5 Awesome Movie Robots with Inexcusable Design Flaws
Fictional technology is fascinating in the sense that on one hand, it's pure wish fulfillment -- the writers can create the most awesome devices imaginable and don't have to worry about technical limitations or feasibility. But on the other hand, so much of it is almost laughably flawed. Take movie robots, for instance. They can think and love and perform amazing feats, and every kid wants one. Yet if they were built and sold by a real company, they'd be yanked from the market within minutes due to their glaring design oversights. For instance ...
The T-X in Terminator 3 Is a Serious Downgrade from the T-1000
The T-1000 in Terminator 2 truly has no weak point (in fact, we're not sure where its crucial circuitry even could be, let alone where it might be). This is because it tap dances between solid and liquid form at will, meaning that physical damage is something it hands out like Darfur fliers at a coffee shop but can never actually experience. The only reason Schwarzenegger is able to destroy it is because someone built a pit of lava next to the Los Angeles freeway, a scenario Skynet probably read through streaming tears of hilarity before dismissing it from the T-1000's contingency programming.
So in Terminator 3, the evil robot must be even more hardcore terror-awesome than the T-1000, right? They wouldn't bother to waste our time with a sequel 12 years later without coming up with a cyborg so tit-shatteringly badass that the T-1000 would hang posters of it on its wall, right?
"I'm here to kill John C- why are you laughing?"
What we got instead was the T-X, a machine utterly inferior to the T-1000 in every conceivable way. Both could change their appearance and deliver menacingly deadpan compliments about peoples' vehicles, but while the T-1000 could shape shift into literally anything it touched of equal mass (even a goddamned patch of floor), the T-X was strictly limited to different variations of the same hot woman. There's even a scene where it inflates its human female breasts to more effectively coerce someone, and while we agree that this can be a useful ability, it maybe isn't as universally effective as being able to dopplegang virtually any person on the planet.
But that's not even the most severe design regression. The T-X, like Schwarzenegger's moldy old T-800, has a physical endoskeleton. If Skynet can make a time traveling assassination machine out of liquid metal, why would it ever build one out of anything else? The T-1000 could not be harmed by anything -- it shrugs off bullets, grenades and explosions without a scratch. Arnold takes the same abuse, but comes out looking like he got raped by a Tyrannosaurus, because he has a permanent solid-state structure. So why would a sentient supercomputer overlord read the performance reviews of those two models and decide "Whoops, scrap that 'mimetic polyalloy' bullshit, clunky metal horror-bones are definitely the way to go"?
Yeah, that's much, much better.
The T-1000 essentially has no limitations as an infiltration unit -- as we've already mentioned, it can mime pretty much anything, but beyond that, it can get in and out of any place it wants simply by engaging "puddle mode" and sliding through whatever narrow entrance point is available. It wouldn't matter if the only way into a building was a tiny hole in a 10-foot concrete wall, it could just turn into liquid and drip the fuck in. But the T-X, which is supposed to be the T-1000's upgrade, has all of the physical limitations of a standard non-robot person. If there's no door, it has to either bust a window or gas up its breasts and try to jiggle its way through security. The T-1000 could come in through the damn water fountain.
Finally, when the T-X has its climactic battle against Arnold, this happens:
"Shit, I'm stuck!"
"Oh, wait, I forgot -- you're totally not invincible."
That's Arnold grabbing the T-X by its spine. He holds it in place long enough to detonate his own power core and destroy them both. It is literally the only reason the evil machine gets defeated -- Arnold is pinned by a door, so if the T-X didn't have a physical structure for him to wrap his meaty cyborg fingers around, he would have been helpless to stop it from killing his BFF John Connor. For comparison, here's what happened when he tried that same nonsense on the T-1000:
It totally didn't work, because you cannot punch liquid. If Skynet had improved upon the polyalloy design for the T-X (or just sent another fucking T-1000), it would've just poured through Arnold's fingers like rain and left him sitting underneath that door like a jackass. The only "improvements" the T-X seems to carry are a leather pantsuit and a built-in flamethrower, because if there was one problem with the previous two Terminators, it was their inability to kill human beings with their bare hands.
"Screw liquid metal, I totally need this flamethrower."
The Transformers Have No Way of Detecting Each Other
In the three movies, we see the Transformers masquerade as cellphones, radios, cars, planes, construction gear and (somehow) slutty women. The point is, they adapt to their environment by blending in appropriately -- for example, Optimus Prime doesn't turn into a big rig when he's on Cybertron because nobody on Cybertron knows what the hell that is. They are also continuously at war, so regardless of where they are in the universe, Transformers should have a healthy suspicion of anything mechanical that isn't walking around on two legs and speaking with some hilariously racist affectation, or at the very least have some method of distinguishing which taxicab is a robot in disguise and which taxicab is just a taxicab. Their survival depends on it.
But they don't have either of those things. At all.
