Cool Movie Robots, Part 1

by Tiffany

Cool Movie Robots


"Is your robot housebroken, or is he going to leave batteries all over the floor?"

You can find robots in all kinds of movies - whether they're science fiction like Star Wars or animated cartoons for kids, like Wall-E, or just completely strange ones like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
There must be thousands of different kinds of robots in film history!

You can find robots in all kinds of movies - whether they're science fiction like Star Wars or animated cartoons for kids, like Wall-E, or just completely strange ones like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
There must be thousands of different kinds of robots in film history!

What's the difference between a robot, an android and a cyborg?

A robot is really any programmed device that can act automatically. An android (also known as a humanoid), is a robot that looks like a man. It has human features and qualities. A cyborg is also known as a bionic man or woman. These cool guys are human, but they have special body parts which are electronic or mechanical. These parts help them fulfill whatever mission they need to accomplish. One example of a bionic man is Inspector Gadget.


What makes an awesome robot?

Plausibility: how likely is it that such a device could be built using today's technology? I guess this could go either way - the more realistically one could build it, the cooler it would seem because it relates to reality. But the less realistic it is, the better - just because the idea is so totally out of this world, its implausibility is that much better.


The cool factor: How cool is the robot? It is well-designed and sleek? It is all chrome-like and shiny? How good-looking is this robot? I guess humans are superficial even when it comes down to robots.


Dangerousness: Apparently dangerousness is a word, albeit a very silly-sounding one. We must not only take into consideration the kind of built-in weaponry does this robot has, but also how eager they are to use it to their advantage. God didn't insert laser beams in your robot's artificial eye sockets for nothing.


Comedic Relief: Robots need to add some sort of entertainment value to the movie, and this usually comes in the form of humour. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy robot, Marvin the Paranoid Android, is a severely depressed and bored robot. This in itself is a hilarious concept just because a robot usually doesn't have any feelings in the first place because he's not human. What a conundrum…

A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.
- Philip K. Dick


The first robot in film history: "Fake Maria" from Metropolis, 1927
One of the earliest robots, anyway. This movie was about an elite upper class controlling poor workers who ran tech machines. A mad scientist named Rotwang builds an evil version of a sweet union leader named Maria, whom he kidnaps. "Fake Maria" is evil, seductive and sadistic. Oh, and it was a silent film, too.

The Wizard of Oz: The Tin-Man
The Tin Woodsman is a silver-faced robot with a funnel cap on top. He joins Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road. The Tin Man's deepest wish is to have a heart. He constantly needs to be oiled because his joints become immobile from moisture.

Fembots

Fembots are female robots, usually designed in a very feminine manner. You've probably heard of Fembots from the Austin Powers films, but they date back to a 1964 parody of James Bond's Goldfinger - a film with Vincent Price titled Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machines. In this old movie, these Fembots were programmed to find billionaire bachelors and charm their way into marriage and fortune.


HAL 9000

HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a super-computer that maintained the electronic system of the Discovery spaceship
Stanley Kubrick's famous film was about a spaceship that travelled to Jupiter. This spaceship was controlled by HAL, which stands for Heuristically programmed Algorithmic Computer. Actually, HAL wasn't really a robot - but he did sound robotic and had human-like qualities:

  • capable of speech and language recognition through lip-reading
  • he played chess

  • a glowing, watchful red eye

  • a pleasant, soft voice much like a television announcer

Eventually, HAL becomes a bit nasty and the astronauts have to turn him off. As his mind short-circuits and starts turning off, he beings to sing the children's song "Daisy".




"There, there, Godzilla."

MechaGodzilla: because good old-fashioned Godzilla just wasn't good enough
For the 20th anniversary of Godzilla, MechaGozilla was created. He was, essentially, a gigantic dinosaur-shaped Terminator. He was created by ape-like aliens and first had fake rubbery Godzilla skin until it was burned off at an oil refinery during a battle with the ACTUAL Godzilla. Once this fake skin burned off, it revealed the true MechaGodzilla, with a shiny space titanium form, red laser eyes, fire breath, a whiplash tail and the ability to create an electronic force by rapidly spinning its head.
MechaGodzilla's first appearance was in the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

The Stepford Wives: apparently I can be perfect!
A bit of a departure from the usual robots you see in science fiction films, these female robots came from a 1972 novel. They were designed to be loving, obedient and subserviant to their husbands. These were android/robotic replicas which were ideal versions of the suburban housewife created by their husbands. In the 1975 film, the robot wives take over. In the 2004 film, though, the wives are not robots but cyborgs - human which were put under the control of microchips. The Stepford Wives become normal once more after realizing this.


R2D2 and C-3PO

R2D2 is an Astromech droid, a type of robot mechanic. He kinda looks like a vacuum, but if any consolation, a very endearing vacuum. He's pretty short, but we all know that size doesn't matter. He has all sorts of tools up his robotic sleeves. His most important quality is his bravery. He is only 1 of 4 characters to be in all the Star Wars series, along with his companion C-3PO (the gold dude).

C-3P0 is "fluent in six million forms of communication". While R2D2 is a, C-3P0 is a Protocol droid. This means his main function is to assist with etiquette, customs, and translation so that different cultures in the Star Wars galaxy can run smoothly together.



C-3P0 was created by a young Anakin Skywalker from discarded scrap metal. He's talkative, chatty and fussy. He takes on the silhouette of a human man. He's a big worrywart and often fretful and anxious, although he maintains a cheery attitude. R2-D2, on the other hand, has motorized roller-skates and is barrel-shaped. He is always calm even when danger is present. His tools included a scanner for sensing danger, a welder and a buzz saw.


The Terminator
Played by The Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, The Terminator is a cyborg whose main role is robotic assassin and soldier. His goal is to exterminate human resistance. He can crash through walls, survive various forms of weaponry assault and survive explosions to some extent. But don't be fooled by The Terminator's human-like exterior - underneath his "skin" is a robot skeleton!

Check out Part 2 of Cool Movie Robots!

Images Credit: 56, Markybon, Outrapolitica, Filmsite, Club des monstres, gryllus

3 Comments
    lucyinthesky
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    TiffanyThu, 11 Dec 2008 00:34:15 -0000

    @oLahav - Thanks Oren. I guess calling Tin Man a robot is a bit far. According to my sources, he's a "former human". He used to be an ordinary guy, but an enchanted axe chopped off his limbs off one by one. Each time he lost one, he would place it with a tin prosthetic. And considering he doesn't have a heart, I guess we can't call him human…?

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    oLahav
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    Oren LahavThu, 11 Dec 2008 15:35:28 -0000

    I don't know about the heart point… I know of some people without one (metaphorically speaking).

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    oLahav
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    Oren LahavWed, 10 Dec 2008 16:21:29 -0000

    Is the tin man really a robot? I thought he was a man in a really weird costume…

    MechaGodzilla rules by the way!

    Awesome lesson.

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    chandra_avinash
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    Avinash ChandraMon, 08 Dec 2008 20:00:43 -0000

    cute lesson :)

    I like r2d2

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