The media’s robot revolution: Artists imagine the robotic possibilities

By Alyssa Shaffer


Filmmakers have been fascinated by the limitless abilities of robotic technology since the very beginnings of the film industry. Local filmmakers lend their opinions on how this subject challenges our thinking on how we want a new technology like robots to fit into our lives.

Robots imagined in other media

Artists have propagated the idea of robots for more than a century. While many people’s first exposure to these characters is on the silver screen, several of them come from comic books and novels. Ultron and Baymax from recent films The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Big Hero 6 are actually from comic books. Ultron originated in the Marvel Universe and first appeared in 1968. He is also ranked as one of the scariest Marvel villains by IGN Entertainment. Baymax comes from the Marvel Universe in a comic series also called Big Hero 6 released in 1998.

Other examples include:

  • The Iron Giant, which director Brad Bird and his team adapted from Tim Hughes’ 1968 sci-fi novel The Iron Man. Warner Brothers released the film in 1999.
  • HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey was produced at the same time Arthur C. Clarke wrote the novel. He and director Stanley Kubrick worked together to complete both projects.
  • Ridley Scott’s produced Blade Runner‘s story based on the novel Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

And it looks like many more robot films are coming, according to Entertainment Weekly. According to the magazine,

“At a time when information-age connectivity defines daily life and foments actual revolution, it’s no coincidence movies are showcasing sentient automatons as lovers, errant children, and destroyers of the world. They are the fulcrum of fantasies, but also the apex of our anxiety.”

No one knows how robots will shape our future as they become more of reality than fantasy. However, people should understand how media attitudes toward robotics have evolved over the last century. The timeline below scratches the surface of the multitude of robotic portrayals in media. So as the debate about robotics rages on in the real world, filmmakers, authors, and other artists will have plenty of inspiration to create their vision of the future.

The Robot (Cinematic) Evolution

Scroll through the timeline and click on each film to learn more about famous robot films.

Source: American Movie Classics (AMC) filmsite

About Alyssa Shaffer 3 Articles

Alyssa Shaffer is putting all those years of TV-and-movie-watching to good use as an aspiring journalist. She graduated from Boston College in 2013 with a B.A. in Communications and Film Studies, and she graduated from Emerson College in 2015 with a M.A. in Journalism.