"Ooooooh, now I see that that car was more than meets the eye."
In fact, the Autobots go through most of those movies as if they've completely forgotten the fact that the Decepticons exist and constantly stumble blindly into ambushes that would be obvious even if the film wasn't about Transformers. Like here:
"I'm just a normal building-size truck. Also, this is the radio talking and not me. Shit."
That truck would be suspicious in a Lethal Weapon movie, let alone in a trilogy about giant camouflaged robo-monsters from beyond the stars. Yet the Autobots cruise right on into this construction zone, which is literally filled with Decepticons like Truckasaurus up there, and have no idea they're in trouble until the Decepticons start playing the theme from Road House.
These two factions have supposedly been at war for centuries, in a conflict spanning entire galaxies, and yet after all that time, they still have no way of spotting each other? They can't build some kind of scanner or even, like, tie a bell to any dubious machines? We're amazed that they aren't just destroying every car they see at this point, let alone allowing any to pull alongside them.
The best example comes early in the second film, when Alice (who is a Decepticon that has somehow managed to disguise itself as a girl that looks more unwashed than Megan Fox) hitches a ride with Sam inside Bumblebee, his Autobot protector. Bumblebee literally has a Decepticon inside his body that is actively trying to murder his friend and he is completely oblivious to its presence.
"Can I borrow some paint thinner and a washcloth? Soap just ain't doin' it this time."
What's most baffling is that there are definitely ways to detect Transformers, because the humans do it all the time. The Transformers have been on Earth for like two damn years and human beings have already figured out ways to track them using heat-seeking devices and scanners for the radiation that they apparently emit.
"Your testicles have literally melted from cancer. We can't tell if the cause is the robots, Megan Fox, your Strokes T-shirt or all of the above."
And that's just what the humans have figured out so far. The Autobots and Decepticons have been locked in their robo-clash for centuries and they have nothing. Technical institutes back on Cybertron really need to get on this shit.
Various Androids Built for Service Have Inexplicable Super Strength
Androids are featured in the vast majority of science fiction movies. If the picture is set in space or in the future (or both), there's like an 82 percent chance of android. Generally, these are synthetic versions of people created for a very specific task -- Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation was designed to serve on a starship, David from A.I. was made for serial killers who wanted a child that never aged and Pris from Blade Runner was built for sex (in all likelihood, so were the previous two).
He's about to insert his thumb drive.
The androids are then given thoughts, feelings and emotions (even dreams, in some cases) and set loose in their various industries to behave pretty much like human beings, only without any pesky civil rights to get in the way. We are free to order them around and bend them to our every whim. They, meanwhile, are free to bend steel bars with their bare hands:
"OK, let's just go ahead and deactivate the handjob function."
Yes, the beings explicitly designed for occupational enslavement were made not only every bit as emotionally volatile as an actual person, but also 10 times stronger. This isn't just one or two cases, mind you -- androids have spider strength pretty much across the board.
It would be one thing to give rhinoceros might to a battle android or something like that, but why in the hell does Lieutenant Commander Data, the science officer on a starship, need to be able to twist metal into balloon animals? He was built to be close to humans at all times, and is on a never-ending quest to become more human and feel human emotions (this only results in him turning evil like half a dozen times). Why give him the ability to have his feelings hurt, as well as twirl a Mazda Protege on his index finger? Captain Picard might as well leave a stack of pre-signed incident reports on his desk.
"Okey-dokey, it's now time for me to pull your head completely off of your pussy little body."
In A.I., David gets scared and latches onto a kid at a pool party, nearly drowning him as his robot weight drags them both down. It takes three grown men to pry loose David's terror grip on the struggling child and pull him to safety. Again, David was ostensibly designed to be around young kids -- why in the bejeebus would they equip him with an alligator death clamp that could crush James Gandolfini's ribcage, let alone that of a first grader? Make him really good at checkers or something, don't give him the strength to tear the babysitter in half.
And Blade Runner's Pris, whose only purpose for existing is to have sex with people and then die after four years, was also given the ability to kill men with back flips and thigh clenches for some reason. Although in this case, we can sort of understand how the mistake was made.
"It's gone mad! Quick, somebody call Ric Flair!"
And when they do make a huge battle robot, it has the opposite problem ...
The Iron Giant Is Unstoppable (as Long as It Doesn't Bonk Its Head)
In The Iron Giant, a young boy playing in the woods comes across a colossal amnesiac space robot whose head was damaged during a meteoric skydive down to Earth like Tony Stark swooping in to sing the national anthem at a lingerie football game.
The two become friends until the dent in the robot's iron head eventually pops itself back out, causing it to immediately resume its mission (and entire purpose for being sent to our planet), which is to kill everything that has ever lived with approximately all of the guns in the universe.
"Oh, now I remember. Fuck you, kid."
