Robots have always been lurking at the back of directors’ heads. From The Terminator of 1984 to Wall-E of 2008, robots may have evolved, but they remain the turn-to option for a merciless villain ready to take over the world or end humanity as we know it. In this article, I will be covering 3 different movies with 3 different types of robots with a similar motive.
My first movie is 2001- A Space Odyssey. Released in 1968 and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the main antagonist is more an artificially intelligent software than a robot. In case you aren’t familiar with this movie, it’s about a space quest to go to Jupiter to find what a monolith was aiming at, run by HAL 9000, the AI software. His increasingly bad behaviour forces two of the astronauts, Bowman and Poole to disconnect HAL. By lip reading their private conversation, HAL turns Bowman back into a foetus and kills Poole and the rest of the crew. While being disconnected, HAL explains that his secret mission was to kill all the crew members. This movie is the 7th earliest about robot, setting the example that robots are ordained to kill us all, and is a curse covered by a blessing.
My second choice is Wall-E. This movie, in short is about a space programme to evacuate humans from earth and make it a better habitat. This movie is full of robots, but I would like to focus on Auto, the artificially intelligent steering wheel. He takes over (unofficially) as the captain of the mission and turns a 5-year plan into a 700-year plan. His mission objective to never return to earth- A113, and he does anything to keep to this. This shows how helpful AI can turn on humanity and enslave us. There is also a striking resemblance between HAL and Auto - both are the head of a mission in space with a secret twist which affects humans. They also have a similar appearance - white with a red light in the middle. This could just be a nod to Kubrick by Disney, as they usually include cannon. However, it could have a deeper meaning… what if HAL had been restored generations after the first, unknown of the harm caused. That, really, is for you to ponder over.
My third and final choice is Big Hero 6. This Disney animation, in a nutshell, is about a healthcare robot, Baymax which makes friends with his dead creator’s younger brother, Hiro. He and his friends team up to uncover a mystery of microbots, small metal pieces, when put together forming a larger structure. Instead of talking about the antagonist, I am going to explore Baymax, the robot who is always willing to help. He helps those in need, and without spoiling the suspense too much, when programmed to be destructive, unlike our two other antagonists, Baymax uses his new skills to save people from danger, not to put people in danger. Baymax also shows a sense of understanding, which neither HAL nor Auto did. When his microchip is about to be replaced by Hiro, Baymax plays a video showing his elder brother struggling to create him. This warns Hiro not to make too much changes as the robot has taken shape due to someone else’s tireless effort.
In essence, most robots in movies are considered more of a bane than a boon, yet some always go out of their way to help. It is also interesting to see how robots and AI are shown to have two faces, one to help and one to destroy, yet this does not mean that they are decisively shady.
By Anagha Sreeram, 8C