Robots are a staple of sci-fi movies and TV. Unfortunately, for every Terminator or Iron Giant (or Transformers, if you’re into that), a janky ‘bot crawls onto the screen as well. Because we’ve done Roundtables about favorite robots once or twice before, it’s time to call out some of the lame ones for ridicule.
As I’ve stated in Roundtables past, I’ve never been one to go after low-hanging fruit – and I don’t plan on doing it this week, either. My pick for the lamest, most annoying, and useless fictional robot is C-3PO from ‘Star Wars‘.
Seriously, does anyone love him? Yeah, he’s been around for a one-liner or two over the course of seven theatrical films and countless animated appearances, but has he ever done anything noteworthy? Not in any of the main movies, that’s for sure. His only purpose seems to be to translate what his much more useful pal R2-D2 is saying and… of course… to complain about everything. No wonder Princess Leia just turned him off in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ when he kept telling everyone over and over about how they were all going to die.
If any of our readers try to make the point that C-3P0 is a “droid” and not a robot, you’re going on the scrap heap with him.
Is it too early to say Walter from ‘Alien: Covenant‘? I typically expect such doppelganger shenanigans from the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme, but Walter doubles down on David’s (Michael Fassbender’s character from ‘Prometheus’) host of annoying qualities by having the survival skills of the Tinny Timm robot from ‘Futurama’. That first flute scene is indulgent in a way that the ‘Tropic Thunder’ characters would envy.
M. Enois Duarte
After searching through my database of childhood memories, I have calculated the statistical value of the lamest robot to be Twiki from ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century‘. The diminutive automaton walked and moved in hilariously stereotypical robotic fashion, but in my young eyes, she was very futuristic and one of the most memorable characters on the short-lived series. Looking back at the show, I now realize how incredibly lame the gender-specific robot really was, assisting Buck in all his needs while making those silly “Bidi bidi bidi bidi” sounds as if normal for all androids. The funny part is that beneath the mask was Felix Silla, the same actor who played Cousin Itt on ‘The Addams Family’, and the voice was provided by the legendary Mel Blanc, the man behind countless ‘Looney Tunes’ cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and so many others. As silly and lame as Twiki is, however, the robot is forever part of my childhood memory banks.
For being smart enough to create a brilliant robot, Steve Urkel sure wasn’t very bright. In one jump-the-shark episode of ‘Family Matters‘ (part of ABC’s old T.G.I.F. line-up), the nerdy teenage neighbor built a robot whose intelligence doubled every two minutes. Exponentially increasing intelligence is a pretty cool idea, but it was a terrible decision for Steve to design it that way. In no time at all, the horribly-named and hideously-designed Urkelbot overthrew its master by locking him in the basement, only to be defeated by its creator less than 22 sitcom minutes later. The concept of Urkelbot is one of sci-fi thriller nightmares, but being part of a family-friendly primetime television series made it just another cheesy and stupid villain.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’m more a fan of ‘Logan’s Run‘ than I should probably admit, and, honestly, there’s even a great deal I love about Box. This robot was intended to serve mankind by freezing and storing food. When stocks of wildlife and seafood grew scarce, Box turned his sights towards a very different game. Now he flash-freezes anyone fleeing from the fate that awaits all humans as they approach the age of 30. It’s unclear if Box is even able to distinguish between men and the food they eat; it may all register as protein to his cybernetic eyes. It’s a reasonably compelling concept, heightened further by Box’s hyperliterate dialogue, the collision of his hopeless isolation and need for purpose, and another in a long line of strong performances by Roscoe Lee Browne.
Whatever promise there otherwise may have been is ravaged by one of the most howlingly ridiculous robot costumes in the annals of cinema. Browne has a couple of dryer vent hoses for arms, a spray-painted cardboard box torso with random bits and bobs hot-glued on, what looks like aluminum foil wrapped around his head, and I can only guess there are rollerskates or something under his shiny metal skirt. At the right angles, you can see Browne’s skin slightly exposed, making for the only trace of ethnicity in this dystopian future.
Michael Crichton was a brilliant science fiction author, but his track record as a film director was a lot more uneven. As much as I enjoy his 1984 thriller ‘Runaway‘, in which Tom Selleck plays a cop who hunts malfunctioning robots, as a piece of ’80s sci-fi cheese, it’s very hard to take Crichton’s depiction of a near future filled with clunky industrial robots in every home and office seriously. The movie gets especially silly when snarling madman Gene Simmons unleashes his silly robotic spiders that look like they were built out of leftover parts from some kid’s Erector set. These things are in no way fearsome as they very slowly and awkwardly scuttle across the floor, yet characters cower in terror at the sight of them, too paralyzed with fear to step simply out of the way. A little nudge with your foot would easily knock one over and incapacitate it. Instead, victims are more likely to stand motionless, waiting for the mechanical wind-up toys to crawl up their clothes and stab them in the neck.
Give us your picks for lame movie and TV robots in the Comments.