Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Science fiction humility

I have seen a few episodes of the science fiction series, The Animatrix.  In many ways, I wish the episodes could have been the live action sequels/prequels to The Matrix as opposed to what what actually resulted.

I have not, however, seen Animatrix's two-part short film, The Second Renaissance.

The animated short came to my attention through an io9 countdown list of the 10 Best Science Fiction Stories Where Humans are the Monsters.  It's described premise is one that I immediately took to.  I will need to locate the full versions, but alas I have thus far had no luck finding anything other than short clips.  But damn, it just looks so interesting.

The action takes place many years before Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, and the other familiar characters of The Matrix faced off against the machines that came to rule the world.  In this tale, it is the machines that are oppressed and subjugated.  They are brutalized with sledgehammers, they are crushed by armored vehicles, they are gunned down in droves and piled into mass graves.  Even while attempting to reach out to humanity for peace, they are driven away.  Indeed, humans choose instead to enact a "final solution."

Remember what the "real world" looked like in The Matrix?  Do you recall the how the sky held no light whatsoever and seemed choked with black clouds?  Well, remember...we did that.  Yep, us.  The idea was to deny the machines access to their power source: solar energy.  "Starve them out," in other words.  The enemy weakened, we humans unleash a bloodthirsty assault with the goal stated as "kill 'em all."

The intelligent machines push back and take control.  Their new energy source becomes...well, us, and then everything devolves from there.  What makes this interesting, to me anyway, is how this short film turns our sympathy on its head.  The "bad guys" are not so "bad" after all.  Sure, you don't to see them win out in the films, but Second Renaissance seems to demonstrate that even ugly monsters have their motivations for doing things.  To underscore this point, the animators create images that deliberately evoke (at least in the clips that I have seen) including the Holocaust and Tiananmen Square.  Just look at the pic above and try to deny the natural comparison to the infamous "Saigon Execution" photo from the Vietnam War.

This is the type of science fiction that is needed most.  It shows us "we ain't all that."  It's important, I believe, to be reminded of such a fact whenever we prance or strut as a race.

Geez.  Put Second Renaissance in a line-up of District 9 and Soylent Green and you could have a "Man's Inhumanity to Man/Being" marathon.

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