Report Card: Las Luchadoras vs. El Robot Asesino

Read all the Las Luchadoras vs. El Robot Asesino posts in chronological order.

By any short description of its plot, this film should be amazing and meta. Like Kung Fury or Galaxy Lords, but, let’s be frank, it is so not that. Someone at Netflix should produce a reboot and it would probably be amazing. No, instead, this film has an actor in a robotic Truman Capote getup smashing through dozens of cardboard sets and flailing vaguely in the direction of characters who dutifully scream and drop from the non-contact karate chop.

And hugs. Robot assassins need hugs, too.

It is a pathetic paean to its source material, the much more well-done Cybernauts from The Avengers, (the British one with younger Olenna, not the Marvel one with the cosmic purple snap crackle and pop.)

Sci: F (0 of 4) How believable are the interfaces?

The mission slot has some nice affordances, but deep strategic flaws. The mission card is a copy by someone who didn’t quite understand what they were looking at. The trivium bracelet and remote just break all believability, earning the film a flat zero.

Fi: B (3 of 4) How well do the interfaces inform the narrative of the story?

ID card goes in slot, evil robot finds that person. Bracelet roboticizes people, remote controls them. As dumb (and derivative) as the technologies are, the interfaces help you understand the kindergarten-minded rules for technology in this diegesis.

Interfaces: F (0 of 4) How well do the interfaces equip the characters to achieve their goals?

Recall that these interfaces all serve the bad guy. The mission slot interface is actually quite nice for its simplicity, but loses any credit since it ultimately becomes a paper trail of evidence against him, all in one convenient robot just waiting for authorities to uncover. The bracelet might get props for being easy to get on, if it wasn’t also as easy to get off again and need tailoring for each new victim. The remotes are also quite nice for their simplicity and even visual hierarchy, but only by virtue of apologetics and thinking of it as a prototype. All knobs and modes needed labeling, anyway. So, a goose egg.

FIN

Final Grade F (3 of 12), Dreck.

Don’t bother. Or do bother, but only to get a schadenfreude chuckle out of the ordeal. Or maybe some tripping material from the janky transfer.

So, loyal readers may rightly ask themselves why on earth I reviewed this pile of metallic crap, which is unknown, uninfluential, and rightly condemned to the trash bin of cinematic B-movie history. One glance at the Youtube transfer (or perhaps the directors oeuvre) should have made all this clear, yes. Well, here are three reasons.

  1. It’s the film’s 50th anniversary, which is adorable.
  2. I try not to judge a book by its cover, and delight in trying to find truffles in oubliettes.
  3. It was a very lightweight way (only four interfaces!) to begin a year dedicated to AI in sci-fi.

In case that last bit didn’t land, let me reiterate outside a bullet list: All posts in 2019 on this blog will focus on the topic of AI in sci-fi. And this film belongs in a category of one of our oldest kinds of fictional AIs, the Judaic story of the Golem.

Hit Points: 178(17d10+ 85)
Special attack: Unreasonable interpretation

It’s been told time and again in different ways, but in most tellings, the golem is a construct that mindlessly obeys whatever instruction it is given, and in its mindless interpretation, does grave damage, even turning back on its maker. Other shows utilizing this trope include Metropolis, Battlestar Galactica, the Alien franchise, The Sorceror’s Apprentice, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I even think that Arabic stories of djinn fulfill the same purpose. Each illustrates how agents that ruthlessly pursue goals—with neither the human sense of reasonableness or the ethical concern for human wellbeing—can go devastatingly awry.

Golem stories illustrate how agents that ruthlessly pursue goals—with neither the human sense of reasonableness or the ethical concern for human wellbeing—can go devastatingly awry.

—This article, like, just now

They are conservative tales in the apolitical sense that they imply we should be very very cautious when engaging these kinds of machines. Don’t start until you’re absolutely sure. This is a key concern for AI. How do we ensure that the intelligences we build do what we want them to, reasonably? How can we encode a concern for humanity?

Aw, hell, no.

Luchadores doesn’t provide any answers, just a warning, some awesome masks, and an occasional piledriver. But we’ll be on the lookout as we continue looking at other examples of sci-fi AI.


