- Still shot image © Amazon Studios

Movies That Show Off Creative "Junk" Upcycling

The Amazon Prime series "The Great Escapists" shows off the science and mechanics behind recycling old parts. Here are 3 movies that do as well.

8w ago

Those who have been watching the exploits of maker and wrecker extraordinarines Richard Hammond and Tory Belleci on their new series The Great Escapists, have to appreciate the DIY element, whether or not there’s any interest in the scripted subplot.

For someone who tries to celebrate Parts & Crafts, there were many things I found more than appealing in this sense, from the upcycling of ships parts and shipping containers for shelter, tools and entertainment, the use of natural surroundings to create a battery, and the fun little craft of turning junk into your own personal “Clarkson” dummy.

There’s also an “exclusive tour" of the treehouse on Amazon Prime's official Facebook feed for anyone wanting a closer look at some of the show’s upcycling handywork.

As The Great Escapists certainly celebrates the love for the “trash to treasure,” vibe, I wanted to share three movies that also impressed me in term of created parts upcycling:

Swiss Family Robinson (Walt Disney Pictures)

Still shot image © Walt Disney Pictures

Still shot image © Walt Disney Pictures

We’re heading back to 1960 (before I even entered the world), the old school Disney movie based on the 1812 book by Johann David Wyss about a family surviving on a deserted island. The movie was more a spectacle of set and prop-building that it was a believable adventure. Who cares, though, because every kid who saw it, even in “television weekend matinee” style like I did, wanted to climb around on and play with every gadget on that treehouse.

Thanks to the walkthrough attraction at Disneyland Park, many of us got to do just that.

My favorite: The retractable skylight roof.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)

Still shot image © Warners Bros.

Still shot image © Warners Bros.

Every Road Warrior film was filled with wonderful post-apocalyptic know-how, but every film tries to outdo the last. The 2015 reboot venture starring Tom Hardy had some fantastic over-the-top ways to use old car and tech parts in combat, survival, and as prosthetic body parts. This included stacking one or more vehicles on top of each other club sandwich like to create a new, super vehicle (check out the bumper and grill layers in the center of the above still).

My favorites: The “swivel stilt” car hopping combat people launchers, and the massive speaker system (complete with a live indentured servant guitarist) mounted on the top of your war vehicle.

Soldier (Warners Bros. )

Still shot image © Warners Bros.

Still shot image © Warners Bros.

This 1998 Kurt Russell action sci-fi is a little less known than the other two films mentioned, but it shows off some great ways to turn junkyard scraps into new, useful items. In the film, Russell himself plays an “obsolete” item as well. He's as a presumed dead soldier, trained since he was a child, who is unceremoniously dumped on “Arcadia 234 Waste Disposal Planet”. He meets a group for shipwrecked settlers who have managed to create their own community using what they’ve found on the planet’s surface. There are some pretty cool little details spattered throughout this movie from the reusing of old commercial signage for lighting to creating sustainable ways of farming.

My favorites: The simple mobiles made from broken glass and CDs, and the furniture items (including a speaker’s podium) created from old warplane parts.

Sometimes, when we get caught up in a movie or show’s story (as we should), we forget to take the time to really appreciate at the world-building created by some set designers who know the importance of making “pieces and parts” the focus of their own craft.

All six episodes of Season One of The Great Escapists is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

What other shows or movies have you noticed making use of car, plane, boat or other scrap items?

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