More often than not, the robot comes to us in the movies as a villain. However, an examination of these so called evil robots reveals that the evil robots are not always as evil as they appear. Take for instance, five movie robots, starting at the beginning with Fritz Lang’s “Maschinenmensch” or “Machine Man” from 1927’s Metropolis.
As background, the Machine Man was developed by the mad scientist Rotwang as tool of revenge. Rotwang uses it to incite violence and chaos. While the Machine Man is clearly used for evil purposes, it could be argued that if it were programmed not to obey a mad scientist but rather to, say, help old ladies cross the street, we wouldn’t think of it as an evil robot. Clearly that would make for a very boring movie. Let’s move on.
Certainly HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) qualifies as an evil robot – right? It’s even listed in AFI’s ‘100 years” series as one of the top villains in movie history. But is HAL really evil? In order to complete its mission, to trace the signal being projected by the Monolith, it decides to eliminate all obstacles (in this case the humans). But is HAL’s mission and the resulting evolutionary progress for mankind worth the lives of the two cranky astronauts? If you argue yes, than HAL is not evil at all. Machiavellian perhaps, but not evil.
Certainly the Machines from the Matrix (1999) are evil right? After all they enslave humanity to either a lifetime of being plugged into a video game or eating gruel and fighting the machines in an endless war. But this line of thought conveniently forgets that the humans built the machines to enslave them, and then tried to destroy them all with nuclear weapons (forgetting, apparently, that nuclear weapons would destroy everything else too). Also, it appears all life on Earth has been obliterated except for the humans, so the machines and their massive game are the only things keeping the humans alive.
Certainly Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is evil right? After all he tries to destroy humanity. And just look at him in the poster! He’s kidnapping a scantily clad woman! How evil is that?!? That’s a very human-centric way of thinking about it though. Apparently the other civilizations in the galaxy don’t like our penchant for violent conflict and want to preemptively take us out a potential threat. Unfair, perhaps, but to them, not especially evil.
Finally! Megatron (Transformers (2007)) is definitely evil! It’s actually pretty hard to argue against this, partly because Michael Bay’s “films” have about as much subtlety as a jackhammer.
Anyway that’s enough evil robots for today!
(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe