Skroeder: What I’ve got is trouble, which I don’t need because my wife is at home cooking a steak that’s going to be dried out by the time I get there!
In the first film (1986), Number Five short-circuits during a routine maintenance check and flees his birthplace of NOVA Robotics. With mobile tank treads, hair-trigger tactile response, dodgy AI and packing serious heat, Five is the grandaddy of corporate liability. In a panic, NOVA deploys its private security force to recapture and/or destroy the robot while his original programmers (Steve Guttenberg and Fisher Stevens) try to stall them. Sure enough, Number Five pulls into a nearby town and befriends a Granola Girl named Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy), who mistakes him for an extra-terrestrial and NOVA for an evil government agency. Meanwhile, Number Five is adapting. learning. and willfully ignoring commands.
Skroeder: They’re cooking something up, I can smell it. We’ve got to fry ’em now, Howard!
The second film (Short Circuit 2, 1988) centers on Benjamin Jabituya (now inexplicably called Benjamin “Jahrvi”), who helped program Number Five and was blackballed as a result. Living out of a truck, Ben now hustles little NOVA-inspired toys in Manhattan, but he’s having problems getting production up to speed. So, Stephanie sends Number Five, now calling himself Johnny Five, who is a one robot production line. Unfortunately, Ben’s business partner Fred Ritter sees other opportunities. But all this takes a back seat to Johnny being manipulated by thieves to help in a bank heist, which shatters Johnny’s naiveté and leaves him wanting revenge.
A third film was in talks afterwards, but was eventually canned due to scripts not meeting expectations. Johnny 5 would eventually return in a TV short named Hot Cars, Cold Facts with his having his own home and a car. Even though it was primarily an educational film regarding vehicle ownership and insuring, the comedy of the two movies remains.
Short Circuit is a pair of films about a bleeding edge military robot who becomes self-aware. Dubbed “Number Five”, his first instinct as a sentient being is to invert the Killer Robot genre: he doesn’t want to kill, and is hunted by the weapons manufacturer that made him. It doesn’t slot easily into any one genre, instead toying with hard sci-fi, romantic comedy, tragedy, revenge drama, and slapstick (Number Five ignoring his laser cannon to sling mud at people).
Pixar stated that Johnny Five provided some (unintended) inspiration for WALLE, both in appearance and personality. A remake is being planned, but it is in the very early stages.
- Absentee Actor: Newton and Stephanie, despite being the main human actors of the first film, do not appear with Johnny 5 in the sequel (though Ally Sheedy gets a voice cameo reading a letter as the latter).
- Accidental Misnaming: Ben keeps calling Johnny “Number Johnny Five”. He doesn’t really seem to mind though.
- Actor Allusion: There is a lot of Thaddeus Harris in the character Skroeder.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: When Short Circuit 2 plays on television, it cuts a lot of scenes for time. Many of the cut scenes are the ones where Johnny wanders around New York observing things for himself, including a scene where he trashes a bookstore. This is jarring because he refers to visiting a bookstore at least twice in later scenes.
- Adorkable: Just about everyone, admit it. Most notably: Ben, Newton and Johnny.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Inverted. There’s nothing wrong with the AI until lightning gets involved. Even then, the AI is incredibly amicable and nonviolent, and takes some serious pushing (a major betrayal and very serious and brutal attempt on its life) just to move it from an Actual Pacifist to a Technical Pacifist.
- Arc Words: Number Five maintains throughout the film that he is “alive”. It takes quite a bit of persuading before everyone else agrees with him. The word is given special significance in all of his lines.
- Armies Are Evil: Strictly speaking, the “soldiers” are NOVA’s security team and not proper military, but close enough. It’s also implied that the actual army would happily use the robots as a new and better way to commit as many war crimes as possible. That was the marketing pitch, anyway; the army never actually bought them.
- Artistic License Military: More along the lines of artistic license security guards and not the military. While Skroeder was entirely justified in tracking down a rogue robot with a laser weapon, not once do we see him or any of his men coordinate with local, county, State or Federal law enforcement or even mention calling them to warn of a potential danger to the public. As private security guards, they had no legal authority to block public roads, hold civilians at gun point, conduct a “precision operation” on private property or stage gun battles outside of the Nova Robotics grounds. In real life, had Skroeder done any of those things, he and his security people would’ve been arrested on the spot. Even at the climax where the US Army finally gets called in, there still is no sign of any law enforcement.
- Ascended Extra: While Ben was already part of the main cast in the first film, he got a bigger billing in the sequel.
- Award-Bait Song: The first movie has Come and Follow Me by Max Carl and Marcy Levy.
- Badass Boast: From the second movie:
Skroeder: How many kids you got, Doctor?
Skroeder: Well let me tell you I’ve got three of them. Three dandy little Skroeders, and I want them to be adults, not barbeques.
Short Circuit is a pair of films about a bleeding edge military robot who becomes self-aware. Dubbed "Number Five", his first instinct as a sentient being …