Exploring the Intersection of Cyber, AI, and Cinema: Insights from Megalopolis 

 May 23, 2024

By  Jane Frankland

Last week I got to participate in one of the most fun (and glamorous) events I’ve ever had in cyber – the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Curtesy of Mastercard and the Mastercard Cyber and Intelligence team, myself and 4 other leaders in cybersecurity were invited to Cannes to walk the red carpet, and watch a premier.

It was Francis Ford Coppola’s $120m self-funded dystopian epic, Megalopolis!

Now if there’s one name synonymous with pushing the boundaries of cinema, it’s 85-year old Francis Ford Coppola. Known for his masterpieces like The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, Coppola has a long-standing tradition of blending bold storytelling with groundbreaking visual artistry.

His latest venture, Megalopolis, is no exception. With its ambitious scope and eclectic mix of themes and styles, the film, which was 45-years in the making, invites viewers into a world teetering on the edge of genius and confusion. But as audiences grapple with its messy plot and multifaceted narrative, one question remains: Is Megalopolis a risky endeavour, or is it a stroke of genius? And is there a message we can pull from it that applies to us in cybersecurity?

These are questions I’ll be exploring in this blog.

The Ambitious Project

Megalopolis is undoubtedly one of Coppola’s most audacious projects to date. The film dives headfirst into a labyrinth of ideas, boldly attempting to explore the very essence of humanity and our future. However, it’s this ambition that also makes the film a potential minefield and disaster. The tangled plot weaves through a multitude of themes, from a declining empire set in modern America (New York city) called New Rome, Shakespearean quotes and beat poetry to Latin aphorisms, family feuds, murders, political corruption, and psychedelic experiences. The risk here is evident: in reaching for the stars, does Coppola risk losing his audience in the process?

Who Are the Main Characters in Megalopolis?

In Megalopolis, Coppola assembles an ensemble cast that brings to life an array of dynamic and complex characters. At the heart of the story is Cesar Catalina, (Adam Driver,) a visionary architect whose radical ideas aim to reshape the future of urban living. Opposite him stands Mayor Franklyn Cicero, (Giancarlo Esposito), the arch-conservative mayor whose primary concern is maintaining traditional values and the existing order.

Other notable characters include Julia Cicero, Franklyn’s daughter (Nathalie Emmanuel), Cesar’s closest confidante who becomes embroiled in the ideological battle between progress and preservation, and her father, Wow Platinum, a TV presenter specialising in financial news (Aubrey Plaza), Clodio Pulcher, Cesar’s jealous cousin (Shia LaBoef), Cesar’s wealthy uncle and head of Crassus National Bank (Jon Voight), and Fundi Romanine, Cesar’s driver and assistant (Laurence Fishburne).

Together, these characters navigate a world fraught with ideological conflicts, personal struggles, and the ever-looming question of what the future holds for humanity. Their interactions and confrontations provide the emotional and intellectual core of Coppola’s ambitious narrative, making Megalopolis a compelling study of modern society.

A Symphony of Themes

Unlike traditional narratives, Megalopolis operates almost like a symphony, with different themes playing out as separate yet interconnected movements. On paper, this sounds compelling. However, the execution is where opinions may differ. The film’s use of Shakespeare quotes, for instance, lends a timeless, poetic quality but can also come off as pretentious and disjointed. The inclusion of beat poetry and Latin adds layers of intellectualism and historical depth, yet it risks alienating viewers who may find these elements inaccessible or overly complex.

Adding to this complexity is the film’s exploration of psychedelic drugs and their impact on perception. This element introduces a surreal, almost dreamlike quality to the story, aligning with Coppola’s vision of a future that is as unpredictable as it is fascinating. Yet, the blend of psychedelic sequences with speeches about the future of humanity and the potential for utopia borders on overwhelming and sheer madness. These grandiose themes, while enlightening, can also feel like a mishmash of high-minded ideals desperately seeking cohesion.

The Future of Humanity and Utopia

One of the most compelling aspects of Megalopolis is its fearless engagement with the future. Through a series of impassioned speeches, the film delves into the possibilities of utopia and the existential risks posed by advancing technology. Coppola questions whether humanity should strive for a futuristic utopia or maintain the status quo to avoid unforeseen consequences. This debate is not only timely but also deeply philosophical, forcing viewers to confront their own beliefs about progress and preservation.

