Robots in Film
A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies


Part 12



Robots in the Movies
Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description
Screenshot

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Giant robots

Writer/director Kerry Conran's directorial debut film was a significant yet gimmicky milestone, in that it was one of the first major films to blend live actors with digitized backgrounds and surroundings.

In the futuristic fantasy film's plot set in 1939 New York City at the film's start, robots sent by megalomaniacal, terminally-ill German scientist Dr. Totenkopf (deceased actor Laurence Olivier) attacked.

First was a squadron of giant airborne robots (inspired by a 1941 Superman cartoon by Max Fleischer called "The Mechanical Monsters"). They descended and became an army of 90 foot tall stomping Machine Age, radio-controlled robots (like metallic King Kongs). The robots marched down Fifth Avenue and sent out laser blasts (this was part of a world-wide attack on various cities).

Then there were other mechanical monsters with tentacles.

The madman's robotic army, led by a goggled, latex-clad leader or Mysterious Woman (Bai Ling) (revealed later to be a robot too, carrying out the deceased Totenkopf's plans), were plundering the generators and oil refineries of the world, as part of a plan to start life anew with a spaceship Ark after incinerating the Earth.





The Stepford Wives (2004)
See also earlier The Stepford Wives (1975)

Perfect "Stepford Wives"

The feminist satire was remade as a dark comedy almost 30 years after the original by director Frank Oz, with Nicole Kidman as the Katharine Ross character. She was a TV executive threatened to become an automaton housewife.

It also starred Matthew Broderick (as Nicole's husband), Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, and Glenn Close.



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Marvin, a GPP (Genuine People Personalities) Prototype Android created by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation

This feature-length film was an adaptation of Douglas Adams' classic wacky sci-fi satire, originally a 1970s BBC-radio series that became an early 1980s TV series hit and a best-selling series of books.

It featured a 6-foot tall, bubble- or moon-headed, all-knowing, permanently dour, pessimistic, and complaining Marvin the Paranoid Robot (Warwick Davis, voice of Alan Rickman) onboard the Heart of Gold starship.

Marvin purportedly had a "brain the size of a planet" in its head, with a face drawn to accentuate its sad features. Its miserable, self-pitying attitude was part of its programming that included GPP "Genuine People Personality."

ROBOTS (2005)

Rodney Copperbottom, and all the other robotic characters

An inventive animated film, it told about an entire mechanical universe of robots - in a post-apocalyptic world? -- including a young, enterprising, idealistic robot named Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor) from the small town of Rivet Town. He was called an 'outmode' (he was an older model made from hand-me-down parts).

In a Wizard-of-Oz quest, he set out to find the mechanical wizard of Robot City, a metropolitan utopia, to get a job building robots with his heroic idol, industrialist inventor Bigweld (Mel Brooks).

Once there, he realized that evil industrialists had taken over, including vain, profit-driven Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) and his evil mother, the spider-like Madame Gasket (Jim Broadbent). Both wanted to rid the world of outmodes and replace them with new and perfect upgrades.


Rodney

Rodney and Fender

Automatons (2006) (aka Death to the Automatons)

Various robot armies

Director and scripter James Felix McKenny's independent, low-budget sci-fi film (shot in Super-8 Black and White) termed the film's look "Robo-Monstervision." The film's tagline was: "Men started this war. The machines will finish it." It updated the post-apocalyptic robot-run-amok flick within another dystopic futuristic tale set on an inhospitable, contaminated Earth.

The character of the Girl (Christine Spencer) lived alone in an underground bunker with a mini-army of antiquated robots -- various rattle-trap, broken robot assistants (resembling water-heaters with round heads and drainage pipes). She sent them out each day to battle against an unnamed Enemy Leader (Brenda Cooney).

The enemy leader was capable of also sending out a robot army and radio signals that turned the Girl's robots against herself.


Electroma (2006)

Daft Punk robots

Two robots -- silver and gold helmeted, black leather-clad Hero Robots No. 1 and No. 2 (Daft Punk band members Peter Hurteau and Michael Reich, French dance music superstars) drove through the Southwestern American empty desert landscape in a 1987 Ferrari 412 on a quest to become human.

In the dialogue-less film, they entered a robot-inhabited town in Inyo City, California, where they went to a high-tech lab to unsuccessfully construct prosthetic latex human faces to place onto their motorcycle helmets.

