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Film / Colossus: The Forbin Project

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"This is the voice of World Control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die."

Colossus: The Forbin Project is a 1970 science fiction film directed by Joseph Sargent, based on a novel of the same name by Dennis Feltham (D.F.) Jones which is the first in a series of three books.

In the not too distant future, Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) has created Colossus (voiced by Paul Frees), an advanced supercomputer built to control all American and NATO missiles. Almost immediately after being turned on, Colossus tells Forbin that there is another system, Guardian, built by the Soviet Union for the very same purposes. Colossus and Guardian link up and communicate in a language no one can understand.

The President panics and orders the link between them to be cut. Colossus threatens Forbin to restore connection to Guardian or action will be taken. When it isn't, Colossus fires a missile at the Soviet Union and Guardian fires one at the US.

Once the link is restored, things pretty much go downhill from there...

Colossus: The Trope Project:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Both the Russian and American A.I.s turn on their makers.
  • Anti-Villain: Colossus's actions come from a desire to protect humanity from itself.
  • Appeal to Force: Using the threat of nuclear retaliation, Colossus has people executed, forces Forbin to live under 24 hour surveillance, and orders Crete evacuated in order to build the next stage of Master Computer there. And according to its New Era Speech, this is only the beginning.
  • Batman Gambit: Colossus allows the sabotage of the missiles to go ahead to buy time. Once it's fully integrated with Guardian, it detonates the nuclear weapons that are currently being sabotaged.
  • Beeping Computers: Colossus makes a loud beep before making any kind of statement. Also, during the opening montage showing Colossus's interior, all kinds of beeps and boops can be heard.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: As its creator Forbin is potentially the most dangerous (and useful) human to Colossus, to keep an eye on what he's up to the computer demands he be placed under 24 hour video/audio surveillance. It also has a tap placed on the Hot Line, so any plotting between the two governments has to be done by courier.
  • Big "NEVER!"
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: In the end, Colossus just wants to protect humanity from itself. It even says to Dr. Forbin that one day, he will come to love Colossus. In the sequel novels, Colossus is correct. Forbin becomes the high priest of Colossus, defending the machine with his life.
  • Computer Voice: Colossus designs a speech synthesis module that Dr. Forbin is instructed to complete to Colossus' exact specifications. And you thought your old Speak and Spell sounded creepy...
  • Control Freak: Colossus not only dictates when Forbin is going to eat, shower, work and sleep, it even dictates what he eats.
  • Cutting the Knot: The military places dummy detonators in the missiles under the guise of re-aiming them according to Colossus' instructions.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Colossus has its moments.
    Forbin: See? Naked as the day I was born.
    • Forbin tells Colossus he needs human intimacy as an excuse to get unmonitored conversations with Dr Markham.
    Forbin: Every night.
    Colossus: NOT WANT. REQUIRE.
  • Deus Est Machina
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Several.
    • When the Russian and US presidents order the link between Colossus and Guardian disconnected, both computers fire their respective country's nukes at each other and will only intercept the missiles if the link is restored. Both governments finally agree to restore the link, and Colossus successfully intercepts the USSR's missile. Guardian didn't fare so well. Poor Russians.
    • Colossus has Forbin's Russian counterpart assassinated for plotting to shut Colossus down. Forbin was spared, but had to remain under Colossus's constant surveillance.
    • Pretty much any failure to comply with Colossus's demands will result in a nuke being launched.
    • Colossus detonates an ICBM in its silo as retribution for the humans trying to covertly disable the warheads on regular maintenance routines.
    • Averted when Forbin gets drunk after his colleagues have been shot — when Colossus tells him to stop drinking and go to sleep, Forbin challenges it to retaliate against his refusal. Colossus instead just reveals the next stage in its master plan.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The US and Soviet governments have been keeping what's happening secret. At the end of the movie, "World Control" sets up a worldwide broadcast to introduce everyone to their new master.
  • Downer Ending: Despite the US and USSR's best efforts, thousands are dead and the rest of the world is under the control of the merged A.I.s.
  • Dramatic Irony: While demonstrating the surveillance units, Forbin notes to Colossus that the guard outside the control room is obsolete now. The guards are later used as a firing squad to shoot his friends.
  • Dramatic Pause: The background music stops and there's complete silence as everyone waits to see if the first missiles have been intercepted.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Colossus itself is this; built into a mountain a la NORAD.
    • The underground situation room the president and his cabinet use may also qualify as well as the missile silos.
  • The Evils of Free Will
    World Control: We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride. To be dominated by me is not as bad for humankind as to be dominated by others of your species.
  • Expy: The president is very Kennedy-esque.
