Movie Robots From ‘Metropolis’ to ‘Pacific Rim’: An Evolutionary Study

Say what you will about its other flaws — and there’s plenty to say — but Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (out today in wide release) delivers what it promises: giant goddamn robots fighting giant monsters in the ocean. Gazing upon the magnificence of the film’s enormous machines, it’s easy to marvel at how far moviemakers have come in their onscreen portrayals of mechanical beings. A brief history:

Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking 1927 classic is, most agree, the first feature-length science fiction film. So it only seems appropriate that a robot — or Machine-Human, aka maschinenmensch — should play so prominent a role. The technology used to create the character was, unsurprisingly, a bit rudimentary: a costume for actress Brigette Helm, constructed out of a plastic-like wood substitute, drawn from a plaster casting taken from the actress’s entire body.