Not only is it a terrifying harbinger of doom (because whoever sent it will probably be stopping by to check on its progress before too long), but it's pretty much indestructible. The army throws everything they have at this mechanical titan: tanks, battleships, the love of a small boy and a nuclear missile. None of it matters, because even if the robot is blown completely apart (which it totally is, by the nuke), its individual parts crawl back together and reassemble like the T-1000 (it really was the perfect robot, we can't stress that enough).
The best weaponry the 1950s has to offer can't even scratch the Iron Giant, which is baffling considering that we already know that all it would take to scramble its robo-brain is a bonk on the noggin (which you may notice could be accomplished by the best weaponry the Three Stooges have to offer).
"Bwoo bwoo bwoo bwoo bwoo!"
The Iron Giant's skull dome is a clear exploitable weak point -- it even tucks down beneath a protective shield when the giant goes into battle mode, which suggests that its alien creators were both aware of this shortcoming and designed it that way on purpose. Why, during the whole "construct a plexiglass bubble for Deathbot's cranium" phase, did no one clear their throat and ask why the hell they were even giving him a head in the first place?
Think about it. The robot is built exclusively for destruction, and when in destruction mode, its head retracts like a cold, frightened penis and must be protected at all costs. Wouldn't it be easier to just not have a head? Seriously, it's not like aliens sent a 20-story robot to Earth to blend in. For that matter, why is "destruction" even a separate setting if killing everything in space-laser range is the robot's sole reason for existing? It should just be a huge metal box with guns sticking out of it, all of the time. Put the important programming chips and memory banks in the center of its body encased on all sides by 100 feet of interstellar steel. What you should absolutely never do for any reason is put your murderbot's most delicate circuitry in an obvious extremity molded directly after the most sensitive anatomical area of the beings you are trying to destroy.
"We've placed all of his pain sensors in the crotch area. Hopefully nobody fires a missile into it."
It doesn't even get to that point, though -- the Iron Giant gives himself brain damage like a Chevy Chase routine and spends most of the movie behaving like Arnie from What's Eating Gilbert Grape? because apparently the aliens decided to include "Play hide-and-seek with a latchkey kid" in its default programming string.
R2-D2 Can Literally Do Everything but Speak
In Star Wars, R2-D2 is an astromech droid, which on paper means that he was specifically built to work in and around spaceships but in reality means that he does whatever the screenwriters need him to do to advance the plot. This giant waddling suppository is a renaissance man -- he hacks computer systems, picks electronic locks, co-pilots spacecraft, welds things, fights robot crabs, flies and sets things on fire, and also records and replays crucially important messages that set the entire saga in motion.
"But only for Obi-Wan Kenobi. If your name isn't Obi-Wan Kenobi, go fuck yourself."
Except he can't speak. Not one word.
Sure, he can bleep and whistle, and if that mincing butler C-3PO is around he can translate it for you, but R2-D2 was designed to be around people 100 percent of the time. As an astromech droid, when he has to make navigational choices or roll out onto the hull mid-dogfight to make crucial repairs, the ability to speak directly to the pilot and/or the flight crew could mean the difference between life and death. Yet as we clearly see in The Empire Strikes Back, the only way this can be accomplished is if he farts his alarm clock noises into the ship's computer to be printed out as text on a screen in the cockpit. Luke is only able to patiently read R2's message because nobody is zooming around firing death lasers at him. If they were locked in a space battle, he would have no idea what R2 was trying to tell him, and it could be something along the lines of "There's a crack in your canopy and your body will be turned inside out by the callous vacuum of space unless you do exactly what I tell you, right now."
Or "OH FUCK, THIS HURTS SO BAD! FUUUUUUUCK!"
That's the other thing -- R2-D2 clearly understands English. He replays messages in English, he responds to commands given in English and he participates in intricate, Han Solo-rescuing plans that had to have been explained to him in English. So why in the name of Yoda's pruned-up Shrek taint can't he speak it? Why can't he speak any language, for that matter? The ability to verbally communicate with people is crucial to every aspect of his design, yet he absolutely cannot do it.
Remember the scene where Luke first hears Leia's message to Obi-Wan? R2-D2 plays the message in English, Luke asks about it in English and R2 totally understands the question, but then R2 responds in his bullshit language and C-3PO has to translate it back to Luke. That's like an Abbott and Costello routine. And R2-D2 was designed so that every single one of his interactions would take place in this manner. We wonder how many astromech test pilots were killed in crashes borne of sheer irritated frustration.
"I'll die happy knowing that your bleep-blorping ass is fused to the twisted metal corpse of this spaceship."
David can jump 10 feet into the air every single time. You can follow him on Twitter, admire his drunk-T-shirt-making skills or check out his work over at Film School Rejects, where he is a staff writer.
For more confusing sci-fi technologies, check out 6 Baffling Flaws in Famous Sci-Fi Technology and 5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies.
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