How Denzel Washington’s ’90s Sci-Fi Thriller Virtuosity Predicted Modern AI Fears

Everyone’s favorite murderbot-du-jour is M3GAN, a high-tech “doll” at the center of the recent Blumhouse film of the same name. M3GAN wasn’t created by combining the personalities of serial killers, but she is a dangerous digital being created by humanity, and she has a similarly saucy sense of humor. Crowe doesn’t do dance choreography in “Virtuosity,” but he does don a purple suit and strut down the aisles of a giant indoor market to the sounds of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” and it absolutely has the same energy. AI is here to stay, and so are our fears of “artificial” intelligence one day overwhelming our “natural” intelligence. If the robots are more stylish and better dancers than us, too, we’re screwed. 

In an interview with /Film’s BJ Colangelo, “M3GAN” director Gerard Johnstone explained that technology is almost at a place where the film doesn’t seem all that far-fetched:

“It’s really interesting that [artificial intelligence chatting program] ChatGPT was something that one of our consultants, Peter Abell, was actually involved in. And he was talking about these kind of generative algorithms that you could have a conversation with, and that did exactly what we were setting up ‘M3GAN’ to do. We’ve been very fortunate that the timing of this movie has worked out so well. I mean, technology is just on this massive upward curve right now. It’s just advancing so quickly and we’re all struggling to keep up with it and figure out a way to not just regulate it, but to even put it in context.”

While many people are comfortable using algorithms to predict which shows they might like or to create unsettling art with terrible hands, the idea of these algorithms having the same level of intelligence as a flesh-and-blood human is still pretty scary. Frankenstein’s monster of the 21st century is both inhuman and too human, touched by the hands that created it. Our robotic nightmare will be our own creation, and films from “Virtuosity” to “M3GAN” have been warning us not to be so bold as we press onward in the name of science. Let’s let Skynet sleep for a little while longer. 

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