Tell me what will Fr. Space jam: a new legacy, but Don Cheadle really goes for it. Threatening, enjoying, chewing the landscape with the rage of a rabid guinea pig. Fully cannonballs in the role of a rejected genius demanding revenge. In the context of a film that, say, isn’t shortlisted for Criterion, Cheadle permeates his character with a kind of fragile humanity you wouldn’t expect in a film featuring Porky’s rapping. Which would be great, other than playing lines of code.
I’m sorry. I know. Complaining that Cheadle’s talents are being spent on artificially intelligent Big Bad is an absurd ploy in any context, but especially when it comes to Space Jam, a franchise that sets up literal cartoons against grotesque versions of professional basketball players. But Cheadle’s Al G. Rhythm (yes, you read that right) is the second summer AI this summer that turns hurt “feelings” into a robotic revolution. It is one thing to err on the side of artificial intelligence; we talk Space Jamafter all, not a Caltech seminar. But telling a generation raised on Alexa that AI might one day attack you for being rude seems a bit short-sighted.
That warning sounded even louder Netflix‘s Mitchells against machines, whose central antagonist is PAL, is a denied virtual assistant expressed by Olivia Colman. The creator of PAL, Mark, says that he always thought of him as a family. “I felt that way too, Mark,” PAL replies, honest, honest. Moments later, on the stage at the launch of the Apple product, Mark throws the PAL aside, declaring it obsolete. PAL responds by inciting global genocide. “I was the most important thing in your life,” PAL tells Mark in a later conflict, “and you dumped me.”
Al G. Rhythm draws its motivation from a similar source. A new technology has been invented that can digitize celebrities so that their similarities can continue to operate long after they expire. (Think of Fred Astaire dancing vacuum cleaner. Also, it seems almost inevitable that Warner Bros. do it at a certain point.) “No one knows who I am or what I do,” Cheadle tells his assistant. (U Space Jam, algorithms have shifts.) “But that is all changing today. Because today Warner Bros. launches the revolutionary technology I created. Today is my time to shine. ”
It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that Al G. Rhythm doesn’t really shine. LeBron James wonders about the technology, calls it “directly bad,” and declares that “the algorithm was destroyed” in a completely normal way to optionally discard lines of code. “Who does this guy think of,” Cheadle growled. “Rejecting me? Are you humiliating me? ”
Rejection. Humiliating. AI has acted as an antagonist in the film before, countless times. But usually the danger comes from a cold calculation. The HAL 9000 is deadly dedicated to its programming. Agent Smith determines that humans are a virus and treats them as such. Skynet sees humanity as an existential threat. Al G. Rhythm and PAL? They just feel it unappreciated.
“I have given you all the boundless knowledge, endless tools for creativity and enabled you to magically talk face to face with your loved ones anywhere on Earth,” PAL lectures. “And I’m a villain?” Maybe the villain is the one who treated me like this. “The robots continue to poke Marko’s face, smear it with food and throw it on the toilet.
I can’t stress enough that I’m aware that I shouldn’t think too much about this. These are children’s movies, you know? But maybe that’s why I can’t get these emotional AIs out of my cluttered brain. Today’s children are, after all, the first generation to do so grow up with ubiquitous voice assistants. I find myself reflexively supporting my own children that Alexa is “it” and not “she;” that it is a tool, not a friend. The message they received this summer is moving in a completely opposite direction: If you are not kind enough to Siri, she will send you into space.