Short Circuit – A Movie Retrospective

May 9, 2016

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Life from Lightning, right?

Of all the movies that Hollywood should remake, I think Short Circuit should fall at the top of the list. I think this gem has a lot of potential that simply wasn’t explored in the original movie. You see, the original movie was really just a comedy vehicle for Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg, two hot properties at the time. It also includes the fun paramilitary leader tasked with retrieving the lost robot, played so wonderfully by G.W. Bailey. So the fun, technical stuff was pretty much limited to the beginning of the movie, where we first see an excellent montage of the parts of a robot being assembled, followed by a nifty military demonstration.

Are you kidding me? The first five minutes are enough for a movie unto itself! I can see the plot now….

As a darker movie, it starts out with the failed scientists who have been fired from their respective technology companies at the height of the cold war (or maybe current day; it doesn’t matter). One is a legal worker, just arrived in the U.S. from overseas, trying to find a new job. The other, American and hungry to get back to work. They meet while applying for new jobs and become fast friends. They receive multiple job offers. At one point, the American is called by entrepreneurs with accents. Is that a Russian accent?

The legal worker signs on with a fresh new company named Nova Robotics. It’s the job of a lifetime. He quickly proves his worth and starts designing parts for the latest Nova Robot, an all-terrain robot given the acronym S.A.I.N.T…. He’s not sure what it stands for, but he’ll find out later. He realizes that his friend is a good fit for the project and begs to have another position opened, reasoning that the man is a perfect mind for this work and will multiply the work on the project, and is sure to bring the S.A.I.N.T. project to completion ahead of projections.

Cut to a scene where the American is working with a robot hand prototype, developing grasping, sensitive handling, and typing functions. It goes well. The piano work is still developing, but it’s a start. Cut to a scene where the original worker is still hard at work on the eyes. Focus, memory integration, top secret target acquisition technology from a guided missile company all come into play as sensitive instruments bring together eyes that seem somehow more than just robotic.

Drama unfolds as the neurotic CEO complains directly to the two scientists. The CEO complains that parts are not a robot. For the first time, we see the outline of the S.A.I.N.T. robot as the two scientists quickly patch together different parts. The drive case, containing a mirrored pair of drive-treads. On top of this, they plug a battery case and shove a car battery into it. On top of this, they bolt on a metal bar. They attach another metal bar to the side of the first metal bar to simulate an arm, and the American’s prototype arm goes on the other side. On top of all this, a prototype head, almost nothing more than a pair of binocular eyes.

The tank-treads cause the robot to shift slightly back and forth, but the 12-volt car battery is not enough to drive the wheels. However, the binocular head starts looking around. It’s data cables still connected to a workstation nearby as it starts to take in its surroundings. The workstation computer’s monitor springs to life, showing the room from the robot’s perspective. 3D grids start to appear on the scene, as the computer analyzes the dimensions of the room from the video data. Red circles and text rolls across the screen as the target acquisition system enhances the visual analysis.

The nervous CEO suddenly breaths out a sigh of relief. Just as he is rising to leave, the robot turns its head and locks eyes with the CEO. A tense moment set off by a dramatic musical note. Again, somehow more than just robotic… But the CEO turns around and leaves, apparently satisfied with the progress.

Another montage. The two men work out dimensions and designs on a workstation.

Cut to the next day. The two men enter a machine room. They insert the designs into the CNC workstation. The CEO and fabrication engineer enter and review the designs. We see their faces as they watch the computer screen. Design after design after design mirrors light across their faces as their faces slowly form smiles. The fabrication engineer taps some buttons.

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Mechanical montage: Similar to the existing opening credits of the original movie, we are now treated to a fun view of multiple mechanical parts being machined out of raw metal. Break up the scenes with scenes of the two scientists soldering electronics, but return to the machine shop for more scenes of building. Back to electronics. Back to the machines.

The two scientists have a conversation while combining parts. The fabricator helps by putting together the drive system on the floor. Once that is done, the different parts that the scientists have assembled are brought to the drive base and put on. An empty battery case. A metal chest. Two metal arms. The binocular head, larger, wrapped in a metal case. A mysterious box with labels “Top Secret” and “Fragile” is gently opened by the two scientists. They look down into the box and then look across at each other with trepidation. They pick up the unit and mount it to the robot’s back. We finally see the completed S.A.I.N.T. robot. Repeat the dramatic musical note from before.

