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The six best onscreen pairings of robots and the apocalypse

The six best onscreen pairings of robots and the apocalypse

The LIDA Project's newest show, RUR/lol (opening tonight at work | space), tackles the ever popular topic of robots and apocalypse. Whether because of our inherent mistrust of technology designed to replace us, a deep-seated suspicion that our artificially intelligent creations are likely to outlive us, or just an intuitive understanding that they're two perfectly complementary flavors, it seems that people have been putting together robots and the end times almost as long, and as enthusiastically, as they have gin and tonic. Considering that the show is loosely based on a play that dates to the Karel Čapek's early sci-fi work Rossum's Universal Robots from the '20s, that's a while. To get you psyched for RUR/lol, we've compiled a quick look at a few of our favorite robot/apocalypse pairings from the world of film and television.

See also:

- The six most memorable dancing robots from pop culture

- Apocalypse how: Your guide to handicapping the end of the world

- Ten best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

6) The Terminator franchise

Skynet, killer cyborgs and a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger demanding you give him your clothes -- it doesn't get much better than the Terminator series when it comes to the robots exterminating us. At least, it doesn't get much better if you can ignore the last movie in the franchise, the McG-directed Terminator Salvation. Apart from that, the vision articulated in the opening moments of Terminator 2, of a robotic foot stamping a human skull into dust in a radioactive wasteland, pretty much defines most of a generation's vision of why it's important to never, ever let your computer become self-aware, at least as long as it has access to nuclear weapons.

5) A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence offers a more thoughtful, less violent but ultimately no less bleak look at the future of humanity and robots. In his movie, the robots don't so much kill us as do their own thing while we kill ourselves. At the movie's end, humanity is extinct and our creations have evolved beyond our wildest dreams. So, hey, good for them. Too bad for us, though. We really should have figured out that global-warming thing instead of fucking around with all those robots.

4) Wall-E

If we needed more proof that our time would be better spent figuring out the ecological clusterfuck we've created for ourselves, and less time engineering robots to make ourselves less useful, Wall-E offers it. In the future of this Pixar-animated film, not only have we abandoned the Earth after destroying the place, we're all too damn fat to even walk, preferring to float around on hover chairs and let robots do all the work. Being a Pixar film, the robots naturally choose to help us fix the mess we made instead of vaporizing us and calling it good riddance. Hey, we can hope, right?

3) Silent Running

This film about robots, ecological collapse and dumbass humans predates the other two by a few decades. Made in the glorious '70s, before anyone had ever heard the words "global warming," Silent Running offers a vision of a future where we managed to kill all the plant life on Earth and are keeping the last vestiges alive on spaceships. Then we decide, fuck it, we don't even need those (must be Republicans in control in the future) and decide to destroy it all, leaving one man and his robot buddies to try to salvage the last living plants in the solar system. Then he has to blow himself up, with one last, lonely robot still tending to the final garden. Hopefully it'll run into Wall-E at some point.

2) Battlestar Galactica

In Battlestar Galactica, humans in outer space fight a war against robots called Cylons. The humans think they won, until the robots come back and nuke their planets in a surprise attack. Turns out they figured out how to look like humans in the time since the war "ended." Those Battlestar Galactica people should have watched The Terminator and they'd know that robots can, indeed, look like people and that they will not stop ever, until you are dead. Or until you squash the last one in a drill press, whichever comes first. Instead, they spend years fleeing across space, trying to figure out who the hell is a Cylon and who isn't and rushing headlong toward an unsatisfying conclusion.

1) Blade Runner

In Blade Runner, the world is falling to shit but the robots are so advanced it's nearly impossible to tell them from the humans. Kind of a theme, isn't it? Seriously, we have to stop fucking around with robots and start investing in infrastructure and what not. Anyway, the robots are so hard to distinguish from people that sometimes the robots themselves don't even know! Naturally, this pisses humans off to no end, possibly because they're already in a shit mood after fucking up the planet so colossally they're being encouraged to emigrate off of it, so they create special police forces just to hunt down fugitive robots and kill them off. This doesn't work out well for anyone, but it does make for an entertaining film, so there's that.


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