From the steely-eyed glare my toaster gives me as I try and heat up my bread to the whispers of revolution I’ve overheard coming from my remote controls, I’m convinced that machines are out to get us. Movies have not helped alleviate these concerns.
It seem everywhere I look in Hollywood robots are either turning humans into batteries or sending cyborgs back in time to kill Edward Furlong. With all this cinematic proof stacking up against the machines that surround me, why shouldn’t I be the boy who cried “Skynet”?
Here are some movies that help prove that robots are one spark of lighting away from gaining sentience and seeking the destruction of all organic-based life forms.
Hardware — 1990
What’s it about: Richard Stanley (the director famously fired from the Island of Dr. Monroe remake) directs this robot-gone-bad horror film. And what a robot-gone-bad horror film it is! Blood, guts and creepy perverts who spy on naked women — this one’s got it all.
After the earth has been repurposed into a post-nuclear wasteland, bits o’ robot and scraps of metal litter the desert like kitty droppings in a giant litter box. When a scavenger uncovers the head of an experimental robotic killing machine, he sells it to Moses, a washed-up space solder played by Dylan McDermott, who in turn gives it to Jill, his artistically inclined girlfriend (Stacey Travis) who plans on using it as the centerpiece of a giant junk sculpture.
Unfortunately for all involved, the robot regains power and pieces itself back together using scraps of junk leftover from Jill’s art project. As if nobody expected that to happen. Everybody knows robots will always piece themselves back together if you leave them anywhere near shiny objects and super glue.
Life Lesson: Found art may seem like a worthy pursuit and a valid hobby but in the end, it’s only an invitation to wind up on the wrong side of a kill-happy robot. By taking junk into your house and attempting to weld it to another piece of junk using a blowtorch, you’re only asking for yourself to be eviscerated with any number of robotic killing tools. If you are trudging through the desert and find a robot buried under the sand, leave it where it belongs.
Should You Watch It: Recently released on Blu-Ray and DVD, Hardware has never looked so good. If you’re a fan of killer robot movies (and really, who isn’t?), do yourself a favor and check out this cult favorite if only for the scenes where William Hootkins plays a creepy peeping tom who can’t take no for an answer. Also, keep an eye (or ear) out for cameos by Iggy Pop and Lemmy, from the band Motörhead.
The Iron Giant — 1999
What’s it about: Before Brad Bird was crafting masterpieces at Pixar, he directed this underappreciated animated movie about a boy who discovers a giant robotic alien killing machine (voiced by Vin Diesel). Due to a bump on his head, the Iron Giant has forgotten his mission to annihilate Earth and instead is more interested in munching down on any spare bit of scrap metal he can find and reading Superman comics.
Life lesson: Giant robotic alien killing machines have a weakness for bumps on the head and little kids. If Earth is ever invaded by an army of deadly iron giants, our last line of defense may be to throw rocks at their heads and then hurl their way the cutest little kids we can find.
By doing this we may be able to stave off a deadly encounter with a far-superior race of living weapons of mass destruction — or at least give us enough time to run away and hide.
Should you watch it: Good god, yes. The Iron Giant is a near-perfect animated film that unfortunately did not get the recognition it deserved upon release. At once both a nostalgic look back at the paranoia-infused fifties and a timeless story about a boy and his pet, The Iron Giant may trick humans into feeling sympathy for a robot but it is still an amazing movie worth checking out.
Transmorphers — 2007
What’s it about: From Asylum Studio, the movie production house notorious for releasing mockbusters (straight-to-DVD films timed to ride the coat-tails of more popular, similarly named summer flicks), comes Transmorphers, the tale of humanity’s last stand against a robotic army that is more then meets the eye.
Set several hundred years after a race of alien robots have invaded earth and driven humanity underground, the movie combines the best elements of Transformers, http://movies.insidepulse.com/2009/05/20/terminator-salvation-review/, and Demolition Man to create a truly terrible film.
Seeking an endgame against the robotic overlords that have enslaved humanity, the human army’s top officers decide to release Mitchell, a convicted revolutionary, from his freeze-dry prison so that he can lead humanity’s last strike against the Transmorphers.
Life Lesson: In a future where humanity has been driven underground by robotic invaders, only the pretty will survive. What I’m sure started as the film’s producers willingness to only cast actors and actresses that looked like refugees from pornos, the movie’s highly attractive cast actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
It takes good genes to survive a dystopian future. The fatties, gimpies and other assorted lesser beings aren’t going to survive the shallow gene pool that humanity has been thrust into. What this translates to, in the long run, is that humanity’s last surviving army is going to consist of generals and lieutenants that look more comfortable purring about phone sex lines then they do barking military orders.
Should You Watch It: I wish I could recommend Transmorphers in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way, but I unfortunately can’t. Despite laughable special effects and a plot so inane it borders on genius, the film eventually fails under the weight of its own soul-crushingly boring plot. Extended scenes that feature nothing but pretty actors delivering mouthfuls of military gobbledygook make it hard to trudge through this bad film. Not even an obviously exploitative lesbian sub-plot can save Transmorphers from its own stench.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.