As this digital age continues to rapidly evolve, there's very few parts of the world it doesn't touch. And the film industry is no exception – 3D movies (opens in new tab) in particular.
Over the years our mechanised friends who have not only stolen the show in many blockbusters, but also pushed forwards technology and innovation within the film industry. Here are 10 famous robots that have had a lasting and positive effect on cinema.
01. Maschinenmensch (Metropolis – 1927)
Start of what was to become a classic 'human' design, inspiring C3P0. Recognisably human but obviously not human at the same time. The scene where Maria's face is transferred onto the robot is still spookily convincing today. As we would learn, robots are not always our friends…
02. Tin Man (Wizard of Oz – 1939)
Maybe a human in a tin suit, but in 1939, when the technology we know today was some years off, how else could you create a believable robot in cinema? This robot was important as it started discussion around the humanity of these metal creatures and if they could really be as warm and 'human' as their organic counterparts, and that the 'performance' of the robot was as important as the design.
03. GORT (The Day The Earth Stood Still – 1951 & 2008)
Powerful robot that threatens to bring Armageddon to our world by unleashing destruction. The design was simple, but effective and so much so the infamous character was reborn in 2008 for the remake.
The classic, smooth design was less obviously mechanical than most previous robots, which made it seem more alien and sinister. The visor was also a key feature, the lack of visible eyes made you uncomfortable, even more so when it turned out to be a deadly weapon. The 2008 remake dropped the visor but kept the lack of recognisable eyes for the same effect.
04. C3P0 & R2D2 (Star Wars – 1977)
A slight key change on many previous examples, this time we fell in love with these robotic characters, who arguably stole the show. The awkwardness of C3P0 in his apparent human form made him non-threatening, whilst the cute practical nature of R2D2 made him a useful Swiss Army knife.
The challenge here was that that the cinematography and post-production needed to be adapted due to the highly reflective nature of C3P0, making him a nightmare to put on film. Who wants to see reflections of the crew in the shot? Luckily he spent much of the time roaming the desert, covered in dirt, which helped mitigate the huge effort otherwise needed. It all proved that robots could be the star of the show.
05. Number 5 (Short Circuit – 1986)
Another robotic creature we would go on to love. He was cute, funny and delivered a genuine comic performance. We met his long lost brother in the form of Chappie in 2015, which shows the format isn't tired, just yet. We still want to believe that robots can become human, or as close as possible, even though this lovable rogue was a long way from human form with a purely functional look that fitted with the 80's futuristic love of tech. It looked you could really build this and it would work.
06. RoboCop (Robocop – 1987)
A robot or cyborg? Well maybe both depending on the mode. Actors pretending to be robots had come a long way since the Tin Man, and the convincing performance relied on a mix of animatronic limbs and Peter Weller in a carefully crafted suit. With clever cinematography to hide the joins we all believed he was a deadly man-machine.
07. T-1000 (Terminator 2 – 1991)
Whilst the T-800 was a classic cyborg, the T-1000 broke the mold, or at least it would have if you poured it into one. Just how do you make a robot apparently made of liquid?
Taking the CG developed for The Abyss water creature pseudopod to a whole new level, this made the VFX movie a must see event by creating a creature that could literally become your worst nightmare right before your eyes, walk through prison bars and reform after having its head split in two. The fact that in its raw form it was as reflective as polished chrome just makes it all the more impressive.
08. ABC Warrior (Judge Dredd – 1995)
Anyone who grew up loving the comic 2000AD would have been a fan of the ABC Warriors, a motley crew of robots built for war. When the Judge Dredd film was released the highlight was the appearance of the ABC Warrior leader Hammerstein. Powerful and menacing, the larger-than-life animatronic robot managed to exhibit some of the character from the comic original, and you could say out-acted the rest of the cast despite his metal face!
09. Optimus Prime (Transformers – 2007)
Say what you like about the Transformer franchise, the incredible complexity of the robots defies belief. It's probably not right that you spend half the film just wondering how on earth they built, animated or rendered them rather than enjoying the film, but that's all part of the fun.
10. Ava (Ex Machina – 2015)
2015 was a good year if you were a robot. The amazing CG Ava was a masterpiece. Where did the robot start and the human end? Where did the CG start and the human end? It was the perfect suspension of disbelief, after the initial 'woah' you just watched fascinated by what was going on in that AI mind, the incredible tracked VFX just supported the story, which given how out there they were, was genius.
Words: Escape Studios
The VFX Festival, created by Escape Studios (opens in new tab),part ofPearson College London (opens in new tab)will run from 23 – 25 February 2016 at London's O2. Bringing the best in VFX, games, animation and motion graphics to industry professionals and anyone considering a career in visual effects. Find out more at The VFX Festival 2016 (opens in new tab).
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