The Heartfelt Message Behind 2005's 'Robots'
Huge nerd that I am, I love robots and everything to do with them, so when Blue Sky Studios released Robots in 2005, I was pretty lenient about the movie's flaws. After all, these were the same people who did Ice Age. And who didn't love Ice Age?
Robots is nice to look at, but as far as story goes, there is none. Just a bunch of gags and a simple A to B tale that is pretty cliched. On top of that, the voice acting is pretty lackluster, aside from Robin Williams as Fender, whose genius still couldn't really save the film.
The film also leaves you with too many burning existential questions. Like . . .
Who made the first robot in the world?
Is there a robot god?
What is the purpose of robot life?
And why do male robots have penises?
These are some things I realized after recently watching the film again for the first time in years. It really isn't as great as my younger self would have my present more cynical and jaded self believe.
But with all that being said, I still love this film despite its flaws.
And I still love the uplifting message it attempts to convey.
The film was actually pretty anti-capitalist, which was a good thing in my book. (In fact, Amazon could learn a thing or two from them.)
The villain, Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) is a sleek and expensively upgraded robot who has taken over from Mr. Bigweld (Mel Brooks), the robot who was basically the robot king of this fictional robot world.
Ratchet is a typical corporate asshole trying to squeeze out the little guy by literally stamping all competition at the Chop Shop his delightfully evil mother, Madame Gasket (Jim Broadbent), runs.
The robots, instead of working together and helping each other, are fighting over resources because they have been pitted against each other by the people (Ratchet) who have seized power.
When Rodney (Ewan McGregor) first arrives in Robot City (Really? Might as well call New York "Human City."), he witnesses a robot fall apart, only for other robots to jump on him for his parts.
Take a minute to digest the fact that his robot is still alive while the others are snatching pieces of him. This speaks to the desperation of the robot citizens oppressed by Ratchet's greedy and elitist policies: none of them can afford upgrades and are willing to tear each other apart to survive. (All this movie needed was a robot ghetto and it would have been a pretty perfect allegory.)
Rodney intercedes and teaches everyone to work together and help each other, that we don't have to live in a world where some people struggle hopelessly from paycheck to paycheck while others have a greedy excess and live in luxury.
Rodney's message is that of egalitarianism as he spends his afternoons fixing broken robots who can't afford upgrades. In return, he is given free room and board while living in Robot City. (So it's not like he's doing this for free while living out of a trashcan.)
Rodney's own father is a broken-down dishwasher who can't afford upgrades and becomes sick as a result. This is probably the largest reason why Rodney is willing to fix so many robots: he is thinking of his father.
Eventually, he meets his hero, Mr. Bigweld, who turns out to be a man who just gave up and is hiding in his house, playing with his dominoes.
Bigweld somehow became discouraged by the cold and corporate world. Unfortunately, this was never elaborated on. I realize this is a children's film, but even in a children's film, characters should have motivation and backstories. You know. Basic story stuff that should all be there.
When Bigweld tells Rodney to go away and give up on the world, Rodney realizes that robots are going to have to learn fix themselves. They can't depend on anyone else to free them from Ratchet. They're going to have to free themselves.
Rodney's policy of share and share alike naturally pisses off Ratchet, who attempts to have Rodney scrapped.
Rodney is saved by his generic love interest Cappy (Halle Berry) who really didn't have much in the way character development or interesting personality traits (but I guess the cool wheels on her feet make up for it).
In the end, all the robots band together to take down Ratchet and Madame Gasket. They succeed to the tunes of Britney Spears, and then all is well that ends well.
Mr. Bigweld learns never to give up on the world, while Rodney's father learns that he should never have given up on his dream to be a musician and forsakes dish washing for his trumpet.
It seems cheesy, I know, but the lesson here -- that people should believe in themselves, share power, and never let the world get them down -- is actually a valuable one.
You only have one life to live. Why spend it down and out, moping and afraid to take chances? Pursue your dreams and never give up.
No matter what.
© 2018 Ash