The Top 10 Hollywood Mech-Suits
Considering the small number of science fiction films on his résumé (and the fact that none of them predate the 2000s), superstar Tom Cruise‘s next film actually marks his second foray into the genre in as many years. Yet Edge of Tomorrow, in theaters today, is already earning vastly better reviews from critic’s than last year’s outing, Oblivion.
Why is this? The fact that it’s based on a short Japanese novel entitled All You Need is Kill? Is it the touch of director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity)? The reason seems obvious to me: In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt don a couple of kick-ass mech-suits.
It’s practically a scientifically proven fact that putting your sci-fi hero (or villain, in some cases) in a kick-ass mech-suit automatically makes your movie at least 10% more awesome. Need proof? Take a look at some of modern cinema’s past mechanical monstrosities. Keep in mind, we’re not talking robots, cyborgs or androids here, but ostensibly regular human beings having their abilities enhanced by mechanical means. Here they are, in no particular order:
Well, this would be one of the movies that prove that a mech-suit doesn’t automatically make things better. That said, the suit sported by Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is one of the cooler aspects of Joel Schumacher‘s near-universally derided film. (Pun entirely unintended.)
Coolest Factor: Victor Fries’s suit doubles as a personal cryonic chamber, sustaining his life when he can’t lock himself in a giant refrigerator and don his fuzzy polar bear slippers. Chill out, man.
If ever there was a video game come to life on the big screen, The Rise of Cobra was it. And what’s more video-gamey than these Delta-6 Accelerator Suits, which provide their wearers with super strength and speed? (It’s best not to address the issue of why Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans don’t wind up as smears of jelly within their suits’ confines.)
Coolest Factor: This first G.I. Joe movie was dumb as dirt, but it least it fully embraced this fact. Who didn’t imagine, as a kid, that their G.I. Joe action figures could chase down an armored car through downtown traffic?
The end result may not have gelled quite as well as it should have, but Zack Snyder‘s Sucker Punch is still an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach with fantastic visuals. Hot girls in fishnet stockings using everything from machine guns to swords to fight giant samurai, zombie Nazis and even dragons in elaborate fantasy sequences. Oh yeah, and once they even get to use a giant mech with state-of-the-art weaponry.
Coolest Factor: What makes this particular mech stand out? How about the fact that it’s painted with a giant pink bunny?
Acronyms are sexy. Particularly when applied to armored mech-suits, like the AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) in James Cameron‘s Avatar. The King of the World’s #1 box office smashed ripped a lot of things off from Cameron’s own Aliens, but the final battle throws in a reversal, with big bad guy Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) in the mech, fighting against Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington) in his Na’vi avatar body.
Coolest Factor: Quaritch is one baddie who takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Hopefully, the fact hat he’s supposed to be returning for Cameron’s Avatar sequels won’t totally take the punch out of his fate at the end of the first movie.
There’s one of those acronyms again. The APU (Armored Personnel Unit) is part of humanity’s last line of defense against the squid-like Sentinels when they launch a full-out assault on Zion in The Matrix Revolutions. It’s also one of the coolest things in what is, sadly, the weakest film in the Matrix trilogy by quite a wide margin.
Coolest Factor: Those APUs unload what surely must be one of the biggest bullet-per-second ratios in movie history against the advancing Sentinel horde. Humanity’s nearly wiped out, and the last of us are living in one subterranean city; best not to ask where all those bullets come from.
Matt Damon has the misfortune to have been born on an impoverished Earth, and the medical equipment that can cure his deadly radiation exposure exists only on the orbiting station called Elysium. He enlists mechanized enhancements to boost his strength to help him break in.
Coolest Factor: This is the most minimalist suit on the list, but its bad-assery is multiplied almost exponentially by the fact that Damon has to have the suit surgically implanted. When he faces off against a feral Sharlto Copley in a similar get-up, the battle is epic indeed.
2009 was not only a great year for science fiction, but a great year for mech-suits as well, appearing three times on this particular list. Director Neill Blomkamp is, like James Cameron, a repeat offender as well, with District 9 and Elysium to his credit. When Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is infected by alien DNA, he finds himself turning into a “prawn”. Despite his role in the mistreatment of the alien visitors, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Wikus… that is, until he gets himself a shiny alien exo-suit. Then we just get jealous.
Coolest Factor: It’s an ALIEN MECH-SUIT. It’s got missiles and a gun that fires lightning bolts. Need I say more?
Perhaps the most recognizable on this list, the Iron Man suits in the first movie were designed by the genius effects artists at Stan Winston Studio, and transformed Robert Downey Jr. from a self-centered yet likable arms dealer into Marvel’s man-made superhero that launched a juggernaut of a movie franchise.
Coolest Factor: Tony Stark does not control the Iron Man suits on his own; he has help from his artificially intelligent computer system named JARVIS (voiced by Paul Bettany)…a.k.a. Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.
The Jaeger program is humanity’s last line of defense against the monstrous Kaiju creatures that have emerged from a dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and… Aw, who are we kidding here? All anybody wants to see in this movie is giant freaking robots battling giant freaking monsters. Pacific Rim was unjustly robbed of a Best Visual Effects Oscar nomination, because the effects in this movie are eye-popping, to say the least.
Coolest Factor: Jaegers are piloted by two people who share a neural connection and operate as opposing halves of the robot’s brain. They’re really great for cancelling the apocalypse; just don’t ask why it’s easier fighting the Kaiju hand-to-hand instead of just blasting them with the Jaegers’ giant cannons…
The mother of them all, the power loader in James Cameron’s smash sequel Aliens was just the right piece of equipment for an epic final battle with the Alien Queen. Ostensibly just a fancy, futuristic forklift, the loader provided just the right amount of heft to let Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) go toe-to-toe with Her Majesty in a fight that still thrills almost three decades later. (Obviously, Weaver’s Oscar nomination was all about the mech-suit…)
Coolest Factor: There’s no way the line “Get away from her, you bitch” would have quite had the same ring to it had Ripley just been, I dunno, holding a gun or something.
Bonus Pick: The Tuxedo (2002)
Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt‘s lamely goofy action comedy is mostly forgettable, but it does earn points for having the most cleverly camouflaged mech-suit on this list: A tuxedo laced with circuitry that gives Chan his fighting skills… and dance moves.
Coolest Factor: Having a mechanized suit that you can use to kick serious butt is valuable unto itself, but having such a suit that you can wear out to dinner parties and use to pretend you’re James Bond is priceless.
So, how will Tom Cruise’s external arsenal in Edge of Tomorrow compare to the suits on this list? (One can only imagine he’d at least be able to handle Mr. Freeze.) We can all find out with Edge of Tomorrow in theaters today. Meanwhile, take a look at the film’s trailer to whet your appetite.
What are some of your favorite mech-suits of cinema? Sound off in the comments!