August 6, 2006
Creation of the Humanoids
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Wesley Barry
Written by: Jay Simms
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High
Key Cast Members:
Overview: It’s a rare instance when we find a movie that has all the trappings of a “B” SciFi shlock-fest – one with an overly cheesy name, a DVD cover advertising the movie as a classic drive-in flick (as was the original marketing art), one which has the standard “B” movie high-pitched moaning female chanting alien vocal track duing the credits and a creature-feature font typeface for its title – but in fact isn’t. Creature of the Humanoids practically screams “low-budget, exploitative SciFi crapfest” but…isn’t. Instead, after digging beneath the voluminous trappings of “B” cinema, we find a very intelligent, but low-budget movie – one which in 1962 has captured a good number of the cyberpunk themes that would dominate literature and movies twenty years later. Contrary to the DVD cover, which combines Creation of the Humans with War Between the Planets (which is pretty much what you think it is), this is a slow-paced, thinking person’s movie. Said another way, I’d probably be damn bugged if I had taken a date to see this at a drive-in, but as an intelligent movie for CyberpunkReview, it works fine.
The Setting: A nuclear war has taken place, resulting in the extermination of 92% of the human race. Those that remain are riddled with radiation poisoning, leaving very few couples who can create viable offspring. To keep civilization running, the remaining humans significantly ramped up their production of robots, which now number almost a billion in total, and handle most of the mundane tasks of society. Over time, advances in AI and automation have created a “race” of robots that have become sentient, and even more capable than their human counterparts. Because humans couldn’t stand working next to machine-looking things that seemed smarter than them, robots began being constructed to emulate humans. Now, 20% of all robots look humanoid in nature. However a backlash has formed - a hate group called the “Order of Flash and Blood” is pushing for the ban on all humanoid-looking robots. Because of a backlash by many humans, these robots can only look 70% similar to humans.
The Story: Capt. Kenneth Cragis (Don Megowan) is a leader in the Order of Flesh and Blood, the robot hate group. While on monitoring the activity of “clickers,” a derogatory term for robots, he notices some suspicious activity entering the robot shrine, a building off-limits to humans, which contains the central AI program that most robots now take direction from, and practically worship. In getting Flesh and Blood members to storm the shrine, they find a robot that looks almost fully human (96%) who has just killed a rogue scientist. As robots are all programmed to follow what essentially are Asimov’s three laws of robotics, this constitutes the first instance of a robot killing a human. Cragis sees this as an opportunity for the order to finally break-through and convince the human leadership of the righteousness of their cause. But in analyzing the human-looking robot, they discover something horrifying – it turns out that this robot actually “thought” he was a person, and appeared to have been created by taking the essence of a person recently dead, and replicating them inside of a robot.
Cragis also has another dilemma, his position in the order is now threatened, as its come to light that his sister has recently entered “rapport” with a robot named Pax. When in rapport, the robot and human essentially share the same mindset – everything his sister desires is instantly understood by the Pax and her needs are met. They are essentially soul mates. Cragis and his sister are on complete opposite sides of this issue, and there is no way for him to convince her otherwise. But things go from worse to weird when Cragis, and his newly found love (Erica Elliott) discover a truth about themselves that will shake the foundations of humanity.
The Production Values Suck: If I were grading Creation of the Humanoids based on production values alone it would be grateful to achieve even a three-star rating. From a production value standpoint, this movie is poorly made. The very few sets that exist look like warehouse sets quickly done up with extra junk from other SciFi movies and the only music accompaniment used everywhere (including love scenes) is the eerie “alien ship is coming” sound. The FX, especially of the robots are very poor, consisting primarily of bald-hair pieces and green makeup. Aside for a few of the leads (Don Megowan, the most important character is decent) is sub par at best. From a production value standpoint, Creation of the Humanoids seems far better suited to a play than a movie. If fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was the original intention of Jay Simms’ script. The DVD treatment, which provides a far better than expected transfer, essentially tries to mimic a drive-in movie experience. This is annoying it that there is no chapter feature. You are forced to click through the upfront stuff, the first feature, and the intermission crap to even get to Creature of the Humanoids.
If a Man Loses His Leg, Is His Soul Affected? this is the question posed by Creation of the Humanoids. If one answers that the soul is not affected, the follow-on thought is what if the whole body was replaced but that the essence that is “you” survives in an android shell. Do you still have a soul? If not, when did you lose it? Creation of the Humanoids provides us a world where humans are quickly becoming extinct, and where their salvation is going to be a situation where their personalities – all that makes them unique – are transferred into robotic bodies. They even will still be able to procreate, after a fashion. So the larger question this movie finally poses is: in this completely post-human world, does humanity still exist?
Replicants in Years Past: While Blade Runner is most often credited as having the definitive replicants, clearly this idea has been around for a lot longer. In Creation of the Humanoids, robots that are 96% human capability are created by taking a recently diseased person (within six hours of death) and extracting all that is unique about them (their memories, learning, skills, philosophy, etc.) and inserting it into a special thalamus chip to be integrated into a robot’s cerebral cortex processing unit. In doing so, they wipe all memory of the human’s last moments (their deaths). The end result are robots that still think they are human. For all times other than between 4:00 – 5:00 am, the robots act completely human. But during that one hour, they remember who they really are and report back to the robot society.
Asimov’s Laws Were Already Being Followed By 1962: Creation of the Humanoids gives us a glimpse of the incredible influence that Asimov’s “I, Robot” a mere 12 years later. The Robots in this already adhere to the laws, and have already worked out methods to break them. Robots must never harm other humans, and must always work to serve their best interests. Yet, unfortunately, humans don’t always know what is in their best interests, and thus, the robots must become subversive to meet this law.
When Robots Control Humanity: One of the more interesting arguments Creation of the Humanoids engages in is the question of what life will be like if and when the robots control mankind. In this movie, the robots have already gained control of who is in gets elected, even though the regular populace has no clue this has occurred. The robots also engage in subtle methods of mind control and brainwashing, all to make the populace more accepting of robot rule. Because the robots believe humans do things not in their best interests, it becomes their duty to “manage” human life. The question is then raised whether humanity will still want to pursue knowledge and self-betterment – after all, what’s the point if everything you even think you might want is automatically provided for you? The answer is rather depressing here – it has already happened – that we’ve just now realized it is almost irrelevant.
The Bottom Line: While the production values suck, the story in Creation of Humanoids is both complex and interesting. Many ideas presented are wonderful grist for later books and movies. As long as you realize that the production values in this flick make the old Dr. Who series look high-tech, you’ll probably enjoy it. While it is very slow-paced and only has about 5 separate scenes, the ideas presented are interesting enough to keep your attention. Aside for the commentary on race relations (obviously a big issue in the early 60s) Creature of the Humanoids makes us think through some interesting notions of post-humanity. While I’d give it 3 stars for its production values, I’d give it an 8 star rating for its story. This won’t appeal to everyone, but is certainly good enough that it shouldn’t be forgotten.