Additionally, the film’s preoccupation with stopping and controlling time adds another layer of intrigue. Time, as portrayed in Megalopolis, is both a tool and a battleground. The struggle to manipulate it speaks to our deepest desires for control and immortality, yet it also underscores the inevitable chaos that such attempts can unleash. It’s a powerful metaphor that resonates with the core of human experience, but its abstract nature can be utterly challenging to unpack.

Risky Endeavour or Stroke of Genius?

In reflecting on Megalopolis, which has taken me days, it’s clear that Coppola has created a film that defies easy categorisation. Its messy plot and plethora of themes might be seen as a risky endeavour, a cinematic experiment that could easily alienate its audience. However, it’s also possible to view these very elements as strokes of genius. By refusing to conform to traditional storytelling norms, Coppola challenges viewers to think differently, to engage with art on a deeper, more cerebral level.

For some, Megalopolis will be an impenetrable maze, an overambitious project that tries to do too much and ends up doing too little. For others, it will be a masterful exploration of the human condition, a film that dares to ask big questions and isn’t afraid of complex answers. Perhaps the true genius of Megalopolis lies in its ability to inspire such divergent opinions—forcing each viewer to confront their own understanding of what cinema can and should be, and inviting discussion and debate. My group were left speechless straight after but then we couldn’t stop talking about it!

How This Relates to Cybersecurity?

The themes explored in Megalopolis bear relevance to recent discussions on where technology is headed, and our responsibilities. As the film delves into building the world of tomorrow, the future of humanity, and the potential for utopia, it touches upon the inherent risks and rewards of technological advancements. In cybersecurity, the relentless pursuit of innovation carries with it the dual edged sword of progress and vulnerability. Just as the film questions whether humanity should strive for utopia or opt for caution, cybersecurity professionals constantly weigh the promise of new technologies against the potential threats they pose. However, unlike Cesar’s ability in the film to stop time, we cannot.

Similarly, the exploration of new tech in Megalopolis reflects current debates on the role of artificial intelligence in shaping our future. The film’s portrayal of a society grappling with the consequences of technological control resonates with the ethical and practical challenges faced by AI researchers today. As AI systems become increasingly sophisticated, issues such as privacy, security, and ethical use become paramount. The abstract themes of time manipulation and control in the film serve as metaphors for the tangible concerns surrounding AI governance and its impact on human autonomy.

In essence, Megalopolis is not just a narrative of human ambition and existential risk, but also a mirror reflecting the pressing concerns of our age, the global powers, particularly in the realms of cybersecurity and AI. By engaging with these themes, Coppola’s work incites a broader conversation on how we navigate the delicate balance between technological aspiration and the safeguarding of our shared future.

To End

Ultimately, the significance of Megalopolis in the cinematic world will depend on individual perspectives. Is it a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition – the shape of things to come that are being determined today by the interests that are vying for control or a visionary masterpiece that redefines the boundaries of film? Only time—and the collective verdict of its audience—will tell. As for now, Coppola’s latest work stands as a testament to the ever-evolving nature of art and the enduring power of storytelling.

I encourage you to experience Megalopolis and form your own opinion. Regardless of where you stand, there’s no denying that Coppola’s daring vision continues to push the envelope and ignite conversations about the future of cinema.

Finally, as I reach the end of this discussion on Megalopolis, please remember that every ending is also a new beginning. The film may have left me and many others with more questions than answers, but it’s also opened up avenues for further exploration and contemplation.

So let’s not view this as an endpoint, but rather the start of a journey towards understanding and shaping our future. Just as Coppola has challenged us to think differently about time, control, progress and even chaos, let’s continue to challenge ourselves in cyber and other industries outside of it.

Now I Want to Hear From You…

Drop me an email or message on LinkedIn and tell me , what are your thoughts on Megalopolis and its exploration of the future and utopia? How do you see the themes in the film relating to our current discussions on technology and cybersecurity?

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Jane frankland


Jane Frankland is a cybersecurity market influencer, award-winning entrepreneur, consultant and speaker. She is the Founder of KnewStart and the IN Security Movement. Having held executive positions within her own companies and several large PLCs, she now provides agile, forward thinking organisations with strategic business solutions. Jane works with leaders of all levels and supports women in male dominated industries like cybersecurity and tech. Her book, IN Security: Why a failure to attract and retain women in cybersecurity is making us all less safe' is a best-seller.


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