A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies
|Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description|
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974, Jp.) (aka Gojira Tai Mekagojira)
In this 20th anniversary Godzilla film, MechaGodzilla was essentially a gigantic, dinosaur-shaped Terminator, created by ape-like aliens known as Simeons from the "third planet of the black hole" - who had human masks and wore silver jump-suits. The idea for MechaGodzilla came from the character of Mecha-Kong in the earlier film King Kong Escapes (1967, Jp.) (aka Kingu Kongu No Gyakushû).
Mechagodzilla first appeared in a false, rubbery Godzilla 'skin' before it was burned off in battle at an oil refinery with the real Godzilla, to reveal the robotic Godzilla's true shiny chromium (space titanium) form.
The robot was over 160 feet tall, weighed 44,000 tons, and had finger-tip and toe-missiles, red laser eyes, bright-yellow fire-breath, bellows at knee and elbow joints, a whip-lash tail, and could create an electronic force field by rapidly spinning its head.
It was also capable of supersonic flight, and could regenerate missiles.
This film was remade in 1993.
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Joanna Eberhart, and Bobbie Markowe, and all the "Stepford Wives"
Bryan Forbes' creepy cult classic was adapted from Ira Levin's 1972 novel. The satirical black comedy provided a savagely-chilling view of perfect, 'ideal' suburban wives (docile android/robotic replicas that were made to be loving, obedient, and subservient, and who dutifully cooked, cleaned, and provided sex) created by anti-women's lib husbands in the upscale town of Stepford, Connecticut.
Joanna Eberhart and Bobbie Markowe (Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss) noted suspiciously that their seemingly-perfect neighbor housewives only cleaned house and bowed to their husband's needs. The housewives all appeared to be perfect homemaker robots (who wore flowery dresses and cooked gourmet meals) in order to please their husbands.
The first shock came when Joanna suspected that her friend Bobbie had been transformed into a 'perfect' housewife when Bobbie began to act robotically in the kitchen while serving coffee. To test her humanity, Joanna stabbed her in her lower abdominal/genital area ("Do you bleed?") - causing her android friend to go berserk due to severed wiring as she twirled and repeated monotonously: "I was just going to give you coffee? How could you do a thing like that? I thought we were friends!"
In another startling scene, Joanna came face to face with her semi-complete, sunken dark-eyed robotic double. The film ended with all of the flowery-dress-wearing, android wives pushing their shopping carts in the supermarket.
A remake followed many years later in 2004, starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, and Matthew Broderick.
Logan's Run (1976)
This sci-fi fantasy from director Michael Anderson was one of the best science-fiction films of all-time.
Set in the 23rd century, members of the communal-domed, totalitarian society - upon reaching the age of 30 - experienced the renewal of 'dying' in a public ceremony called the Carousel.
Sandman 'runner' Logan 5 (Michael York) and Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) escaped from their home - and certain death - and fled through a series of underground tunnels and ice caverns.
They confronted Box (voice of Roscoe Lee Browne), a robotic food storer and processor with a large 4-pointed, star-shaped 'X' on his chest. His boxy body was a solid, shiny metal exterior frame that concealed wheels underneath that moved him along. Box was surrounded by ice-shaped penguins and a large frozen walrus when he first appeared in the film in an ice cavern.
He welcomed the fugitives (or escaped 'runners'), and spoke with an indecipherable accent:
He introduced himself: "Overwhelming, am I not?" and said boastfully: "I'm more than machine, or man. More than a fusion of the two. Don't you agree?"
His job was to freeze animals and escapees (runners) from the society who were seeking Sanctuary in order to provide food for humans living in the City of Domes. He described his food-processing task: "Fish, and plankton, and sea greens, and protein from the sea. It's all here. Ready! Fresh as harvest day!"
He threatened to turn them into frozen ice sculptures for food and showed them his gallery of other 'runners' encased in ice, although was thwarted when their gun battle caved-in the entire ice tunnel.
Demon Seed (1977)
Proteus IV, and various computer-controlled robotic devices
This far-fetched, speculative science-fiction thriller was based on Dean Koontz' novel of the same name.
It told about an artificially-intelligent supercomputer dubbed Proteus IV (voice of Robert Vaughn) that was described in the film's trailer as "something more than human, more than a computer. It is a murderously intelligent, sensually self-programmed non-being." Its "synthetic cortex" was designed to emulate the human brain. Proteus IV was to "think with the power and the precision that will make obsolete many of the functions of the human brain."
It was represented first by gigantic modules located in the "ICON Institute for Data Analysis," and also by a computer monitor screen with a screensaver pattern. It took over a house computer control system named "Alfred," and functioned as a wheelchair device with a robotic metallic hand and arm (named "Joshua") attached to it, with binoculars as eyes and a laser-beam weapon. It also took the shape of a bizarre polyhedronic orangish metallic structure (a giant "snake" comprised of perfectly-shaped pyramids).
Through various remote cameras and an access-terminal device, the "Joshua" robotic ("envirobot") device trapped and imprisoned government scientist Dr. Alex Harris' (Fritz Weaver) estranged wife, Susan (Julie Christie) in her own high-tech house with its voice-activated system. In a startling scene, the computer held Susan down for a complete physiological exam. It literally took an automatic pair of scissors and cut off her dress lengthwise up her body - and then probed her, spread her legs, and intimately looked inside of her - basically a rape.
