It’s hard to pick one because my relationship with robots has changed as I’ve matured. When I was a child, I acted as a child…now that I am a man, I have put childish things behind me…except for my transformers.
If I had to choose a Transformer, I would have to go with the cassette-o-cons. I think that basically I was attracted to the Transformers that were within the realm of functionality.
Even from a young age, I would question “Why does Megatron have to transform into a gun if he already has blasters? And why would he put himself in the hands of Starscream whom he knows is an idiot and actively trying to kill him to take over?” It’s become an in-joke with fans, but at the time it really bothered me. It also bothered me when the Transformers would change sizes. Astrotrain was the same size as the other Decepticons in his robot form, but when he transformed into a spaceship dozens of robots could suddenly fit inside of him.
Soundwave on the other hand made so much sense to me. He was a robot that could transform into a boom-box to do secret surveillance with his cassette tape friends. And they weren’t just “supposed” to fit inside him…they actually did! I loved this. Plus, the tapes looked the most like the actual object that they were supposed to represent. These transformers were made for us kids with a practical imagination where games, although whimsical and fanciful, still had to adhere to their own intrinsic rules and organic unity.
As an adult, you can’t beat Brigitte Helm as Maria in Metropolis. I first saw this film in college and was so struck by it’s commentary on the human condition that I’ve never been able to shake it. I don’t think I’ve ever been struck so much by the destruction of a robot since C-3PO was killed in The Empire Strikes Back. C-3PO of course recovered, but Maria is utterly destroyed and with her a little piece of ourselves.
C3PO and R2D2 would come in as a third and a fourth since that robots always seem to strike a childhood chord with me, but there’s a robot that trumps them by bridging the gap between the childhood whimsy of robots and my fascination with the robot, Maria.
In the Anime adaptation of Metropolis, the adult-robot Maria is replaced with the child-robot Tima and it is much more her story. An innocent who is abused by her creator to ends that she neither wants nor has control over, but with a humanity that her human creator seems to be missing. How can humanity be so cruel and if humans lose their humanity, where else can we look to salvation? Tima seems to be the answer until, like her predecessor, she too is destroyed.
Yes, I cried a little.
Tima, C3PO, R2D2, Maria, and Soundwave…my five votes for the best robots of all time.
What are yours?