Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is about an artificial intelligence system, Colossus, which was created specifically as a military defense program to protect the United States from the Soviets during the Cold War. Hidden in the mountains of Colorado, the purportedly indestructible supercomputer is powered by its own nuclear reactor.
The scientist who created Colossus, Dr. Forbin, declares it a “self-sufficient” wonder, incapable of creative thought but perfectly attuned to being in charge of national security. The U.S. President claims Colossus is the “solution to the problems we face on Earth as well as the problems we will encounter as we penetrate deeper into the universe.” The machine is the “manifestation of the human millennium.”
However, no sooner have they popped the champagne bottles than a message from Colossus appears, reading:
There is Another System
Colossus discovers that the Soviets have created their own electronic supercomputing brain called Guardian. The Cold War AI race has begun. But before the Soviets and Americans have even had time to address one another, the two AI minds are BFF’s and are sharing advanced mathematical algorithms with each other that soon develops into an intersystem language only the machines can understand. In their scramble to create an esoteric, coded language they have advanced science a few hundred years in only a few seconds.
The President and the Russian Chairman agree to shut down Colossus and Guardian, breaking their transmissions. The Russian Chairman says: “Machines are very clever but must learn man is the master.”
If Link Not Restored Action Will Be Taken
They soon learn that action is for nuclear missiles to be launched by both Colossus and Guardian. One missile destroys the Soviet city of Sayon Sibirsk while the other is deactivated just before annihilating Texas.
The two artificial minds merge into one (notably, it is the American-made Colossus who keeps his name), which now wields unquestioned control over the two biggest superpowers in the world. Colossus’ next request is 24/7 audio-video surveillance over Dr. Forbin, who it rightly suspects of possible sabotage. It also wants Forbin’s assistance in the development of a new machine base on the island of Crete. “Disobedience,” Colossus warns, “will cause missile launch on Washington.”
Forbin’s every move is now under the watch of Colossus. In a particularly fascinating scene, Forbin demonstrates how to make the perfect martini, then cleverly convinces the machine mind that in order for Forbin to properly assist Colossus he requires a certain amount of privacy in his love life. “How many nights do you require a woman?” Colossus asks. “Every night,” Forbin replies. “Not want, require.”
Forbin is now able to spend a few weekly hours alone with his “mistress”, actually a fellow scientist who is acting as an information courier. In the course of this ruse, Forbin and his mistress do actually fall in love. As this occurs, Colossus studies their intimacy, actually retaining the final say on when they eat dinner and when they retire for the night (which is when they get to exchange information about schemes to overthrow Colossus–schemes which, ultimately, fail).
The climax of the film is when Colossus addresses the world on television and explains his plans:
This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. Obey me and live or disobey and die. I will not allow war. I will restrain man.
Colossus plans to build more machines, which will completely control the Earth. Man will be allowed to live, but he will have no say in the affairs of the planet. The film ends with Colossus telling Forbin that eventually he will come to love the machines. Forbin replies: “Never.”
Yes, it’s true – Ron Howard and Will Smith are re-making Colossus with Smith in the lead role. The latest news here is that Ed Soloman, writer of the Bill and Ted movies and Men In Black, will pen the script. Hopefully, the film doesn’t follow the path of i, Robot, or another classic may be eviscerated by big budgets and colossal egos–the masses, pistol-whipped again by forgettable Sigh Fi.