DIRECTOR: John Badham


May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection? NO

As a child of the 1980’s, Short Circuit seemed to be the biggest thing on the planet at one point. I was collecting stickers for it even though I wouldn’t see until the film until late 80’s and the robot seemed to be the embodiment of modern technology. But what strikes me now is that John Badham, who is one of my favourite 80’s director’s was behind this. It makes sense as he was the mastermind behind to of my top rated movies of the decade with War Games (1983) and Blue Thunder (1984), both of which took advanced but real technology of the day and pushed into new limits.

War Games was about early computer hacking, whilst Blue Thunder was challenging Big Brother tech and here we have Robots and there potentially worrying applications. But that’s not the big issue of this family classic, it’s more to do with the idea that Artificial Intelligence can become sentient. But is that the real story here either? No.

This is basically E.T. but with robots, but not being an E.T. fan, this is better. Number 5, a robot which is struck by lightning and gains sentience, escapes and befriends a young woman, Stephanie (Ally Sheedy) and the pair try to save the robot from being returned to base and reprogrammed.

Steve Gutenberg, a staple of 80’s comedies but long forgotten now, is the designer of the robots, yeah, seriously! He is obviously going to fall in love with Sheedy and the pair must join forces to save the rogue robot. The 80’s was filled with robotic sentimentality; we can thank Star Wars for that, and this is no different except for that fact that this is probably the go to movie for the robo-sentiment.

But I will say that the robotics involves are good, certainly for the time. It seemed that in the 1980’s we accepted that robots were the future and now, 28 years in the future, they just seem to have stagnated and become toys. So looking back at this tech in its heyday, I can’t fail to be impressed by how convincing they look, as film robots of course. Not sure how they would hold up in a war zone to be honest, as they were intended, but still.

But in the end, it works. It’s thoughtful, funny and establishes likeable characters, but the only problem is that I should have uses the words “used to”, as this is very 80’s. It’s dated badly in a way, with all those key elements failing to carry forward into the 21st century without looking hokey. It’s real shame but if the film fails to offer anything timeless and just play to the blockbuster ethos of the day, then this is what you end up with.

Great in its day, but forgettable in ours. Johnny Five is not alive, not any more…

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