There seem to be two basic kinds of robot movies: the dystopian nightmare of technology out of control (Terminator, The Matrix, Blade Runner*), and the robot as metaphor for the human need to make meaning out of existence (A.I., Wall-E, Bicentennial Man). In the first, the world is on the brink of destruction as man has been forced to go to war against his own creation. In the second, a robot suffers abject humiliation and alienation as it attempts to pursue humanistic, emotional goals in a world that rejects it as coldly mechanical. Both of these deal with fundamentally “interesting” ideas, and as such, both should be equally successful and interesting to watch, but they aren’t. In fact, one of the two types of robot movies (NO SPOILERS) is almost categorically bad, to the point of searching for that time-text button on the DVD remote within five minutes of the opening credits because you want to see just how much more of this you’re seriously expected to sit through.
The reason that the dramatic, existential robot movies keep ending up here (with the exception of Wall-E, which is great, duh) while the dystopian sci-fi action-thrillers do not is pretty simple: WHO GIVES A FUCK ABOUT ROBOTS’ FEELINGS?
If you give a fuck about robots’ feelings, you can stop reading this right now (and can start going to Remedial Giving a Fuck About Stuff Better Class). The rest of you, carry on.
*Admittedly, the dystopian nightmare movies kind of bridge the two themes, as the violent machine revolts are usually based on the sentient being’s “human” desire for independence.
In the not-too-distant future (2005), Mr. Smith buys a robot (Robin Williams) for his family to do chores and take care of the children. At first, the children don’t like the Williamsbot 3000, and who can blame them, but then the robot breaks the youngest daughter’s prized crystal horse and replaces it by carving a new horse out of beachwood (because even though his robot hands lack the manual dexterity to hold a small crystal horse, they are capable of creating an intricately carved wooden one, it’s called science) and now everyone loves the robot because of presents. So Mr. Smith decides that his robot is special, and he starts teaching him condescendingly simplistic lessons, and stops asking him to do chores around the house, leaving the robot to make grandfather clocks all day (the next logical progression from tiny intricate replacement horses). 20 years later, the house is filled with grandfather clocks, so the Smiths decide to sell them and give the robot the money, and apparently this makes the robot really rich, because in the future people will care about grandfather clocks for some reason. Then the robot decides that he wants to be free, because this movie is so intense, and Mr. Smith gets mad and kicks the robot out of the house, just like when white people begrudgingly granted human slaves their freedom by pouting and being weird. Then Mr. Smith dies and he loves the robot again because death puts things in perspective. Stupid, ridiculous perspective.
Then the robot goes looking for other robots like him who also have a grandfather clock fortune, but he doesn’t find any. Instead he finds Oliver Platt, who is the son of a robot designer who now does his own work in a dumpster. The robot funds Oliver Platt’s research with his grandfather clock fortune, and now being able to have a human face instead of a Fischer Price one, he decides on the face of Robin Williams, because the robot is a genius. Blah blah blah, this movie is two hundred years long, Robin Williams Face Robot goes back to San Francisco and falls in love with the granddaughter of the youngest daughter of the Smith family and THEY GET MARRIED. Then he appeals to the Future Space United Nations Of Law or some shit to get recognized as a human being and they’re like “but aren’t you a robot?” And he’s like “Yeah, but I mean I have sex with a woman,” and they’re like “Well, you’re a robot.” There’s a title card that says “many years later,” and now the granddaughter of the youngest Smith daughter is getting old and wants to die some day, so the Robin Williams Face Robot invents a robo-human-blood-transfusion (?) which allows his robo-body to age and stop functioning in 30 to 40 years and now the Space Congress of International Future Relations is like “you’re a human,” but it’s too late because Robin Williams robot has died, but also he hasn’t died, because he’s still a fucking robot, and the woman he married is like “See you soon,” because she’s about to die, and she thinks she’s going to see him in heaven, which is sad that she got so old and no one ever told her how heaven works, because she won’t see him in heaven, because a broken robot is still a fucking robot.
Oh. M. God, you guys. I barely even know where to begin. This movie is epic (it’s where epic FAIL actually came from, look it up). This was my face for the entire movie:
As I mentioned earlier, the fundamental problem with this movie is that I don’t care what it feels like for a robot to become more and more human. Like at all. If you had to list all of the things that I care about in the world, that would end up very near the bottom, right below “hairstyles of the 1930s,” “the work of Nicholas Sparks,” and “Celtic tattoos.”
So, if that’s a problem, the entire movie falls apart, even if it’s a really good movie, which it is not. And if the entire movie has fallen apart and it’s a bad movie, then things just get laughable.
For example, when Mr. Smith teaches the robot about the human reproductive system:
That’s LOLable. Big time. But not the biggest time. Because even more laughable: the part where the youngest Smith daughter feels conflicted about her upcoming marriage because secretly she is in love with the Robin Williams robot.
Wait, whuuuuuut? When they finished shooting this scene, everyone high-fived and was like “We’re all adult professionals here, making really smart choices and spending millions of dollars wisely.”
I mean, if you’re going to do a movie about a robot who struggles with the complexities of human existence, at least get the facts about human existence right.
By the time the robot upgrades his face to Robin Williams’s face (TALK ABOUT BLINDED BY SCIENCE) it’s basically just impossible.
Stop. Stop it. Both of you stop it. Take a good long look in the mirror, ask yourselves how you got to this point, and then blow your brains out.
She just fucked a robot.
She left her fiance to go fuck a robot and later she marries that robot.
Her jilted fiance is played by Jay Johnston from Mr. Show.
After the sex scene, they are having breakfast, and that insane woman says that if they stay together it will be difficult because society will not accept their love for one another. True. You love a robot. You fuck a robot. A robot who looks like Robin Williams. You weirdo. But so that is when Robin Williams appeals to the Future Space Jetsons Court of International United Planets or WHATEVER–this movie is INSANE–to declare him a human and recognize his robot-human marriage, and I just want to say something real quick: I’m all for freedom and I am all for brave heroes, but if you are worried about how others might view your relationship, you don’t HAVE to make your relationship the poster child of the movement. Like, if you think that people are small-minded and bigoted and you’re worried what that will do to your robosexual love, you don’t need to fight for justice in a highly-publicized International Space Court. Not that anything else in this movie makes any sense, or that it ever depicts even one genuine human emotion or experience, because it doesn’t, because it was built in a laboratory by complete idiots.
Did I mention it won an Oscar? Oscars, kill yourself.
This made me laugh though:
WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?
Bicentennial Man is definitely in the Top 5 Worst, joining the ranks of Elizabethtown and Death Sentence. But even more importantly, New Rule: no more Robin Williams movies. I have suffered enough at this man’s hamhand.
Next Week: later this week, I will announce the new round of Worst Movies. The Hunt will never end. ))<>((. Lord, please take me now. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.