Afterwards, they left town and went on a long, slow trudge across Salt Flats.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) (aka X-Men 3)

Sentinel

Director Brett Ratner's state of the art sci-fi adventure/thriller was the third chapter in the series.

In the film's opening Danger Room sequence, the X-Men (teacher Storm (Halle Berry) and substitute teacher Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) with young mutant students Rogue (Anna Paquin), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Kitty (Ellen Page), etc.) participated in a simulation training. The program was devised by the head of the School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

A giant metal Sentinel was created for the X-Men to fight against. These mutant-hunting Sentinel robots were designed to hunt down, capture, and/or kill the X-Men.

To end the simulated session, superstrong Colossus threw Wolverine (who had commanded him, "Throw me, now!") at the Sentinel and single-handedly decapitated it with his long metal-claws. Its giant robot head fell back to the ground, as Wolverine emerged from behind it and announced: "Class dismissed."


(l to r, Wolverine, Colossus)

Sentinel head,
decapitated

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

DOR-15 (or Doris) and Carl

This Walt Disney Studios computer-animated 3D-film, based on the best-selling children's book by William Joyce, and with a Back to the Future storyline, contained two robotic characters:

  • DOR-15 (aka Doris or Helping Hat) (voice of Ethan Sandler) - a robotic retro bowler hat with mechanical, tentacled arms (with rotating claws), a partner-in-crime with the Bowler Hat Guy (Stephen Anderson)
    When reactivated, the villainous DOR-15 became megalomaniacal, intent on conquering and dominating the world, until 12 year-old orphan/inventor Lewis (voices of Jordan Fry and Daniel Hansen) declared that he never invented her - and she disappeared forever
  • worrywort android Carl (voice of Harland Williams), the witty and charming Robinson family robot of the retro-futuristic world of Todayland

DOR-15

Carl

Transformers (2007)

Optimus Prime, Autobots, Decepticons and other robots

In this loud Michael Bay sci-fi thriller, two robotic clans, that had fought in an ancient civil war against each other on the planet Cybertron, were now in a quest to take over the universe and Earth. They were both searching for an all-powerful, intergalactic magic cube called the Allspark (revealed to be in the Arctic). The two clans or races were:

  • the heroic and benevolent Autobots, led by good Transformer Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen)
  • the evil Decepticon robot race, led by Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving)

The live-action film featured a headliner battle between the two metallic autobot robot leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron.

In the film, there were also metamorphic, extra-terrestrial robots -- cars and helicopters were transformed or shape-shifted into giant robots in an instant.

Meet Dave (2008)

Dave Ming Chang

Brian Robbins' science-fiction comedy starred Eddie Murphy as a giant white disco suit-wearing robot named Dave Ming Chang.

He was actually an alien machine (or space vessel) in the shape of a human commanded by an internal crew of humanoid space aliens, each one responsible for a part of Dave's body and controlling his speech and movements.

Eddie Murphy also portrayed the tiny, British-accented captain of the ship.

After crashing near the Statue of Liberty, he searched in Manhattan for the aliens' missing precious meteorite orb designed to rob Earth of all of its water in order to bring back its salt and thereby save their endangered planet (that ran on salt).

WALL·E (2008)

WALL·E, EVE, and other robots in the spaceship AXIOM, including:

M-O (or "Moe", Microbe Obliterator)
AUTO (the ship's Auto-Pilot)
GO-4 (AUTO's assistant)
BUF-4 (Buffer cleaning robots)
BRL-A (Umbrella robots)
D-FIB (Defibrillator robots)
PR-T ("Pret-ty", Beautician robots)
HAN-S (Massage robots)
NAN-E (Nanny robots to care for children)
THIRST-E (Drink dispensing robots)
VAQ-M (Vacuum robots)
VEND-R (Food dispensing robots)
VN-GO (Paint robots, take-off on Vincent Van Gogh's name)

Pixar's and Disney's animated science-fiction love story was set in the year 2805. The almost dialogue-free tale told about the title character, the last lone garbage-compacting robot on Earth named WALL·E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) (voice of Ben Burtt).

