10 of the best gadget movies
Film has a knack of pre-empting future technologies. Some of these were right on the money, others wider of the mark…
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)
This charming sci-fi romp, about a man in a dressing gown who finds himself exploring the universe after the world’s abrupt end, plays its technology for laughs. There’s a depressed android called Marvin, a “point-of-view gun” and, silliest of all, the Babel Fish, a wriggly marine creature that, when inserted into your ear, allows you to understand any language.
When it came out Tron was a visually groundbreaking adventure
in which a man gets sucked into his computer and has to battle digital villains. These days, it looks a bit naff. The one element that still stands up, though, is the lightcycle – a motorbike on steroids that leaves a neon trail (or jet-wall) which can kill anyone who drives into it. Come December it’ll be seen again in Tron Legacy.
The Dark Knight (2008)
In the final act of this fine Batman sequel, the Caped Crusader is desperately trying to locate the Joker before more Gothamites die. Having already shown off his Bat-Pod (armoured motorbike) and collapsible “sticky-bomb gun”, he breaks out a cowl-mounted sonic device that triangulates cellphone signals to create a 3D visual map of the city.
The Matrix (1999)
“I know kung fu,” declares Neo after having a combat programme uploaded directly into his brain in this dazzling sci-fi about a band of humans taking on machines who have enslaved humanity within an artificial reality.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Flying cars in films are nothing new – automobiles have taken to the skies in Blade Runner, The Last Starfighter and Back To The Future, to name a few. But Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, our heroic New York cabbie zips around amid breathtaking vistas of the Big Apple, with thousands of cars racing above and between tall skyscrapers.
Dominic Cobb is a psych-ops expert who has the ability to enter people’s dreams without them knowing. The Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous (PASIV) device isn’t as out-there as you might think. A recent study into brain imaging provided data that could let scientists figure out what you’re dreaming about. Keep it clean, eh?
Back To The Future Part II (1989)
At the end of the first Back To The Future film, Doc Brown yells, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” He wasn’t wrong – in the future-set sequel, Marty McFly gets an upgrade to his trusty skateboard in the shape of a hoverboard that floats six inches above street level.
Blade Runner (1982)
It’s the year 2019 in Los Angeles, and future-dick Rick Deckard is hunting down deadly “replicants” – artificial humans who have escaped from an off-world colony. Where does he find his next clue? Mind-bogglingly, inside a photograph, as he uses a device called the Esper Photo Analyser to zoom relentlessly into the image, changing focus until he finds the detail he’s after.
Iron Man (2008)
Playboy billionaire and engineering genius Tony Stark trumps his superhero peers with some kick-ass toys. There’s the garage crammed with state-of-the-art cars, including a prototype Tesla Roadster. There’s Stark’s digital manservant, Jarvis, who runs the internal systems of Stark’s house. But best of all is his Iron Man suit, a powered exoskeleton that can fly, shoot repulsor rays from its palms and pretty much smack the crap out of anything that moves.
Minority Report (2002)
Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi blockbuster envisaged a dazzling but dangerous future, where commuters read newspapers with moving pictures, robotic spiders pursue criminals and everyone is assaulted by personalised advertising (“John Anderton, you could use a Guinness right now!”). It was heady stuff back in 2002, but even more amazing is the fact that, eight years on, all of its technology is coming to life.
A full list of the 25 greatest gadget films – including the best movie bots, real-life gadgets first seen on the big screen and celluloid’s coolest cars – can be found in the November 2010 issue of Stuff magazine, out now and on sale now at all worthy magazine shops. Or subscribe here.
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