The idea of robots has been filling the imaginations of film creators since the dawn of cinema. Early motion pictures like 1927’s “Metropolis”, began to open up a new world filled with mechanized beings, mostly comprised of steel and other metals. Incredible advancements in technology has led to the progression of what robots can accomplish – and to the possibilities of what they can destroy.
With the emergence of fighting robots taking center stage in the beginning of the seventies, special effects, animation and overall excitement grew around giant machines battling in epic melees of iron and steel.
From the Drawing Board to the Big Screen
Early on, Japan and South Korea released animations featuring large robots, “Gundam”, “Mazinger Z” and “Robot Taekwon V”, forged from super strong alloys. The machines were built as weapons against forces of evil, and over the course of several seasons, had many successful campaigns against evil-doers.
Popularity for enormous robots built for combat took off not only in Asia, but also in the US, where different adaptions were created. While Voltar the Invincible, Iron Man and other man-made machines kept the world in check, dramatic clashes between Transformers’ Autobots and Decepticons were leaving cities in ruins.
During that same time, robots were being incorporated into Hollywood’s sci-fi and futuristic movie plots more often. The Star Wars saga, Robocop and Blade Runner, all had robots that were built for one purpose – to destroy.
Entering in the new millennium, fighting robots continued to thrive. Robots were not only fighting in fiction, but also in reality. The hit 2000 TV show, “Battle Bots”, had engineers from around the world designing and building real-life robots to ravage their competition.
In 2007, director Michael Bay completely reimagined and reinvented the Transformers series into a larger-than-life action-packed film – winning global acclaim and nominated for three academy awards, including best visual effects.
In Roger Ebert’s review of “Transformers”, he says that “the robots, created by Industrial Light and Magic, are indeed delightful creatures; you can look hard and see the truck windshields, hubcaps and junkyard stuff they’re made of. And their movements are ingenious, especially the scorpion-like robot in the desert.”
Building on the momentum of the Transformers series, the 2007 movie, “Real Steel”, soon took the spotlight for sparring robots. In the future, human boxers have been replaced by robots, who just like the Ali’s and Sugar Rays of our time, duck and jab at each other with their human operators, controlling their movements.
The heroic protagonist of “Real Steel”, is not only the former boxer-turned robot operator, but also the almost-forgotten steel robot itself which became a winning success in the underdog story.
Machine’s Last Stand
Giant, earth-saving robots piloted by humans more recently took their stand against even larger prehistoric-looking alien invaders in Academy Award-winning director, Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim”.
In the film, the gargantuan robots, called Jaegers, were built by the world’s military and are piloted by an elite group of individuals that must connect not only with their partner, but also the machine to defeat their enemy.
Each Jaeger is built differently, and each has a unique ability that will help it bring down the giant alien monsters. After several Jaegers are destroyed in hard-fought battles, the remaining two are victorious against the enemy – with their steel structures largely to thank.
Stories films involving colossal fighting robots will most likely continue to entertain us for some time to come. With space exploration and technology being the main theme around much of the movies that are coming out, there will always be space in the script for an epic giant robot battle.