Director James Cameron is expected to team up with reality television producer Mark Burnett to create a new show, called Robogeddon, in which remote-controlled robots do battle in an arena. Automatons have been a preoccupation during Cameron’s varied career, during which he has frequently explored the ways humans and advanced machines could interact, for good or ill.
In Cameron’s second feature film, 1984’s Terminator, an android played by Arnold Schwarzenegger served as the titular antagonist, a relentless foe with organic, human-like flesh covering a metal exoskeleton. Schwarzenegger returned in 1991’s Terminator 2, but as an ally to the humans – and his interactions with Edward Furlong’s 10-year-old lead explored the capacity for understanding between human and machine consciousness.
In 1986’s well-received sequel Aliens, Sigourney Weaver’s character learned to trust a robotic crew member played by Lance Henriksen – who explains that he prefers the term “artificial person” – despite another robot having fatally malfunctioned in the prequel film Alien.
“I see our potential destruction and the potential salvation as human beings coming from technology and how we use it, how we master it and how we prevent it from mastering us,” Cameron reportedly said of technological themes in his films. “Titanic was as much about that theme as the Terminator films, and in Aliens, it’s the reliance on technology that defeats the marines, but it’s technology being used properly that allows Sigourney’s character to prevail at the end.”
In real life, Cameron has used remote-controlled submersibles to explore shipwrecks and wildlife at the depths of the ocean, resulting in documentaries Expedition: Bismarck and Ghosts of the Abyss. His 1989 film The Abyss, a claustrophobic science fiction epic set on a deep sea oil rig, also included fictional deep-sea drones as a central plot element.
The TV niche of remote controlled robots killing each other in an arena has been sparse since Comedy Central’s BattleBots was cancelled in 2002. That show was a strange mashup that incorporated former Baywatch actresses Donna D’Errico and Carmen Electra, science educator Bill Nye, and robot carnage in various weight classes.
Burnett is known for having produced popular reality television shows Survivor and The Voice.
Image: TriStar Pictures