In movies, and especially in science fiction, stuff usually works. Luke’s lightsaber always turns on, and Kirk’s phaser’s stun setting is always operational. That’s part of the fun of science fiction. You can see all this theoretical technology and see how it would work and be used in a hypothetical situation. There’s a flip side to that, though. Stuff doesn’t always work. We’ve all had computers crash and phones lose reception. Technology failure is a part of life. Many of these movies prove that technology failing might be more fun to watch than technology succeeding.
5. The Fly
The Fly represents the tech fail so nice they did it twice. In Star Trek, teleporting is easy, as folks are routinely beamed up with minimal danger or harm. The Fly beautifully showed the flip side of that as a teleportation experiment goes wrong. In the original version, the scientist was teleported with a fly, and came out with the head and arm of a fly. The fly came out with the head and arm of a man. Pretty bad. In the newer David Cronenberg-directed version, Jeff Goldblum teleports and slowly turns into a disgusting gigantic fly. It is not a movie you want to watch if you ever feel like eating again.
4. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
The Mission: Impossible franchise has always been known for its slick technology. There are the facemasks, the red-green explosive gum, and the endless array of self-destructing mission briefs. Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and The Iron Giant director Brad Bird took over the M:I franchise for the latest installment and decided to flip the previous movies on their head. He introduces more cool gadgets than the rest of the series combined and proceeds to have each of them fail at the worst possible moment. Magnetic gloves? Have them break while climbing the Burj Dubai. Levitation device? Have it power down while positioned over a fan. Facemask device? Yeah right. Never has technology failure been more dazzling.
Robocop is such an unapologetically violent movie that its comic relief moments are owed exclusively to ED-209, a ridiculously destructive forerunner to Robocop. While ED-209 is designed to police the streets, it usually ends up accidentally designating people it sees as criminals and killing them. Hilarious!
2. Back to the Future
When Back to the Future came out, everyone already knew that the DeLorean was a lemon. Still, that didn’t stop Doc Brown from putting a flux capacitor in it and turning it into a time machine. Of course, every time someone needed to use the time machine (outside of future Biff’s sports almanac trip to the past), it broke. The entire Back to the Future trilogy maybe could have been averted if Doc chose a Toyota instead.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
“I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL 9000 was a sophisticated AI designed to help astronauts to explore the cosmos. Then he turned homicidal. HAL is tech fail above all tech fails. He’s the forerunner for AI gone awry movies and series such as I, Robot, The Matrix, and Terminator.
Total Recall: Arnold’s exploding old lady costume on Mars.
Jurassic Park: The computer system that shuts down island security and is easily hacked by a tween girl.
Did we miss a cinematic tech fail?