Summer movies - What about the older kids in the household who can handle a PG-13 (but not an Ex Machina R) and roll their eyes at movies that their younger siblings like? (Well except for WALL-E and Big Hero 6 - everyone loves those movies see the reviews here!) This week we will cover 5 movies (and 1 to avoid), plus an X-Files episode, whose robotic realism offers teachable moments about tele manipulators, distributed coordination of multi-robot teams, and why insects are great models of intelligence for robots.
In terms of action and adventure, Stargate, the original movie that sired the franchise is notable because it uses a real robot (NASA JPL’s Hazbot) the way scientists and soldiers would use a robot in real life. The Andromeda Strain, the very realistic biohazard movie from Michael Crichton, has a bio lab that uses industrial automation force reflecting tele manipulators, or waldos, still used by the Department of Energy. It is a good baseline to think about the current state of robotics. Dante’s Peak (see me review here) is also another thriller that makes use of a robot in a realistic way.
If the teens like chills and horror, then the X-Files has one of the most accurate - but scream your head off - portrayals of robots EVER in the season 3 episode 12 War of the Corophages. Westworld, the original 1973 movie, is another good choice and may inspire teens to read Daniel H. Wilson’s How to Survive a Robot Uprising, which explains many of the same vulnerabilities that real robots have that nebbishy Richard Benjamin discovers in desperation.
But the most realistic robot movie for tweens and teens may be Silent Running. It’s rated G but younger kids won’t get the nuances about the robots and will be bored out of their minds. Unfortunately Silent Running is one of those famous-director-and-lavish-production flops: the special effects are great, but the movie plot and pacing is terrible. It’s worth seeing but like the truly awful Robot Revolution (see my review here), it will be hard not to shout “helpful” comment at the screen. The week starts with a review of Silent Running below, followed by RTSF guide to Realistic Robot Movies for Tweens and Teens mid-week.