Robotics and science fiction have always gone hand in hand, and the upcoming film Young Ones premiered at Sundance with a familiar looking robot.
We’ve seen a number of robotic film creations, ranging from the female robot in Metropolis, the deranged robotic creations in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Demon Seed, or Saturn 3, and to the more friendly robotic buddies in Silent Running, Forbidden Planet, and of course, Mystery Science Theater 3000. We have become accustomed to seeing these creations on our screens.
Directed by Jake Paltrow (The Good Night), Young Ones recently premiered at Sundance and tells the story of a near future where water is short and as a result has turned certain places into barren wastelands. Starring Michael Shannon as Ernest Holm, a lone father trying to protect his children (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Elle Fanning) and his water supply from Flem (played by Nicholas Hoult), who has designs on Ernest’s land and his daughter. To make matters worse, they have to invest in a robotic pack horse after their flesh and blood mule is put out of commission.
There is an Elysium feel to the plot, with the people that could move away to the more technological urban surroundings already having done so, but at its core it seems to be a story about family and survival. According to ABC News, the crew were filming in daily temperatures of 110 degrees in South Africa over a 35 day period . The poster certainly has that post apocalypse feel to it and echoes A Boy and His Dog, while the design seems to be reminiscent of sci–fi classic Star Wars.
Boston Dynamics – which was recently purchased by Google – were Paltrow’s first port of call for the robotic mule (or stimulant, as it’s known in the movie). They decided to use BigDog, one of the company’s more well-known robotic successes. The Verge reported that Paltrow originally wanted BigDog to be an actor in the movie, but due to the sheer amount of noise the machine makes – it sounds like a giant fly – it would have caused problems in the editing process.
We’ve taken a look at BigDog before, along with a number of Boston Dynamics‘ creations, like the super fast WildCat or the combat ready LS3 RoboWarrior. BigDog’s movements seem very similar to Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests (only with less legs and more mobility on rough terrain), so it is certainly easy to see a future filled with this kind of machinery.
As the original plan to put BigDog in the picture failed, it went to a combination of visual effects. Plastic, fibreglass, and parkour experts (for the leg movements) helped to create the robot Paltrow had envisioned. Other films have looked to our current technological creations for inspiration, like Robot and Frank, where the design of the robot is almost identical to the Honda robotic creation Asimo,
Though the real BigDog may have to wait a bit longer before he gets his moment in the spotlight, Boston Dynamics work has helped to make a robot more in tune with what we could expect in our future. and It is this realism which should make Young Ones an intriguing film to watch.
Images: Bifrost Pictures