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arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / Re: Cinematic Robots: And...

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* Cinematic Robots: And...Jack Bohn
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Cinematic Robots: And...

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Subject: Cinematic Robots: And...
From: jack.boh...@gmail.com (Jack Bohn)
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 by: Jack Bohn - Fri, 28 Oct 2022 14:22 UTC

TCM is wrapping up their Robots in the Movies Month.

They saved the best... well, the biggest for last! Mechagodzilla, how do I rate that? If a seven foot Gort gets credit for being too tall to be a person in a suit, what to make of a 50m Mechagodzilla? I guess it depends on how much you believe Godzilla isn't just a person in a Godzilla suit.

Mechagodzilla was preceded by a Mechani-Kong in the 1967 Toho movie "King Kong Escapes." Robots of unusually large size is a Japanese tradition running back at least to "The Mysterians" in 1957; although an alien invasion movie, it included a giant monster for more box office draw; a high-tech machine used by the aliens rather than an animal.

Going forward, Mechagodzill was rebuilt for a sequel movie, then the Godzilla series finally petered out. In the '80s a Godzilla series of movies started, ignoring the previous series, being direct sequels to the original movie, after which Godzilla had not been seen for thirty years. A change in Emperors means these two sets of films can be referred to as the Showa-era Godzilla and the Hesei-era Godzilla. Spoilers, but the Hesei series will also peter out, another set of movies, each individually a direct sequel to the original, will be known as the Millennium series. Mechagodzilla was redesigned and recontextualized in each of these series, and also in the recent Legendary series of giant monster movies.

Final movie of this celebration: "Deadly Friend" (1986). A youngster with a hobby robot that gets put out of commission, and a neighboring friend who falls into a vegetative coma, thinks to combine the two to get one functional friend. The robot BB (Charles Fleischer provided the voice) is a rather mechanical design, perhaps sometimes puppeteered or marionetted, but mostly controlled remotely by cable or radio. The IMDb trivia says Johny 5 from "Short Circuit" parts were used for BB, but call me skeptical. That movie was released five months before this, if the two followed a similar production pattern, one five months behind the other, the design and building process for BB would likely be before Johnny Five was released from filming duties. Then I fell down a rabbit hole in realizing four such lite romance movies with a mechanical robot actor appeared in 1986. In order of US release: "Killbots" (aka "Chopping Mall"), "Short Circuit", "Deadly Friend", and "Wired to Kill" (aka "Booby Trap"). (With a fifth, "Flight of the Navigator" involving a computer of a CGI ship.) Was there something in the air? Or maybe the water? I would point to "The Terminator" endoskeleton appearing back in 1984. This was from director James Cameron, previously a special effects artist, who knew what animatronics innards were needed for moving a human-like design. (Interestingly, another use of his moviemaking technology onscreen to save time designing future technology is in his "Aliens" where "smartgun" armature uses a Steadicam rig.) 1986 is also the year of Doctor Who's "Trial of a Timelord" the first four episodes of which feature an advanced robot, not the person-in-a-suit Drathro (which somewhat hides the lines of special effects technician Paul McGuinness), but the treaded L7 robot. The DVD commentary mentions that the L7 was built with components of a motorized wheelchair, introducing the idea that advancing technology can make representing robots easier. And cheaper. There was a quote from a movie-maker earlier in the '80s to the effect that if they could design a single prop that could do everything required in the script, there'd be more money in selling it than in using it to make a movie. The prop department and set design know all the scrapyards to scrounge for cool stuff. I picture a movie made in the future with an ASIMO wearing a tin robot suit.

IMDb trivia for "Short Circuit" says the proximate inspiration for that was "Let's Go," a short Showscan film made by Douglas Trumbull for the Expo in Japan in 1985. (And now I wish I'd explained the proto-Showscan of his "Brainstorm" when I mentioned that movie earlier.) I was this week old when I found this out, and now I'm wondering if there is any way to see this, or other Expo films. It was a '60s documentary short that brought Douglas Trumbull to the eye of Stanley Kubrick for "2001."

