consisting of the attempted domination of computers over humans in the future.

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The sci-fi section of the movie industry has been growing quickly over the last 30 years, with the many technological advances in special effects – for example, CGI (Computer Generated Images) – making it possible to create films with spectacular special effects that could never have been dreamt of 100 years ago. A few examples include The Lord of the Rings and The Time machine – which have both been completed during the last year. It had not been possible to make these films until recently due to the lack of technology available for the special effects needed for the films.

James Cameron – the director of Terminator 2 – has been involved in many sci-fi films during his career. He has directed well-known titles such as The Terminator, Aliens and True Lies. One of his well known trade marks is the use of sequences where a video monitor is the perspective of the camera – for example the view from the ‘inside’ the T-800 in Terminator 2. Also, Cameron’s films tend to include broken, swinging fluorescent lights, especially in fight scenes, which is also visible in Terminator 2. Cameron casted Arnold Schwarzenegger to be the T-800 in Terminator, and Terminator 2, the only actor to appear in both of the films.

Andy and Larry Wachowski (The Wachowski brothers) were the directors and writers of The Matrix, and although they only made their directing debut in 1996 (directing “Bound”), and have still only directed 2 films to date, they have made a big impression on the film industry. The Matrix was the biggest box office hit of 1999, with stars such as Keanu Reeves and Joe Pantoliano. The public are still eagerly awaiting its sequel (due for release in 2003). The brothers have worked together on many films, writing and directing “Bound” and “The Matrix” together, and writing “Assassins” and “The Plastic Man”.

In Terminator 2 Skynet, in the 21st century a computer fighting a losing war on humans sends a second terminator back in time to destroy the leader of the human resistance while he is still a boy. His mother is the only one who knows about Terminators, human-like robots that are made to kill and are nearly indestructible, and Sarah, the boy’s mother is currently in a state mental hospital because of her ‘delusions’. A second terminator is sent back to the past to protect John Connor – ironically, they send a thief to catch a thief.

In the Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a computer hacker who discovers that the world around him is a computer simulation called the Matrix. He learns this from Morpheus, who also tells him that the Matrix uses humans as energy for itself. Morpheus has been searching his entire life for a “chosen one” to destroy the Matrix, and he believes Neo is it. Neo has his doubts, but through all his adventures with Morpheus, he starts to believe this, and that he is ready to destroy the Matrix.

One of the most obvious similarities between the presentations of AI in the two films is the instinct of self-preservation that we see in the machines. We presume that if a machine became self aware, its first aim would be self-preservation. In both cases machines are trying to preserve themselves, in-turn trying to control the humans – therefore becoming their enemy. The AI in the two films is in two different forms. In Terminator 2 the AI is contained inside the cyborgs, which can be destroyed. In the Matrix, the AI is software that is integrated into the Matrix – therefore can only be killed my deleting the software.

Terminator 2 contains two cases of AI – the T-800 (the ‘good’ AI), and the T-1000 (the ‘bad’ AI). The T-800 had been sent back in time to protect John Connor from the T-1000, which had also been sent back in time to kill him. The T-800 seems to lack emotion at first, as does the T-1000 and the agents in The Matrix, but as the film progresses we see an increasing amount of actions showing emotion from it – as he is learning from John. At the end of the film when he has to destroy himself, he hugs John, and as he disappears into the molten metal, he sticks his thumb up, which can only be considered as an act of emotion. This can’t be seen in either the T-1000 or the Agents. The T-1000 is only concerned with killing John, and kills anyone else that he sees along the way.

The Agents appear to be homogenous, one piece of emotionless software formed of 3 different parts – the 3 Agent Smiths, but when they have captured Morpheous, two of the agents leave the room while the other talks to Morpheous. He tells Morpheous how he hates the matrix, how he needs to be free – as in Terminator 2 this shows us unexpected emotions from the seemingly emotionless AI, though this is the only time we see it in The Matrix.

The presentation of AI in Terminator 2 is an unbelievable story, set only 5 years in the future from when it was made – 1997. 1997 has already been and gone, with no signs of computers taking over or nuclear war. The Matrix on the other hand is very believable, because it is actually a possible alternate reality. You could argue that we are in a ‘Matrix’ now, being deceived that this is reality when in-fact we are being ‘kept in the dark’, harvested and manipulated by computers. There is no actual proof that we aren’t – although it’s unlikely – its possible.