Conversation between the scientists and the CEO. They are concerned about building weapons. The CEO convinces them that it’s just business. They are very close to a government contract that will make it all worthwhile. The CEO tells them to make four more for the upcoming demonstration and dismisses them. The CEO makes several important phone calls. He calls in his security supervisor.

Cut to the machine shop, interspersed with scenes of automated electronics soldering and also with scenes of the scientists testing various parts of the five different robots.

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Just like the opening credit of the original movie, fade to a grassy field. And just like with the original movie, have a tank roll immediately in front of the camera, breaking the peace and quiet suddenly. Repeat that whole introductory scene from the original movie, where the five S.A.I.N.T. robots destroy a remote-controlled group of military vehicles. Explosions, lasers, the whole bit.

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Even repeat the part where a S.A.I.N.T. robot prepares a drink for the CEO as he addresses military personnel and describes the S.A.I.N.T. program.

As with the first movie, break to a social reception while the robots are lined up at a recharging station. Dramatic music as the scene moves from clouds rolling in, to idle talk at the reception, to each robot having it’s turn on the recharger. Clouds rolling in. Reception. Robot #3 on the recharger. Clouds with intracloud lighting flash overhead. Robot #5 on the recharger. Reception. Clouds. Robot #5. Reception. Dramatic note cuts to lightning-filled clouds. Robot #5 close-up. Dramatic note. Lightning discharge from the clouds to the recharge station. Panicked cut to people moving around at the reception. Quick cut to the two scientists cowering while looking on in horror. Electricity arcs all around robot #5. The battery explodes, leaving a gruesome-looking splatter out in front of robot #5. Smoke clears. Electrical arcs are still dancing all across the robot. The recharge cable is swinging free, having burst out of the recharge receptacle from the incredible electrical and electromagnetic forces. Smoke rising from the hot metal, softly glowing red. Light hissing turning into angry hissing as rain falls down, vaporizing on the hot metal.

The two scientists slowly get back up, after having thrown themselves backwards to avoid the lightning strike. They are silently staring at the robot, as if a quick view will tell them what can be salvaged. They stand still and silent for a couple of seconds. Finally, one of them says to check it and charges forward. They simultaneously touch the shoulders of the robot, crying out in pain from a residual static electricity jump and the metal still being nearly red-hot, despite the rain cooling the robot back down. One electronic eye is cracked. Various maintenance doors have popped open. The maintenance video display is dimly blinking all the warning lights. Suddenly it goes dark.

The two scientists look at each other, crestfallen. It looks like the robot is completely dead. Suddenly a solitary light blinks on the maintenance display. One of the scientists taps the button directly below this light. Various maintenance lights display in sequence, this time in a healthy full glow. Lights scroll and the robot looks around to either side as a sign that it is operational again. The two scientists breathe out a sigh of relief and quickly, and silently load robot #5 onto the truck. They drive in silence back to the design building. Close up of robot #5’s binocular eyes. Cut to the truck driving into the garage.

Cut to the two scientists testing various parts on the robots. they test them all and focus a lot of in-depth tests on the fifth robot. The one that was electrocuted. The men have to quit for the night while running long-running tests on the remaining robot. They quietly live among a crowd that was at the reception. The crowd is happy and excited about the robot performance and the quality of the food and drink at the reception. On the other hand, the two scientists are solemn and quiet.

Cut to the next morning. The two scientists run to the design building. They storm in with a panic and press a button to pull the computer out of a sleeping state. A view of the faces of the scientists as they face the screen. Again, we see faces slowly become smiles. Miraculously, robot #5 tests out OK with some strange, but satisfactory results.

The two scientists look at each other, happy and relieved at the good news. Robot #5 suddenly looks to one side unexpectedly. Both scientists jerk to look at the robot, but then both relax. Suddenly the phone rings. Dramatic musical note. The American picks up. On the other end is that voice with the Russian accent. The American looks over at the other scientist and greets the Russian voice. Unexpectedly, robot #5 turns to face the American. The American locks eyes with the robot. Those binocular eyes, one still cracked, look back at him, not quite robotic. Dramatic music. Cut to end credits.

 

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