Nerdy Monday 5: Robots!

That’s right.  This week we’re talking about robots.  It is my belief that if you call yourself a nerd, you have to have a firm stance on robots.  Whether you take the Terminator route and believe they will become self aware and try to enslave us all, or you think that we create them as weapons and they develop a personality somehow and entertain us until their batteries run out.  Either way, we nerds are kind of fond of robots.

I’m not at all into the whole fire and brimstone, doom and gloom theory of artificial intelligence, so we’re going to focus on robots that have become sentient beings, mostly just here for our enjoyment.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time.  From so long ago, I hadn’t even created this blog yet.  Let me just jump off from this point: Did any of you notice the similarities between Wall-E, and the 1986 robot in Short Circuit?  Me too.  Let’s get started.

[Before you read any further, I want to make sure that everyone understands that this isn’t another rant about the physical similarities between the 2 robots.  I am going to touch on the similar messages of both movies.]

Can't go wrong.

The reason why I’m not comparing Wall-E to Johnny 5 based on their physical attributes, is because there’s no comparison, Johnny 5 is tall, slender, has shoulders and a mouth.  Wall-E is short, chubby, does not have shoulders, or a mouth.  Both robots are cool, but there’s no comparison.

Wall-E

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go see it.  I don’t care if you’ve heard that it’s “a big political statement” or of any of the alleged underlying tones about it.  It’s a kids movie.  When children watch Wall-E, they see cute robots, doing cute things.  It’s the adults that read way too much into the movie and recognize certain patterns or references that they think influenced the movie.  There’s references to the outside/real world in every movie ever made by anyone.  They aren’t necessarily bad, they are just influences.  It’s exactly like your grandparents saying “We could do that back then, because it was a different time.” the outside world influenced them.  It’s exactly the same thing as movies being made by George Lucas (for example) being influenced by the movies he used to watch growing up.  It’s the entire basis of our civilization, we started with nothing, and now we have phones you can surf the internet with.  We build on what we have.

I first watched Wall-E through my On Demand movies, and loved it.  I am a movie connoisseur, and hang out (and even live with) other people who enjoy movies.  Hasn’t everyone had a conversation about one movie, and over the course of that conversation you relate that movie to other movies, and relate those to even more movies, and so on?  I shared Wall-E with all of my friends, even some that don’t usually like animated movies, or only like action movies, or that overall wouldn’t normally watch Wall-E.  They all enjoyed it.  It was great, knowing that a movie with almost no dialogue can have that much of an impact on movie-goers, and their cinematic experience.

He wants to eviscerate the proletariat, cause he's pissed.

The whole thing behind Wall-E is that he was built to clean up the Earth while all the humans went on this super awesome space cruise.  The Earth had become so fraught with garbage, we just said “forget this, we’re gonna make stuff to clean up our other stuff, and then go tour the galaxy.”  A pretty cool concept, I think.  The whole project was supposed to be 5 years long, or something (I haven’t re-watched it in a while) and ended up being more than 700 years.  So Wall-E is at least 700 years old.  In that time he developed a personality.  He turns out quite happy considering he is a garbage man, and his main component is a trash compactor.  I think that right there shows kids that they need to be able to find the good in the bad.  They need to be able to take a horrible situation, and turn it into something they can enjoy.  There’s positive message number 2, and if you didn’t catch it, it was about work ethic.

The list can go on.  But I’m going to end with this one: learn to look past people who are different.  How does Wall-E teach children about this?  He’s an outcast himself, first of all.  And second of all, did you see the posse he had after he boarded the Axiom?  They were all “broken”, they were the nerds of the Axiom, basically.  And the star of the movie befriended them, and had them all work together for the betterment of mankind.

Be honest. If you saw this, you wouldn't know what to do either.

Short Circuit

This movie had a lot going for it.  The robot, affectionately known by the end of the movie as “Johnny 5”, and Steve Gutenberg.  I don’t know what people have against Gutenberg, but I loved him in this movie.  Back in the 1980’s he was a well known and very funny comedian.  Between him and the robot, there was a lot of different types of humor going on, from corny and schtick, to more complicated and detailed.  I remember watching this movie all growing up.  This was the first time I saw someone imitate the three stooges (the robots Johnny 5 programs), it was the first time I wanted to read really fast, like a robot could.  My friends and I would run around like Johnny 5 saying “more input” after seeing this.  It being the ’80s, sadly the merchandising and endorsements weren’t what they are today, so all we had to play with was the movie.  The VHS.  There weren’t even any bonus features.

Anyways, this movie had some solid values children took away from it, aside from the funny parts, a lot of which were inspired by “The Gutenberg Factor”.  If you watch this movie again and pay attention to it, it is Wall-E.  Johnny 5 befriends unusual characters, and brings them together for a happy ending.  He was able to be imitated easily, and taught kids that imitations can be funny and relevant to a conversation instead of annoying and you’re-going-to-get-kicked-in-the-face worthy.  Also, like Wall-E he was an outcast just trying to fit in.  Unlike Wall-E though, Johnny 5 wanted to be human.  Also.. I wanted to point out an inconsistency with Short Circuit.  Johnny 5 was struck by lightning or electrocuted somehow and instantly grew a personality, yet later in the movie, Gutenberg’s character checked out Johnny 5’s wiring and found it to be “all messed up”.  Which one was the real reason this robot is talking to me?  I don’t know, we’ll blame it on the ’80s movie ignorance, or the Gutenberg Factor again.

Overall, I loved both of these movies.  Everyone I knew at least liked them, even if they thought of themselves as a pretty tough movie critic.  And what is it with people taking robot movies and twisting them into some political thing, or making it try to convey something it’s not?  I don’t know, I may have to write about all of that one day.  Please go see these movies if you haven’t already, you’ll see parallels without even trying.

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