Given that the last review I completed was the Star Wars Holiday Special, which was also Dreck, maybe it’s high time I complete a good movie. OK, then. That means back to Idiocracy. And yes, in that tale of stupidity, there is a surprising tale of super intelligence.

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Report Card: Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers is an unlikely movie to have come out of the 1990s. Director Paul Verhoeven says that it got made because it was a high-turnover time at Sony, and the script just got shooed along as studio leads paraded in and out. The irony, hyperbole, and critique of American neocons as fascist warmongers was all in the script from the beginning. Had anyone looked at the script or the dailies, he says, it might not have been made. That’s probably why I like this movie so much, in that it’s a criticism of hawkishness and the culture that gives rise to it.

But despite that soft spot that I have for it, I’m here to rate the interfaces, and in that regard, it is lucky I don’t send it to the brig.

Report-Card-Starship-Troopers

Sci: F (0 of 4) How believable are the interfaces?

If it I could convince myself to give a negative score, I would. The interfaces are just so bad they break believability all over the place. Sure, we’re willing to accept the emergence of psychic powers, but give us an interface that makes testing it believable. And of course, all the Federation spaceship interfaces that are just so very, very broken: single-factor login that’s out of order, undocking interfaces that are a disaster in the making, inscrutable spinning pizzas, a starnav & stardrive that seem to want to induce seizures more than help people pilot, the terrible fuigetry of the red phone, the silly evasion interface, the absolute lack of affordances for sealing compartment 21. It’s just one disaster after another.

There are a few precious bright spots. The interface of Fedpaint was believable and maybe even ahead of its time, though we don’t see it much. The news and information hub in the terminal foresaw a time when digital information would be everywhere. The jumpball scoreboard is certainly believable, largely because it was just a real world one that didn’t think about the goals of the audience. But these can’t hope to make up for the gravity of its other crimes.

Fedpaint_big

Fi: C (2 of 4) How well do the interfaces inform the narrative of the story?

Here the interfaces fare a little better. The news that is only very slightly interactive tell of a society where the illusion of choice is a given. The easy-bullying grade Board helps illustrate how might makes right here. The bug volumetric projection shows the indoctrination process. It all helps to paint the picture of the society. Even the panic-inducing collision alarm & rescue shuttle interfaces help “sweeten” the scenes they appear in, underscoring the emotional tone of the scenes in which they appear.

CollisionAlarm

On the other hand, the diegesis-breaking goofiness of the course-plotting scene, had me digressing from the tech to write COURSE OPTIMAL, an open letter for writers to drop the stoic guru metaphor and adopt an active academy model instead. While it let me try my hand at scene writing, it wrecked much of the storytelling cred it had built up.

A-writer

Interfaces: D (1 of 4)
How well do the interfaces equip the characters to achieve their goals?

Certainly there are some examples of good, goal-directed interfaces. The war game equipment is well suited to the learning goals of boot camp. The healing chamber helps its patient physically, socially, and psychologically. The briefly-seen insertion windows help give the escape pod pilot a sense of what she needs to do to get the pod oriented correctly for re-entry.

StarshipTroopers-tank-02

And if you want to give them the benefit of the apologetics doubt, the doors work like doors should, the tattoo-o-matic—though a placebo—helps customers manage pain, and lastly, the weapons cache opens as seamlessly as you’d need it to in a crisis. I’m not sure those were intended as I’m interpreting them, but that’s what apologetics is all about.

tattoo

But then you get to the terrible interfaces like the live fire exercise that seems to want to kill recruits, the pillory that forgets that the drama is the point, the combat interfaces that are full of sound and fury and not much else, the Klendathu casualty announcement that doesn’t help people reading it, the fuigetry-filled binoculars, and the inscrutable uplink, and it’s just not a place to look for inspiration for real-world design.

StarshipTroopers-Whipping-Post02

Final Grade D (3 of 12), MATINÉE

Despite its ultimate grade, I’m still fond of this one, and hope to be showing it in 2015 at a sci-fi movie night where we can lament together at the marvelous train-wreck that are the Starship Troopers interfaces.