Lights, Camera, Action Bots
Give that robot an Academy Award! Robots can be movie stars, too! Or can they? In movies, bots have appeared for decades as the stars of the screen. In 1927, one of the most iconic robots ever to appear on film appeared in Metropolis. That bot’s name was a mouthful, Maschinenmensch, but its sleek appearance and function made it the role model of movie robots then and now.
In the 1950s, science fiction flicks were all the rage. In 1958, a robot named Robby showed up in the classic Forbidden Planet. Robby was clunky and awkward, but he was one of the first robot main characters with a voice, personality, and attitude. The movie’s visual effects team was nominated for an Oscar, but Robby was a runner-up.
Ten years later, in 1968, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, won a Visual Effects Academy Award for his robot. 2001: A Space Odyssey, starred HAL 9000, which was the ship’s almost-human computer/robot system.
Bots in movies were often more than boxes of tin. They had feelings and purpose. 20th-century classics like Robo-Cop (about a robot who was also a police officer) and Terminator (about an assassin robot from the future) also celebrated robots as weapons. These robots were not just standing around looking cool. They were action bots! In many cases, they turned out to be the villains. These were bots who made up their own rules.
Animated bots took over in movies in the 21st century. One animated robot hero who came to life in 1999 was the title character in Iron Giant. This mega-robot was a weapon and a protector, large and lurking but still best pals with a little kid who liked horror movies. The Iron Giant, raised during the Cold War, turns out to be a very gentle bot at heart.
In 2005, the animated funny flick Robots came out and starred a full cast of animated bots based in a place called (wait for it…) Robot City. But one of the most beloved animated, robot-friendly flicks is Wall-E, a movie that won all the awards when it was released.
The two leads of Wall-E are two of the coolest animated movie robots ever. Wall-E is a dedicated worker bot on 29th century Earth, a trash-covered mess of a planet. After 700 years working there, Wall-E meets EVE, a beautiful and sleek white robot whose job is to locate any plants and sustain life. (EVE stands for Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator.) What’s fun about this bot: Wall-E is programmed to do a certain task, but somewhere along the way, he develops a personality. After watching a romantic movie on an abandoned video recorder that he finds in the trash, Wall-E finds a way to be the lead in his own romance…courting EVE. (He calls her EV-A.)
The evolution of movie bots continues up on the big screen. Another favorite animated robot character appeared in a film called Hero 6. Baymax was a gigantic robot from a Marvel comic book, but he was the kind of bot anyone would want to call his/her best friend. Plus, Baymax was inflatable! Movie bot rules keep shifting, but one thing is certain: the next big bot movie star is probably coming soon to a theater near you.
Who are your favorite movie robots? Do you think Frankenbot Stu could star in his own movie? What would the story of that movie be?