For seven centuries, the industrious robot had been cleaning up Earth's harmful trash (with the aid of his cockroach friend) after inhabitants were evacuated to live on the giant orbiting spaceship AXIOM until Earth was habitable again. The ecological robot (similar to the robot in Short Circuit (1986) and to Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)) was composed of a pair of binoculars (for eyes), with a turtle-like body and tank treads for locomotion.

In the film, WALL·E fell in love with EVE (short for Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) (voice of Elissa Knight), a sleek, white-shelled probe droid-robot that was sent to check on the progress of the clean-up and to locate plant life.

Another robot on the spaceship, among many, was named M-O, concerned about wiping up the "foreign contaminant" tread tracks left by WALL-E, as well as the one-eyed, tyrannical AUTO-pilot, HAL-like robot (voice of MacinTalk)- finally shut off by the corpulent Captain (voice of Jeff Garlin).


WALL-E

WALL-E and EVE

M-O

AUTO

Moon (2009, UK)

GERTY 3000

Director Duncan Jones' plot-twisting sci-fi film (with obvious filmic references to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Silent Running (1972), and others) began with a voice-over from lone, bearded, long-haired astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell):

"There was a time when energy was a dirty word. When turning on your lights was a hard choice. Cities in brownout. Food shortages. Cars burning fuel to run. But that was the past. Where are we now? How do we make the world so much better? Make deserts bloom? Right now, we're the largest producer of fusion energy in the world. The energy of the sun, trapped in rock, harvested by machine from the far side of the moon. Today, we deliver enough clean-burning helium-3 to supply the energy needs of nearly 70% of the planet. Who'd have thought? All the energy we ever needed, right above our heads. The power of the moon. The power of our future."

He was located on the far side of the Moon at a mining base named 'Sarang,' working for a Japanese consortium titled LUNAR Industries, Ltd. He was at the end of a three-year contract, supervising the strip-mining of lunar rock (with gigantic threshing or harvesting robotic machines) to obtain Helium-3, a major component of fusion technology for green solar fuel energy. Communications with Earth were reduced to only video-taped recordings, and Sam was beginning to show signs of stress and homesickness ("I'm talking to myself on a regular basis. Time to go home, you know what I mean?"). He missed his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and his young daughter, and was only able to speak to them through delayed video messages. And he was experiencing hallucinations, and dreams of making love to his wife.

His only contact and companion was a semi-mobile, multi-tasking AI robotic assist machine named GERTY 3000 (voice of Kevin Spacey) with a robotic arm. The questionably-helpful, smooth-voiced, programmed GERTY used yellow smiley face emoticons to communicate emotions and monitored Sam's every move.

The film took a turn when Sam went out in a rover to repairing a malfunctioning harvesting mining machine named Matthew, and distractedly crashed the rover into the thresher after seeing an hallucinatory mirage of a female. After a dissolve (the loss of consciousness), Sam awoke in the infirmary where GERTY told him that he had experienced an accident that he couldn't remember. Shortly later, Sam struggled off the infirmary bed and overheard GERTY having a clandestine conversation with Thompson (Benedict Wong) at HQ:

(The new Sam is in) good working order. But we only have two working harvesters now.

The film's major spoiler, only hinted at in GERTY's message, was that the fraudulent Japanese consortium (LUNAR Industries) running the operation had cloned him inside the base station, and replaced the injured and 'dying' Sam in the rover with a new version of himself (aka Sam 2) at the base. GERTY demanded that the 'new' Sam repeatedly take memory tests, claiming he had experienced slight brain damage in the accident, and he needed to strengthen his logic skills. Sam was ordered to remain at the base by LUNAR's Overmeyers (Matt Berry), who also promised that they would send a "rescue unit" to tend to the stalled harvester.

After convincing GERTY that he had to check the exterior shell of the base - after sabotaging it himself with a minor gas leak, Sam 2 evaded GERTY and left the base. He took another rover to the crash site, where he made a remarkable discovery. He found an injured version of himself in the damaged rover. He brought his 'original' self back to the base, and then yelled at GERTY: "You tell me who that is!" The 'original' disoriented, injured and tired Sam was placed in the infirmary, and told there had been an accident - while the 'cloned' Sam 2 (Robin Chalk), a younger-looking, mirror-image, healthier clone, looked on from a distance.