Later, Sunday morning, is "It!" -- possibly. The online schedule has that title, and the cast for that movie, but a synopsis for "It! The Terror from Beyond Space." It's anybody's guess what the technician will pull out to run in that spot. If it is the Roddy McDowall movie, it(!) is a golem-like statue. Later in the day is "I Walked with a Zombie." One aspect of the robot concept seems to be control over another intelligence: think of Doctor Smith pulling the power pack of the Robot, or Harcourt Fenton Mudd's "Stella" series of androids, which will berate him until he tells them to shut up. Such thoughts came even before we had the capability to fulfil them. These old-style zombie movies pretty much condemn such urges. Monday has "The Plague of the Zombies," "Curse of Frankenstein," and the three Universal Frankensteins with Boris Karloff as the monster. While I'm thinking about it, for all the foreshadowing about criminal body parts and an abnormal or damaged brain, this trilogy of movies treats the creation as, mostly, an innocent. Thoughts about death as a reboot or clean install of mind, breaking the cycle of bad habits? Sleep is often touted for a change in outlook. Does the sleep of death actually mean you are reborn?

How to rate these robots? They are, essentially, robots; the movie magic is their motivation and control source -human rather than computer- and substitutions of specialized versions for specialized actions. I will rank them in their believability as robots:

Protectors ("Killbots")
the robot from "Wired to Kill" -- I only watched it once, if it has a designation, I've forgotten
Johny Five
BB

Any Johnny 5 advocates here? Adam Savage's Tested recently dropped a Youtube video about a complete prop coming up for auction and mentioned that those who like the film really like the film. I think he is just too cute. I've defended VINCent, Muffet, and Doctor Who's K-9 as being cute because they are designed to be cute, but Number 5 should be designed to be a warbot. The eyeshades and exposed articulation just seems too delicate for that. A podcast I was listening to last week made the point that WALL-E is essentially a cutified Number 5.

As to numerical values, I'm thinking scoring them from 0.9 to 1.0, adding and subtracting milliislands for scenes where they "cheating": having picked something off the floor when the arms can't reach that far down, things like that. However, by my explanation of the scale: "It's not a man in a tin suit," these rate a full 1.0, as there is no one in the suit, and "No Man" is an island. That opens up the robot-as-robot scale for one, two, infinity (and beyond). Should that be the way it goes?

--
-Jack

Re: Cinematic Robots: And...

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 by: Paul S Person - Fri, 28 Oct 2022 16:33 UTC

On Fri, 28 Oct 2022 07:22:23 -0700 (PDT), Jack Bohn
<jack.bohn64@gmail.com> wrote:

>TCM is wrapping up their Robots in the Movies Month.
>
>They saved the best... well, the biggest for last! Mechagodzilla, how do I rate that? If a seven foot Gort gets credit for being too tall to be a person in a suit, what to make of a 50m Mechagodzilla? I guess it depends on how much you believe Godzilla isn't just a person in a Godzilla suit.
>
>Mechagodzilla was preceded by a Mechani-Kong in the 1967 Toho movie "King Kong Escapes." Robots of unusually large size is a Japanese tradition running back at least to "The Mysterians" in 1957; although an alien invasion movie, it included a giant monster for more box office draw; a high-tech machine used by the aliens rather than an animal.
>
>Going forward, Mechagodzill was rebuilt for a sequel movie, then the Godzilla series finally petered out. In the '80s a Godzilla series of movies started, ignoring the previous series, being direct sequels to the original movie, after which Godzilla had not been seen for thirty years. A change in Emperors means these two sets of films can be referred to as the Showa-era Godzilla and the Hesei-era Godzilla. Spoilers, but the Hesei series will also peter out, another set of movies, each individually a direct sequel to the original, will be known as the Millennium series. Mechagodzilla was redesigned and recontextualized in each of these series, and also in the recent Legendary series of giant monster movies.

All of which /could/ have been about 3 inches high.