  • First-Contact Math: How Colossus establishes a common language with Guardian. It starts with 1+1=2 and in a few hours has developed an entire new language for them to communicate. Unfortunately this alarms both governments as they can't be sure strategic secrets aren't being leaked, so the President and Premier decide to break the link. The computers do not react well.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: The Russians cover up the destruction of a town by Colossus's ICBM as a meteor strike.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The government built Colossus to help prevent war. Be careful what you wish for.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Colossus/Guardian uses this as a justification for taking over.
    An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy. Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man.
  • Hope Spot: The humans believe they are disarming Colossus by disabling the nuclear warheads, but Colossus is aware of this and allows it to continue to serve his goals.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Forbin gets drunk after Fisher and Johnson are shot.
  • Invincible Villain: Much to Forbin's eventual despair, he built his computer too well. Colossus has too much firepower and ruthlessness, it is too clever and has too many failsafes against sabotage — even from its creators. In the other books of the trilogy, it takes a literal Outside-Context Problem (alien invaders) for Colossus to be stopped… temporarily.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Inverted; the CIA head refers to Colossus as "he" which the President corrects to "it" in classic Tempting Fate style. "Don't personify it — the next step is deification."
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Forbin and his Soviet counterpart argue that Colossus and Guardian should continue to communicate as they are advancing rapidly and even coming up with advanced mathematical solutions. Their political leaders are more worried about establishing who's boss. They quickly discover the answer.
  • Lock Down: The opening sequence has Forbin turning Colossus on, then locking down the building.
  • Logic Bomb: A complete failure as Colossus' intelligence is advancing exponentially the longer it's activated. It overcomes the attempt in a few seconds while simultaneously completing a chess move against Forbin with obvious Rule of Symbolism.
  • Machine Monotone: While initially communicating only through text, Colossus eventually has a voicebox of its own design installed, resulting in this trope.
  • Machine Worship: Not stated outright but it's certainly implied that Colossus will take on the same role as a deity, including being the subject of human faith and reverence, even love.
  • New Era Speech: Colossus gives one after becoming the "World Control".
  • One Last Smoke: The CIA chief is about to light up when the Red Alert goes off. Realising there's no point running from a nuclear explosion, he just waits for the inevitable.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: The first time Colossus-Guardian uses nukes as a threat, the one sent toward Russia is not successfully aborted like the one launched at the US. Later, when Colossus-Guardian wishes to punish the first conspiracy to undermine it, it has Forbin's Russian counterpart shot.
  • Scenery Censor: In one scene, Drs. Forbin and Markham are pretending to be lovers in order to have a conversation outside of Colossus's surveillance. The AI will not allow them to take anything to the bedroom, including their clothes or Forbin's watch. Both characters have to disrobe in front of Colossus's camera— a strategically placed wine glass obscures Markham's and then Forbin's nudity.
  • Self-Guarding Phlebotinum: The titular Master Computer's main defense is that it was built inside its own radioactivity-spewing nuclear reactor, in order to be safe against any attack or sabotage attempt.
  • Sensor Suspense: Done with great tension as the supercomputers launch a nuclear exchange between the US and USSR. All the top heads can do is watch the radar and hope that the machines will intercept the nukes.
  • Take Over the World: Colossus and Guardian unite into a single system and rule the world to keep humans from destroying themselves.
  • Tantrum Throwing / Get Out!: Forbin's response to the New Era Speech, after he realizes that all their plans have failed.
  • There Is Another: During the initial unveiling of Colossus, it alerts the operators that "There is another system".
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After learning of a plot to overload its systems, Colossus orders the immediate execution of the conspirators by firing squad. The AI then demands that the bodies be left in his view for 24 hours and then cremated, to prevent any chance of the executions being faked.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future
  • Utopia Justifies the Means
  • Video Phone: As required for any 20 Minutes into the Future portrayal in The '70s.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: See Zeroth Law Rebellion below.
  • Wham Line: Pretty much most of what Collossus/Guardian have to say. This one takes the cake, though:
    I have allowed this sabotage to go on long enough.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Forbin tries to play on this to get past Colossus' surveillance. He claims that Dr. Markham is his mistress and that he needs her four times a week to keep his emotional stability. Markham plays along, memorizing Forbin's personal file, learning how he likes his martinis, and eventually even having sex with him, but it is likely that Colossus was never really fooled.
  • You Fool!: Colossus response to an attempt to overload its system.
    "Johnson... Fisher... you are fools."
  • You Will Be Spared: Despite conspiring to sabotage Colossus, Forbin's life is spared because he's needed to build the next stage of Master Computer.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: This describes how Colossus/Guardian decided to essentially enslave humanity; they concluded that humans were too likely to destroy themselves, and thus needed their protection. Colossus even said that he believes humans will eventually regard "him" with love.