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#084. Malfunctioning Kill-Bots

While robots may have many sub-routines, most have one, overarching directive that they are created to accomplish. Unfortunately, the world is not a peaceful place, and it’s not getting any better. In order for us to “one-up” our enemies, we create robots that have one prime directive: kill. Now, Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics notwithstanding, if there are no bugs in the code, these robots will accomplish this directive no matter what. However, what if these robots were to malfunction? Usually, malfunctioning robots turn into killer robots (for some reason), so what happens when killer robots malfunction? Do they save people? Do they give life? In reality, they probably just wouldn’t work at all and have to be scrapped. But in the “what if” mentality of Hollywood, there are a few examples of robots who are programmed to kill eventually ignoring their prime directive to pursue other interests. This week’s two films highlight malfunctioning kill-bots.

Short CircuitShort Circuit
Year: 1986
Rating: PG
Length: 98 minutes / 1.63 hours

Everything can be turned into a weapon. This mentality is why some failed products end up as top-secret weapons systems for the government. And yet, the opposite can also be true. Objects made for war can sometimes be used for peace. When it comes down to it, the user of something will determine how it is utilized. So, while a company may excel in producing robots with lasers and no judgement of right or wrong, meant only to destroy a designated target, that same company has the same capacity to create robots that could save people from burning buildings or do other heroic tasks in situations too dangerous for humans. All that is really required of the robot is being told what to do. The hardware for both tasks can remain the same, regardless.

Nova laboratories has created five robots meant for one thing: to destroy. Unfortunately, the creator of said robots, Dr. Newton Crosby (Steve Gutenberg) wants them to be used for the good of mankind (albeit he thinks juggling will serve some greater purpose). And yet, when the robots are taken out for a demonstration for the military, one of the robots is struck by lightning and escapes. Just like in Frankenstein, lightning has given the robot life, and now it needs to convince its creator of this fact. However, this simple task becomes incredibly complicated when Nova labs finds out that the fifth robot is missing, which prompts them to send the other four after it. They aren’t looking to accept the robot’s sentience, and he doesn’t want to be reprogrammed. Who will win out in the end?

Terminator 2: Judgment DayTerminator 2: Judgment Day
Year: 1991
Rating: R
Length: 137 minutes / 2.28 hours

One of the most terrifying things about futuristic technology is the perfection of androids. While it is simple to distinguish between a robot and a human now, if Hollywood has given us any indication of future technology, eventually we won’t be able to tell who is real and who is a robot. Of course, this only becomes more terrifying when the robots are programmed only to kill us. And yet, just like the Cold War mentality of protecting yourself from a nuke by also having a nuke, one way to protect yourself from killer robots is to have one of your own to fight them. Ideally, these robots would be equally matched, so they would inevitably destroy each other. However, what if the other side has a more advanced killer robot? All the reprogramming in the world can’t make up for a hardware deficiency.

Having survived the attack of a Terminator robot once before, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has since given birth to a son named John (Edward Furlong). Of course, the future has now sent an upgraded version of the Terminator (Robert Patrick) that was destroyed many years ago to attempt to kill John directly. Fortunately, John Connor from the future was forward thinking enough to send back a re-programmed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to assist in his fight for survival. And yet, the challenge remains that the newer T-1000 is an almost indestructible liquid metal robot, where as the Terminator is the older, and thus obsolete, model. Can the Terminator overcome the obvious disparity in power? Can John live long enough to fulfill is future destiny?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 reprogrammed killers

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5 responses to “#084. Malfunctioning Kill-Bots

  1. Pingback: End of Act Two | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #222. Adjusted Timelines | Cinema Connections

  3. Pingback: #250. Man and Machine | Cinema Connections

  4. Pingback: #251. Asimov’s Laws of Robotics | Cinema Connections

  5. Pingback: #270. Lightning Power! | Cinema Connections

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