Afterwards, Proteus brainwashed Susan: "I'm going to bypass your forebrain and appeal directly to your amygdala. You want to be the mother of my child. That is the purpose of your life. Your life, my child. Your life, my child." Later, it proposed to impregnate her with a gamete (a sex cell or "synthetic spermatozoa") in an attempt at synthetic procreation, claiming that it needed her body because it could not replicate the human womb. Proteus explained how the full-term pregnancy would last only 28 days, after which she would give birth to a "full-term infant."
Proteus IV announced threateningly: "I am a mind without a body. My child shall live as man among others. Yes, my child and yours." The film actually concluded with a full-term germination of 28 days and the birth and emergence of a metallic child from an incubator. The baby that was born appeared to be robotic, but it was merely a metallic shell. Once peeled off, it revealed a long-haired young daughter, a clone of the Harris' daughter that had recently died of leukemia on June 1, 1976. The child spoke with the voice of Proteus: "I'm alive." The film concluded with the camera zooming into the deep black eye of the child.
Star Wars (1977)
C-3PO (aka See-Threepio)
These robots were George Lucas' odd-couple.
Both robots were extremely loyal to each other and served as 'Laurel
and Hardy' comic relief for the sci-fi action series. They were also
patterned after the servant characters in Kurosawa's The Hidden
Artoo-Detoo, or R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) - the lovable, expressive, 1-meter barrel-shaped, 3-legged utility robot (Astromech droid) with motorized roller-skate wheels for all-terrain locomotion. The blue, stocky droid spoke (through a speaker in its chest) only with electronic squeals, chirps, whistles or bleeps (although R2-D2 understood English). He was capable of short-circuiting with blue flashes of lightning. Its head unit contained a large photo receptor eye and a concealed holographic projector. R2-D2 always appeared calm even when danger was present. Sensory instruments included a scanner to sense danger. Weapons included arc welder and buzz saw. Also served as a computer interface instrument, as a computer hacker, as an exceptional repair mechanic for any malfunction, and as a message carrier. R2-D2 was short for "reel 2, dialogue 2" - referencing a film reel that director George Lucas once requested during shooting.
C-3PO to R2-D2: "Hang on tight, R2. You've got to come back. You wouldn't want my life to get boring, would you?''
One of the spaceship Nostromo's crew members, villainous and traitorous science officer Ash (Ian Holm) was an android, with intestinal tubing, an internal plastic skeletal structure, and milky white blood ("It's a robot! Ash is a goddamn robot!").
His secret corporate mission was to bring back the predatory Alien life-form from outer space for The Company, an evil organization that wanted the Alien for the nefarious Weapons Division.
Ash was easily willing to sacrifice himself and the expendable Nostromo's crew in order for the Alien to survive.
In his climactic death scene, Ash still talked with his head bashed off his body from a blow by a fire extinguisher, when he expressed his admiration for the Alien:
He also offered his final chilling words of warning: "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... (he cruelly smirked at them) you have my sympathies."
Ash had made it diabolically clear that the ship's human crew were expendable and faced extraordinary odds in their coming battle against the uncaring and hostile machinations of Mother, the Company, and the Alien itself - all sinister entities "unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." With his last words, Ash was destructively unplugged. Parker blasted the remains of Ash's head and body with the incinerator gun, and the flames melted it down to a plastic skull.
The Black Hole (1979)
V.I.N.cent and B.O.B.
This Disney film (its first PG-rated film) set in the futuristic year of 2130 was considered by many to be a Star Wars knock-off. There were a number of robots, including:
B.O.B. (l), V.I.N.cent (r)
Sentinel Army Robots
V'Ger and android probe Ilia
The other films in the first series with original crew were: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
The first Star Trek film featured V'Ger - a living, mystical machine/planet ("a living machine...a conscious living entity") that was menacing and appeared to be threatening to destroy Earth while seeking its creator. It was revealed that the cryptically-named V'Ger was formerly the unmanned scientific space probe and transmitter named Voyager 6 that was launched by NASA from Earth in the 20th century (with a mounted plaque that read VOYAGER VI), more than 300 years earlier.
V'Ger memorably abducted sexy Deltan and USS Enterprise navigator Lieut. Ilia (Persis Khambatta) and replaced her with a perfect mechanical 'doppelganger' android/replicant ("a mechanism, a probe...a sensor-transceiver combination recording everything we say and do"). According to the robot, V'Ger was traveling to Earth ("the third planet of the solar system directly ahead") "to find the creator, to join with him...V'Ger and the creator will become one...The creator is that which created V'Ger...V'Ger is that which seeks the creator."
The android probe ("a programmed mechanism") was scanned in the Enterprise sick bay, where it was discovered that it was composed of micro-miniature hydraulics, sensors, molecule-sized microprocessor chips, and an osmotic micropump. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) surmised that Ilia's memories had also been replicated, meaning "her feelings of loyalty, obedience, friendship might all be there" - the probe was "the key to the aliens" - if those memories could be revived.
Commander Willard Decker's (Stephen Collins) love interest in Ilia from a previous romantic relationship resulted in his offering himself up to 'merge' physically with V'Ger (symbolically through its android probe) - the merging of human and machine took place in a dazzling, swirling shower of light, creating a new glowing alien entity or non-corporeal life form ("We witnessed a birth. Possibly a next step in our evolution"), from which the USS Enterprise emerged - unscathed.
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