Sam angrily asked GERTY about the other 'Sam Bell': "What the hell's going on?...I'm losing my mind." GERTY asserted that LUNAR had not been told that he had been rescued alive from the rover. The two Sams each thought the other was an inferior clone ("We look like each other"). The company sent a message that it had secured a Rescue Unit (a three-man crew) named ELIZA, to arrive in approximately 14 hours. It had purportedly been sent to "fix" the stalled Harvester, but the clone suspected that Sam's promised contract to return to Earth in a few days wouldn't be honored. The frustrated 'original' Sam yelled at the clone: "I'm the original Sam. I'm Sam f--king Bell."

The plot became even more complex when it was theorized that neither of the two Sams was an 'original'. The clone was suspicious that the company had a secret supply room of replacement clones inside the base: "What about the other clones?...We might not be the first two to be woken up...There might be others up here right now...I bet there's some kind of secret room...You really think they give a s--t about us? They're laughing all the way to the bank." The two engaged in a bloody struggle when the second Sam insisted on tearing the base apart to find the hidden room.

When 'original' Sam directly asked GERTY: "Am I really a clone?" - he was given a clear explanation that both of them were clones of the 'original' Sam who had long ago returned to Earth. GERTY described how it had awakened a new clone after the rover crash and implanted the memories of the real original Sam Bell into the clone:

"When you first arrived at Sarang, there was a small crash. You woke up in the infirmary. You suffered minor brain damage and memory loss. I kept you under observation and ran some tests....Sam, there was no crash. You were being awakened. It is standard procedure for all new clones to be given tests to establish mental stability and general physical health. Genetic abnormalities and minor duplication errors in the DNA can have considerable impact...(Tess and Eve) are memory implants, Sam. Uploaded, edited memories of the original Sam Bell. I am very sorry."

The film's major spoiler was that the fraudulent Japanese company (LUNAR Industries) running the operation had cloned the real "original" Sam, and replaced him multiple times over about a dozen years. The company sent a menacing "rescue team" to erase the problem created by clone Sam's discovery of another younger-looking, mirror-image, healthier clone.

The first Sam was also beginning to physically deteriorate after three years of service, and was throwing up blood and losing teeth. He played back archival video of the four previous Sams (all physically debilitated as their 3-year contracts expired), as they prepared to take a three-day return journey back to Earth in a cyrogenic protection pod (although they were actually incinerated). The two found a secret, out-of-bounds level of vaults below the hibernation chamber, where there were hundreds of ready-to-use cloned Sams stored in 'cryosleep' pull-out drawers. They decided on a plan of action in a race against time, to seek a way to return to Earth in a Helium-3 transport, and expose LUNAR's conspiracy.

GERTY woke up a new 7th clone (there had been 4 previous clones before the two of them), in time to greet ELIZA. The first Sam was driven back to the crashed rover to expire there, to prevent suspicion while the newer Sam clone was sent back to Earth. GERTY's memory cache, in its memory banks, that had recorded everything in the previous day, was rebooted after Sam was launched to Earth. ELIZA arrived just as Sam was launched, and the new clone awoke. Just before the closing credits as the launcher entered Earth's atmosphere, news reports (in voice-over) were broadcast about the controversy stirred up by Sam's (clone 6) testimony and evidence.








9 (2009)

Nine "Stitchpunk" Robots, each cloth-skinned mechanical doll identified by a Number on their back

Director Shane Acker's debut feature film (Tim Burton co-produced), a PG-13 rated animated fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic world, centered on a group of nine robots, identified by large numbers on their backs. They sought to escape the terrors of large, super-powerful destructive robotic Machines, including:

  • a red-eyed monster known as the Beast
  • a giant Bat
  • a scissors-handed "Seamstress" creature
  • and the deadly Fabrication Machine, wrought by a Scientist (voice of Alan Oppenheimer)

The machines, ordered to be created by a Hitler-like Chancellor in a fascistic regime had turned against their creator, and left a Matrix-like, dystopic, bombed-out world.

The small robots (with wooden hands and copper fingers) were also the creation of the Scientist, possibly the last man to survive on Earth after a genocidal war between man and machine, although he was dead on the floor.

The main heroic character was the youngest and most daring 9 (voice of Elijah Wood) - a zippered, goggle-eyed burlap sock-puppet.

