Hollywood Finds the Perfect Villain in AI

Nishita Gupta
Nishita Gupta July 17, 2023
Updated 2023/07/17 at 2:50 PM

Tom Cruise battles Hollywood’s greatest fears about artificial intelligence in the new Mission: Impossible. But first…

The Entity

Aside from striking actors and writers, stagnant box office sales and the wobbly economics of streaming, Hollywood is also facing a dire creative crisis: the lack of credible bad guys in big-budget movies.

Screenwriters have been hemmed in. Cultural sensitivities discourage the use of ethnically identifiable bad guys; then there are the demands of opening a film around the world, even in adversarial countries that might have provided the antagonists of yesteryear.

That seems to be why most big baddies these days are either recycled from previous films (the Nazis in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny), megalomaniacal multiversal versions of the good guy (The FlashSpiderman: Across the Spiderverse) or — most tiresome — aliens bent on global destruction (pretty much every other movie).

In the most absurd attempt around this quandary, Tom Cruise’s last film, Top Gun: Maverick, declined to even identify its adversary. Enemy pilots simply kept their visors down and apparently stripped their jet fighters of all flags and emblems.

But — mild spoiler alert here — Cruise’s newest movie, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, which opened last week, finally has a satisfying answer. The baddie is an out-of-control artificial intelligence called the Entity, which started as a cyberweapon of US intelligence, gorged itself on social media and online news, became sentient and hacked the world’s computers.

In the film, if I followed the convoluted exposition between entertaining action scenes, governments are treating this out-of-control AI like a superweapon and competing to capture it, in part because “whoever owns the Entity, owns the truth,” as one character gamely states. In turn, the AI defends itself: erasing faces on live video streams, creating deep fakes of voices to throw pursuers off the trail and manipulating human proxies into doing things like smuggling bombs onto aeroplanes and bridges.

Aside from these far-fetched schemes, the movie riffs on Silicon Valley’s stated fears about AI. Elon Musk has called for more safety protocols around AI development and last week announced the formation of a new company, xAI, to pursue “the best possible future for humanity.” OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman recently travelled the world, evangelizing for government oversight.

For more such content, keep reading @techinnews

Share this Article