/The Wild Wild West/ movie apparently actually /built/ one of the
spider's legs out of iron (as depicted in the film). It was so heavy
that no steam engine that would fit in the body could possibly move
it.

There is a /reason/ models and/or CGI are used for these things!

>Final movie of this celebration: "Deadly Friend" (1986). A youngster with a hobby robot that gets put out of commission, and a neighboring friend who falls into a vegetative coma, thinks to combine the two to get one functional friend. The robot BB (Charles Fleischer provided the voice) is a rather mechanical design, perhaps sometimes puppeteered or marionetted, but mostly controlled remotely by cable or radio. The IMDb trivia says Johny 5 from "Short Circuit" parts were used for BB, but call me skeptical. That movie was released five months before this, if the two followed a similar production pattern, one five months behind the other, the design and building process for BB would likely be before Johnny Five was released from filming duties. Then I fell down a rabbit hole in realizing four such lite romance movies with a mechanical robot actor appeared in 1986. In order of US release: "Killbots" (aka "Chopping Mall"), "Short Circuit", "Deadly Friend", and "Wired to Kill" (aka
>"Booby Trap"). (With a fifth, "Flight of the Navigator" involving a computer of a CGI ship.) Was there something in the air? Or maybe the water? I would point to "The Terminator" endoskeleton appearing back in 1984. This was from director James Cameron, previously a special effects artist, who knew what animatronics innards were needed for moving a human-like design. (Interestingly, another use of his moviemaking technology onscreen to save time designing future technology is in his "Aliens" where "smartgun" armature uses a Steadicam rig.) 1986 is also the year of Doctor Who's "Trial of a Timelord" the first four episodes of which feature an advanced robot, not the person-in-a-suit Drathro (which somewhat hides the lines of special effects technician Paul McGuinness), but the treaded L7 robot. The DVD commentary mentions that the L7 was built with components of a motorized wheelchair, introducing the idea that advancing technology can make representing robots easier. And
>cheaper. There was a quote from a movie-maker earlier in the '80s to the effect that if they could design a single prop that could do everything required in the script, there'd be more money in selling it than in using it to make a movie. The prop department and set design know all the scrapyards to scrounge for cool stuff. I picture a movie made in the future with an ASIMO wearing a tin robot suit.
>
>IMDb trivia for "Short Circuit" says the proximate inspiration for that was "Let's Go," a short Showscan film made by Douglas Trumbull for the Expo in Japan in 1985. (And now I wish I'd explained the proto-Showscan of his "Brainstorm" when I mentioned that movie earlier.) I was this week old when I found this out, and now I'm wondering if there is any way to see this, or other Expo films. It was a '60s documentary short that brought Douglas Trumbull to the eye of Stanley Kubrick for "2001."
>
>Later, Sunday morning, is "It!" -- possibly. The online schedule has that title, and the cast for that movie, but a synopsis for "It! The Terror from Beyond Space." It's anybody's guess what the technician will pull out to run in that spot. If it is the Roddy McDowall movie, it(!) is a golem-like statue. Later in the day is "I Walked with a Zombie." One aspect of the robot concept seems to be control over another intelligence: think of Doctor Smith pulling the power pack of the Robot, or Harcourt Fenton Mudd's "Stella" series of androids, which will berate him until he tells them to shut up. Such thoughts came even before we had the capability to fulfil them. These old-style zombie movies pretty much condemn such urges. Monday has "The Plague of the Zombies," "Curse of Frankenstein," and the three Universal Frankensteins with Boris Karloff as the monster. While I'm thinking about it, for all the foreshadowing about criminal body parts and an abnormal or damaged brain, this
>trilogy of movies treats the creation as, mostly, an innocent. Thoughts about death as a reboot or clean install of mind, breaking the cycle of bad habits? Sleep is often touted for a change in outlook. Does the sleep of death actually mean you are reborn?
>
>
>How to rate these robots? They are, essentially, robots; the movie magic is their motivation and control source -human rather than computer- and substitutions of specialized versions for specialized actions. I will rank them in their believability as robots:
>
>Protectors ("Killbots")
>the robot from "Wired to Kill" -- I only watched it once, if it has a designation, I've forgotten
>Johny Five
>BB
>
>Any Johnny 5 advocates here? Adam Savage's Tested recently dropped a Youtube video about a complete prop coming up for auction and mentioned that those who like the film really like the film. I think he is just too cute. I've defended VINCent, Muffet, and Doctor Who's K-9 as being cute because they are designed to be cute, but Number 5 should be designed to be a warbot. The eyeshades and exposed articulation just seems too delicate for that. A podcast I was listening to last week made the point that WALL-E is essentially a cutified Number 5.
>
>As to numerical values, I'm thinking scoring them from 0.9 to 1.0, adding and subtracting milliislands for scenes where they "cheating": having picked something off the floor when the arms can't reach that far down, things like that. However, by my explanation of the scale: "It's not a man in a tin suit," these rate a full 1.0, as there is no one in the suit, and "No Man" is an island. That opens up the robot-as-robot scale for one, two, infinity (and beyond). Should that be the way it goes?
--
"In this connexion, unquestionably the most significant
development was the disintegration, under Christian
influence, of classical conceptions of the family and
of family right."

