Impossible’ reveals what’s at stake with AI in movies

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The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has been going on for more than 130 days. Joined by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Hollywood writers are protesting several issues.

Among other demands, the WGA is calling for clear rules on the use of AI in media production, which Time Magazine It has been called “a defining moment” in film history.

Enter and cue Tom Cruise Mission Impossible Theme music.

though Barbie And Oppenheimer The most attention-grabbing this summer, Tom Cruise’s latest installment Mission Impossible series (Dead Reckoning Part One), reveals more about the future of movies.

Official trailer of ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning’.

Highlights the threat posed by AI

Subtle enough for a Hollywood strike, yet predating the strike in 2020, this blockbuster explores AI threats to human society and our political system.

Cruise’s nemesis is an AI program called Entity. Conceived as a cyberweapon, the organization gains a sense of being both agent and object in the ensuing global competition for power.

In a digitally networked and interdependent world with computational omniscience, organizations can manipulate digital and physical infrastructure, such as mobile phones and transit systems, and thus also control the humans who rely on digital interfaces.

Recognizing the existence as a fundamental threat to humanity, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) of the Impossible Mission Force goes rogue (again) to acquire and destroy the AI.

Immersive experience

The film’s plot is a vivid reminder of how little agency humans have in the digital environment, even as the cinematic environment relies on contemporary technology to immerse its audience.

Like Cruise’s 2022 blockbuster last summer, Top Gun: Aura, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Using drone cinematography and sophisticated sound editing, the cinema is designed to be more of an experience than a story.

A man in a suit jacket and tie is seen waving to fans.
Surrounded by fans, Tom Cruise poses for photographers during a red carpet event for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ in June 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.
(AP Photo/Lee ​​Jin-Man)

Director Christopher McQuarrie explained his approach as dedicated to a “fully immersive big screen experience”, including high-definition video and sound technologies that allow editors to create a sense of sound within the audience’s physical environment.

Human acting, star power

As a Hollywood movie star, Cruise is similarly dedicated to providing visual audiences with an experience.

Even though computer-generated imagery (CGI) and digital effects have overtaken big-budget films, Cruise insists on doing all his own stunts. He bluntly compared his approach to classic film performances, saying: “Nobody asked Gene Kelly, ‘Why do you dance? Why are you doing your own dance?”

Six months before the film’s release, clips of him riding a motorcycle down a steep mountain surfaced online.

when Mission Impossible Released in July 2023, Cruise surprised fans at world premieres, spending time at red carpet meetings and chatting with them.

His dedication to personal presence is reminiscent of an earlier era of Hollywood, when movie stars could not rely on social media to connect with their fans. Despite his public support for the strike, he advocated exemptions for artists to promote their films.

No digital de-aging

Unsurprisingly, McQuarrie decided to use a digitally de-aged Cruise, focusing instead on the physical fitness of a movie star far younger than his 61 years.

Cruise’s latest film takes its title from the 1947 Humphrey Bogart film.
(Columbia Pictures)

All Mission: Impossible – Dead Count Remembers the earlier era of cinema. The title of the film is taken from the 1947 film with Humphrey Bogart.

Previous six references Mission Impossible Films abound, including the return of Canadian actor Henry Czerny as Hunt’s nemesis, Kittridge, from the franchise’s first film in 1996.

The opening desert sequence recalls desert epics on the big screen Lawrence of Arabia (1962), while the submarine introduced the force of existence The Hunt for Red October (1990), among others.

Classic car, train chase

A 20-minute car chase through the streets of Rome involves a distressed baby carriage on foot, the same scenario referenced in director Sergei Eisenstein’s influential film. Battleship Potemkin Since 1925.

Cruise is handcuffed to costar Hayley Atwell, a tactic used in various films, including a James Bond film. Tomorrow never dies (1997), driving a small yellow Fiat, reminiscent of the two Italian job (1965) and Bourne Identity (2002).

There’s also an extended sequence atop the Orient Express train and fighting a whole host of enemies, taking place in everything from movies based on Agatha Christie novels to Buster Keaton movies. General (1926), another James Bond film, From Russia with love (1963), whose plot hinges on the threat of misuse of cyber technology.

Numerous cinematic references date back to movies before the era of streaming and social media.

Physical Presence: A Luxury?

Writers and actors are right to be concerned. Industry appears particularly vulnerable to generative AI, as many processes are already regulated in commercial media.

Two men are seen getting dressed and smiling.
Gene Kelly, left, who starred in the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain, appears with Fred Astaire at the 1976 Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France.
(AP Photo/Levy, File)

The current situation recalls earlier transitions such as the effect when films introduced sound technology, the threat to dramatic silent-film actors in the Gene Kelly film, singing in the rain. More recently, movie theaters moved from celluloid to digital projection, largely eliminating projectionists.

Outright resistance to new technologies rarely succeeds in the long run. Business professor and pundit Scott Galloway has compared the writers’ strike to the 1980s National Union of Mineworkers strike in northern England.

With so much digital content available, physical presence and proximity become rarer and more of a luxury item.

Back to live experiences

Certainly, audiences have returned strongly to live music concerts. (Just try to get Taylor Swift tickets in Toronto.)

For now, we all have to wait and see how it ends for the cinema and those who made it. Part two of Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Won’t be out until next summer.

Hopefully, this will be the end of Hollywood for all of us.

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