Summer at the cinema is very nearly here, which means I’ve been thinking about robots. This one, for instance:
Did you catch that cool Weyland Corp. fingerprint? Did you see how he cries without scrunching his eyes, the most pitiful cry of all, and then admits his inability to feel sorrow?! He smells flowers, wears soft shoes, sits straight-backed, hands on knees, like that neurotic child you knew in kindergarten who meticulously peeled the papers off of all the crayons and made an origami caterpillar that stretched all the way out the door to the tetherball pole. (Psst, that was me!) So Prometheus’ debut of David prompted me to think up a list of ten great movie robots. And they are ….
Rachael from Blade Runner. So many replicants to choose from in Blade Runner. While I’m partial to Rutger Hauer here (as I am in most cases, truth be told), I also love Sean Young’s performance as the emotionally-advanced Tyrell Corp prototype who keeps a noir Harrison Ford transfixed.
David from Prometheus. Hey, if the makers of the “Happy Birthday David” promo can declare it a “viral video” as it was uploading, I can put David on my top ten movie robots list before the film even makes its debut. Yeah, yeah, I remember Ash from Alien, but Ridley Scott plus Michael Fassbender equals hyperventilating into a paper bag and a bee-line to this here spot.
Yul Brynner’s gunslinger from Westworld. Roughly ten years before The Terminator unleashed the relentless, virtually unstoppable cyborg hell-bent on annihilating its target, Westworld’s robot gunslinger-gone-rogue terrorized the vacationers at Delos with his rigid quick-walk and death glare and itchy trigger finger.
R2-D2 from Star Wars. I’m sorry, people who think omitting C-3P0 is blasphemous, but if I’m only picking one per franchise I have to go with the little guy because C-3P0 whines more than a four-year-old out of tokens at a rigged Chuck E. Cheese crane game. He whines more than Luke himself. “What have you done? I’m backwards!” Wah! R2-D2, on the other hand, makes for a supercool record player.
Officer Alex from RoboCop. In the era of The Terminator (they’d used the Terminator theme in the original trailer for RoboCop, in fact), RoboCop, i.e. the future of law enforcement, presented an interesting twist on the unstoppable killing machine trope. He’s on our side, saving the ladies from thugs in dark alleys and fighting corporate corruption all at the same time.
The giant from The Iron Giant. Voiced by Vin Diesel, The Iron Giant is one of those under-the-radar kid movies that few people out there realize is actually terrific. War is bad! Artists are good! Mom is alive and well! And the retro styling of the robot is a nice nod to its 1957 setting.
Data from Star Trek: Generations. I can’t really say that I don’t like Data. That’d be like saying I don’t like double rainbows or the IHOP Rooty Tooty platter. I mean, he’s likeable … but insufferable at the same time – taking things so literally, being so rule-oriented, blinking so earnestly. I love/hate Data. Yes. There you have it. And whatever you think of Star Trek in any incarnation you have to admit that Data’s child-like little wound-tight self was masterfully, and memorably, realized by actor Brent Spiner.
Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. I had a neighbor once who tried to make a sculpture of a knight out of mufflers and baking sheets, and the knight pretty much looked just like Gort looming outside my bedroom window. That’s the beauty of Gort. He’s visually simple. Clean lines, hulking and shiny, laser-beam eyes. So simple you can build your own (and I know you want to).
The T-800 from The Terminator. The old story goes that James Cameron based the Terminator story on a dream he’d had. I don’t know what he’d eaten for dinner that night, pizza and beer and peyote buttons or what, but I wish we could somehow recreate the circumstances that had once allowed Cameron to dream up something like the T-800 as opposed to, say, I don’t know, giant blue people.
Honorable mention: the Rocky IV robot. Come on! You know you love it when the walking trashcan gives Paulie his birthday cake to the tinny slur of ‘80s synthesizers.