Thinking about the demon in my computer (aka Skynet) I started thinking about movie robots. And not unlike the T-1000 Kai Parker and myself are dead inside, covered in stolen police officer helmets and clothes.
10 JOHNNY 5 (SHORT CIRCUIT)
Short Circuit is a film that may have lost some of it’s charm over the past few decades, but it’s ingenuity at the time cannot be denied. During a time when violent robots were the fad in movies like Robocop, Roy Batty the replicant from Blade Runner, The Gunslinger from Westworld, and the Vectrocon Spiders from Runaway, Johnny gave a different perspective on the robot creation in film. While the movie isn’t quite as funny, Johnny 5 is still cute, sweet, and endearing, even if there are moments like the bath and dance scene that are a little creepy. His character made way for the Bumblebees, Wall-E’s, and Iron Giants of film. No matter what anyone says, everyone remembers this character as he is definitive of a generation of strange movies.
Most of Data’s depth may have stemmed from years on one of the greatest Science Fiction shows of all time, but the multiple layers of his character translated brilliantly on the big screen, making Data almost a centerpiece of The Next Generations series of motion pictures. When people think of Star Trek they immediately think of Kirk and Spock, but when we think of The Next Generation we think of Data and Picard as the most interesting characters (and maybe sometimes that giant Klingon…teehee…) that come to mind. The desire for Data to become more like a human is one of the most complex and interesting points of view from the robot/human interaction perspective. When he does take the chip and become less efficient because of it, the vulnerability of humanity, but also the strength of humanity becomes apparent. He can’t accept it because he isn’t actually human. Though brilliant, it isn’t something that can be learned. This character is constantly evolving and I love that about Data.
Part of what makes Bishop so interesting is the set up Ash and Ripley left behind in Alien. I often find dark or villainous characters to be more intriguing because they are more complex, but Bishop is an exception to that rule. The ambiguity of his character and the question of his motives from the beginning make him mysterious. At many points he proves his loyalty to Ripely constantly compensating for her ill experience with Ash in the prior film, and at the very moment she gives him thanks and accepts him he is torn apart by the monster they’ve been so desperately trying to escape. Bishop saves the day time and time again in his nonchalant robotic way, but his desire to do right by Ripley showed an element of humanity threw the android. That kept him on this list along with the fact that the knife scene with Hudson (Bill Paxton) is too brutally smooth not to give props for.
As far as comically evil goes the evil Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey nearly takes the cake. Bill and Ted themselves are overly optimistic dudes that don’t let reality get in their way too often. Since their world does stray from reality a bit it’s not an overwhelming surprise that they take a liking to evil robot Bill and Ted’s sent back to kill them. The super strong and super wicked Bill and Ted murder their human counterparts and then assume their identities making their lives a living hell. The evil versions are almost as funny as the “real” versions, and make the final showdown of self vs. self ridiculously funny.
Evil Bill: I totally loogied on that good, dead me!
Ash keeps the fact that he’s an android secret from Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the crew until he’s well on the way to accomplishing his mission: to bring one of the predatory, parasitic aliens back to Earth for the Company. His coldness and his cruelness is absolutely terrifying. He plays such an intricate and important role in the dynamics of how every part of the plot unfolds and unveils itself, he becomes nearly as important as Ripley and the Alien itself. In both Alien and Aliens we see the vicious killing machines playing a second fiddle to monsters that want to study them or make money from them. Completely cold and maniacal.
”I can’t lie to you about your chances, but…you have my sympathies.”
Artoo is a remarkable character to me, because like Wall-E, he doesn’t speak at all, yet his beeps and personality are ever present. Of all the character’s in Star Wars he is truly one of my favorites. It would be easy to analyze Obi-Wan or The Emperor in depth, but Artoo’s simplicity makes him that much more compelling to me and his relationship with C3PO and their interaction along with 3PO’s commentary is a huge part of the soul of Star Wars. He can make you laugh more than any character in the both trilogies, and his presence is always hugely impacted in all six of the films. Part of the genius of this duo is 3P0′s constant sarcasm and reactions to what Artoo is actually saying. These droids give robots a life force in film that very few others have contributed. Both of these character’s are utterly brilliant.
The Terminator portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cyborg and initially programed as an assassin and military infiltration unit. In the 1984 first film the T-800 has been sent back in time by Skynet to kill Sarah Connor. In this film Arnie is the coldest of the cold, the meanest of the mean. His dead pan deliveries with one liners that are still adored today made this character scary with a cruel sense of comedy. In the context of the stories, this plot device provides a certain continuity for the human characters, by exploiting their emotional familiarity with a particular “human” visage. In the second film his personality is simple, he follows orders, and though later he begins to learn and change, but for the better part of the film, he is simply a machine. John teaches him and he learns. The complexity of his character evolves whereas the first T-800 never strayed from his murderous killing spree. When the end comes and he sheds a tear we hear Sarah Connor’s voice over saying the “Terminator” has given her hope, because:
“if a machine can learn the value of life, then why can’t we?”
Honorable Mentions: Optimus Prime, Vectrocon robot spiders (Runaway), Wall-E, Bumblebee, Megatron, T-1000, The Gunslinger (Westlworld), Sonny (I-robot), Robocop, The Iron Giant, and Sid 6.7 (Virtuosity)