Re: Cinematic Robots: And...

<tjhhc2$vio$1@gioia.aioe.org>

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 by: Your Name - Fri, 28 Oct 2022 21:25 UTC

On 2022-10-28 14:22:23 +0000, Jack Bohn said:
<snip>
> Any Johnny 5 advocates here? Adam Savage's Tested recently dropped a
> Youtube video about a complete prop coming up for auction and mentioned
> that those who like the film really like the film. I think he is just
> too cute. I've defended VINCent, Muffet, and Doctor Who's K-9 as being
> cute because they are designed to be cute, but Number 5 should be
> designed to be a warbot. The eyeshades and exposed articulation just
> seems too delicate for that. A podcast I was listening to last week
> made the point that WALL-E is essentially a cutified Number 5.

As always, the Internet has numerous lists, including these two ...

- The Cutest Robots In Movies And TV, Ranked

<https://www.ranker.com/list/cutest-robots-in-movies-and-tv-ranked/ranker-characters>

- 10 Most Adorable Sci-Fi Movie Robots (That Are Not From Star Wars)
<https://gamerant.com/sci-fi-movie-robots-cutest/>

Re: Cinematic Robots: And...

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From: jer...@jwbrown.co.uk.invalid (Jerry Brown)
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Subject: Re: Cinematic Robots: And...
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 by: Jerry Brown - Sat, 29 Oct 2022 07:11 UTC

On Fri, 28 Oct 2022 07:22:23 -0700 (PDT), Jack Bohn
<jack.bohn64@gmail.com> wrote:

<snip>

>Any Johnny 5 advocates here? Adam Savage's Tested recently dropped a Youtube video about a complete prop coming up for auction and mentioned that those who like the film really like the film. I think he is just too cute. I've defended VINCent, Muffet, and Doctor Who's K-9 as being cute because they are designed to be cute, but Number 5 should be designed to be a warbot. The eyeshades and exposed articulation just seems too delicate for that. A podcast I was listening to last week made the point that WALL-E is essentially a cutified Number 5.

When we saw the group of the soldier robots in the early part of the
film I though they managed to be reasonably menacing. The eyeshades
sort of made sense as adjustable lens hoods that you might see on the
front of telephoto lenses to prevent ambient light interfering with
image reception.

Can't remember if you mentioned the episode of the seventies SF show
"Salvage One" which trod similar ground to "Short Circuit". The robot
was humaniform (due to an actor inside), and the big reveal that it
was intended for military work was a gun barrel popping out of a chest
panel whenever it was stressed.

I thinik the episode had a more downbeat ending then "Short Circuit".

--
Jerry Brown

A cat may look at a king
(but probably won't bother)


arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / Re: Cinematic Robots: And...

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