Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AWESOME! - 80's Robots - Short Circuit/Flight of the Navigator

There are few truths in this world that I hold on to… One, there is a God… Two, dogs are awesome (but I should save that for another post) and Three… There is nothing on this planet greater than the sheer glory of cuddly 80s robots! I'm sure your mind is going a mile a minute right now trying to gather as much intel as you can on your childhood… You may be thinking "Batteries not Included", you may be thinking of Paulie's "present" from ROCKY IV… Or maybe your mind's dial is set to AWESOME today and you're thinking about the greatest science fiction movies to come out of those heavenly 80s… And no, I'm not talking about Return of the Jedi (because there's nothing cute about C3P0) and the Terminator isn't cute, he kills… I'm talking about SHORT CIRCUIT and FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR! Granted, MAX from Navigator was more of an Alien than a robot, but I mean, come on... He's made of metal and he's plugged into a spaceship.

Now I know "cuddly" might be a little off when describing something as devastatingly awesome as robots... But with all the mechanical violence and chaos going around in the 80s, these two movies were a glimmer of hope in a cruel, cruel world... Terminator, Robocop, Cyborg... gulp... Superman III... (shivers), terribly morbid in nature, and kids love robots! Imagine how many unsuspecting children were drawn to the lulls of Arnold's "I'll Be Back" and spent the night hiding under their covers in a pile a sweat and possibly pee... (lay off, I was a kid! I pee'd!). Terminated. But let's be real, my parents didn't let me watch R-rated movies when I was a little boy, shame on them... So what was my comfort food? TV recordings of both Short Circuit and Flight of the Navigator. I'd like to meet the one person on this planet who thinks Number 5 is NOT alive... I'd like to meet him and ask why he wasn't tantalized by the site of robots shooting lasers and reciting The Three Stooges, then I'd wonder why he didn't shed half a tear over the thought of poor 'Number 5' being hunted down like an animal and disassembled... NO DISASSEMBLE!! ... How does such a cold-hearted individual claim to be more human than the time traveling cybernetic alien space craft MAX... Maybe the communists of the 80s that we tried so hard to silence had a point, maybe Johnny #5 needs to hop on board the USS Trimaxion Drone Ship and enforce some serious propaganda on the real enemy of the 80s... Anyone who hated these movies!

You wanna know why these movies are so great? They came out at a time when kids movies were appealing to all age groups. There was little segregation in the film world... There was PG and there was R. "R" meant you were getting a gore-fest full of profanities and nudity, "G" meant you were getting Disney... PG meant you were getting the middle ground. These are iconic of that time period. Sure, Short Circuit had a family-friendly agenda, but when you think about it, how many kid-oriented movies have opening scenes with Robots mixing a gin and tonic? Even Flight of the Navigator (which was a made-for-tv Disney movie) had a very serious tone to it, and quite frankly it was a little unsettling having David return home only to find the world thought he was dead for 8 years, his family has aged tremendously and the government wants to experiment on him... It's not like movies where a kid winds up in the future and everything is technologically advanced and fascinating, he was flat-out terrified. Plus his brain was being experimented on and almost got fried in the process. That's pretty awesome. Nowadays it's all about flashy colors, campy bad guys and bad pop music.

It's also reminiscent of a time when you didn't need to use CGI to achieve visual amazement. Flight of the Navigator conquered some of the best effects I've ever scene, and it was done with very, very minimal computer graphics and mainly utilized optical illusions and stop-motion animation. Short Circuit used animatronics, not once did you see a computer-created image... Nowadays half the robots would be CG and they'd be performing stunts completely unrealistic to their actual design, thus killing any hope of believability. Film making has gotten lazy.

In a nutshell, there's nothing nostalgic about the time we live in, kids are growing up with bright colors, silly songs and straight up campiness. It's pathetic. Lets bring it back to a simpler time when a kid AND an adult could get lost in a world where robots can be your friend...

See ya' later alligator!
~ Mark

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