Others included:

  • a stern, authoritarian and conservative self-appointed leader 1 (voice of Christopher Plummer) with a bishop's miter and crook
  • a kindly inventor 2 (voice of Martin Landau)
  • a renegade warrior-heroine 7 (voice of Jennifer Connelly) with a skull mask
  • one-eyed puppet 5 (voice of John C. Reilly)
  • a black/white striped artist 6 (voice of Crispen Glover) haunted by a design
  • large and illiterate, clownish 8 (voice of Fred Tatasciore) - 1's bodyguard.
  • robots 3 and 4 were non-speaking twins
The Deadly Machines

The Beast

"The Seamstress"

The Fabrication Machine




9 (voice of Elijah Wood)

5 (voice of John C. Reilly)

1 (voice of Christopher Plummer)

2 (voice of Martin Landau)

7 (voice of Jennifer Connelly)

6 (voice of Crispen Glover)


8 (voice of Fred Tatasciore)

Terminator Salvation (2009)

Aerostats, Harvesters, Moto-Terminators, Hydrobots, Series T-600 Terminators, a T-RIP (Resistance Infiltrator Prototype), and a new T-800 Series Terminator

Robots created by self-aware machines of Skynet in the year 2018 included older-model Series T-600 Terminators (Skynet's main foot soldiers, "a primitive design" with a lot of firepower, but "heavy and slow"). Also, there were the following:

  • small Aerostats (flying, infra-red equipped Hunter-killer scouts for the Terminators that could identify and upload the identities of opposing Resistance fighters)
  • Harvesters (massive, six-story high robots with multiple clawed pincers that grabbed and collected humans to be imprisoned in cages)
  • Moto-Terminators (two-wheeled motorcycle-like Terminators that were launched from the feet of Harvesters)
  • H-K Aerials (a large airborne jet-powered machine of various sizes with mounted lasers, missiles, and cannons)
  • Hydrobots (whirring, worm or snake-like water-borne Terminators)

One other Terminator was a T-RIP (Resistance Infiltrator Prototype) - developed from the Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) character, a Texas prison death-row inmate who was executed in 2003, and signed his body over to cellular regeneration researcher Dr. Selena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) for a single kiss.

Skynet used Kogan's research findings to advance Cyberdyne's work. Marcus was turned into a cyborg - a T-RIP (Resistance Infiltrator Prototype) - "the only one of your kind...the human condition no longer applies to you" - although he had a human heart and brain (with chip).

His main programmed mission was to lead future father Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), with Resistance leader John Connor (Christian Bale) trailing, back to Skynet Central so they could be killed.

Also, this film included the new cybernetic organism, the T-800 Series Terminator with a Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 living-tissue covering - (a combination of CGI and composite shots of Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator (1984)). When its tissue covering was burnt off by blasts of grenades, its metal-skeletal frame was revealed.

T-800 Series


T-600 Terminator

Aerostat ("Hunter-killer")

Harvester

Moto-Terminator

H-K Aerial

Hydrobots

Real Steel (2011)

Ambush, Noisy Boy, Atom, Midas, and Zeus

Director Shawn Levy's sci-fi action-thriller was also a dramatic boxing film set in the near-future about giant humanoid robots in battle with each other. The gleaming gladiators engaged in prize fights with each other, ranging from small underground cage matches to larger media events.

The main character was Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a broke, down and out ex-boxer (now a robot fight promoter) who eventually reunited with his estranged 11 year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie was enroute to a rural fair to match his discarded, older model robot (Ambush) against a large rodeo bull. Another of his robots was Noisy Boy (with LED screens on his wrists), once a fighter in the World Robot Boxing (WRB) League with a 15-1 record.

Fighting in the circuit were other robots, including:

  • Atom - the underdog "Rocky" character, with a titanium mesh face cage, and blue LED eyes behind it
  • Midas - a punkish, dirty-fighting, gold-colored robot with a red, fiber-optic Mohawk on its head, who fought in the underworld Crash Palace
  • Zeus - the undefeated, reigning champion of the WRB, with a powerful 1,300 pound frame of steel and carbon fiber; the only fully autonomous robot in the league; funded and built by the Lemkovas (a family of Russian oligarchs)
 

Robots in Film
(chronological, by film title)
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

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