attack of the giant killer robots from uruguay

December 21, 2009

Talk about a return on investment. Just $300, a whole lot of talent and a million and a half views, a filmmaker from Uruguay is working on a $30 million movie deal to turn his short clip of a robot horde decimating the city of Montevideo into a fill blown sci-fi feature. I’m usually not one to gush, but count me among the many viewers astounded by how much Fede Alvarez accomplished on such a small budget. Just take a look at the video…

Yes, I know it’s just entertainment for the sake of showcasing how far special effects have come and providing an example that it doesn’t have to take millions of dollars to produce CG monsters. However, I’m going to pick on some details about the robots and their method of attack anyway, starting with their humanoid shape and bipedal locomotion. For small scale, human sized experiments like Asimo, having a robot walk on two legs is just fine. Their computers have to make some sixty calculations per second to keep the body balanced while taking a step, much like our muscles have to make numerous adjustments while we walk. But when we scale things up to a building sized robot, the weight and power of the parts involved change how the computers will have to keep the machines from tipping over if they miscalculate a step or a heavy mechanism in their torsos or arms will lean a little too much to the left or to the right. The number of required calculations soars and with it, so do the chances of errors and system crashes. A bipedal attack robot is just too risky to deploy.

The second problem with a giant human shaped robot is its high center of gravity. Take out its legs and it will slam into the ground like a small meteorite. Ideally you want your giant killer machines low to the ground and sitting on either metal tracks used by tanks, or extremely wide feet attached to long, angled legs with a hinge that swings in the opposite direction from human knees. You also would want to put its primary weapons as close to the center of mass as possible, making it more difficult to bring down with a well placed shot since a tank or aircraft charged with doing so would have to place itself in the direct line of fire to have the most effect. And the spectacular explosion at the end, radiating from four interconnected robots? Very cool, but also very expensive. Those high rise sized death machines can’t be cheap so it seems pretty decadent to stuff a huge thermonuclear warhead into them rather than drop one from one of the many fighters above.

But technicalities and nitpicking aside, if Fede Alvarez gets to make his doomsday blockbuster, I hope it sells a lot of tickets and DVDs. The last movie with giant robots, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow fell so far short of its promise, it was painful to watch. It would be a shame if it killed the giant robot genre and since it’s very possible that Alvarez’s efforts could bring it back to the big screen, it would be great if he succeeds.

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  • Hey, “Monsters vs. Aliens” had a pretty cool giant robot.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    $300 – in the US, anyway – wouldn’t even cover the (credited) catering for a crew of the size listed in the credits here.

    At least the giant robots don’t seem to eat much, since they have to maintain those supermodel-slim wasp waists…