Hollywood, like all art, has always been a reflection of our culture, a brief snapshot of the things we are all discussing. Of course, it takes time to make movies, so when a large cultural occurrence takes place, the timer starts then for the eventual movie to come out. Writers have to start writing, producers have to start searching, directors have to start considering… and so on and so forth until a couple of years later, we’ve got the film. How about technology? It’s not necessarily an event, but more of a gradual shift… so how does the silver screen tackle technology? Let’s consider a few things…
Although it’s difficult to say exactly when the internet became a widespread bit of technology, I would say that it has been pretty available for almost two decades, with the last decade making it a truly ubiquitous part of our lives. It’s in everything, but has it made its way to movies? Yes and no I would argue.
While we are all familiar with the internet, we all use it differently, and since art is so based in relatability, the ever-changing landscape of online consumption has made it rather difficult to tackle the internet as a whole in movies. We’ve certainly seen films about certain pieces of the internet, like movies about social media (Social Network), and certain websites, however the internet as a whole has not been heavily explored as a concept in film. Usually, the internet almost plays a character in the film, or a vehicle to drive the plot, rather than an exploratory take on some new and interesting ways that the internet could be entangled in our lives.
The other big part of the internet is that it all takes place on a screen. There are no physical representations of the internet other than objects that use it. When it comes to film, the internet is just plain hard to put on camera. Shots of people sitting in dimly lit rooms eliminated only by a computer screen become boring after the first couple of films that used it. We’ve all seen the hacker sitting and breaking into army databases, and so on and so forth, but what are we really watching? Just a person sitting at a desk… that’s not very exciting for the film. I suppose it could be slightly more exciting if they started talking about WiFi Hotspots like this and showing adventure films with people using such hotspots in dangerous environments, but I think watching someone struggle with connectivity would also severely dampen a film plot.
Of course, the internet is not a topic that is foreign to cinema, I would argue that it hasn’t quite been embraced yet. We don’t quite know how to explore the depths of the web on camera quite yet, and instead, we are focusing heavily on other technology that uses the internet to focus the story around. Just like in a Western, the location is just as importanwilllt as the characters, I look forward to a time where this can be the case in the film.
I waited until the end of this article to mention Wreck It Ralph Breaks The Internet because of course it does do a lot of what I am mentioning previously, but it only came out a couple years ago after decades of the internet, and it’s animated. Of course diving into circuit boards is a fun animated ride, but I’m not sure how we would accomplish this with live action.
I hope to one day see the internet become a bigger player in film. For us to discover a new way to tackle the subject rather than just assume it’s existence and focus on the smallest part. Who knows how many years it will take, but we are already getting close to a point where internet outages feel a lot like power outages, where we are so indoctrinated into our usage of the world wide web, that when it’s gone… we just sit on the couch and look at nothing, waiting for it’s return. Hey, maybe that’s a plotline… any filmmakers out there? You can use it!