I, robot Review and Opinion

2018/11/11

I, Robot (2004)
Director: Alex Proyas

review by Christopher GearySpoiler alert!In mid-21st century Chicago, police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is called to the scene of a reported suicide at the world's largest robotics facility. His friend, inventor and industrialist Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) has apparently fallen to his death, after crashing out of a high window. Spooner fosters a deep mistrust (which is rather clumsily established in an early sequence) of this era's ubiquitous robots. He's suspicious about the impending mass-market distribution of an advanced model, NS-5, and soon becomes justifiably paranoid about the new technology. Although he's not a diehard Luddite, the intro to Spooner's character makes it clear that he likes 'retro' clothes, music, eschews voice-controlled gadgets for push-button remotes, and recklessly drives his sleek auto-car, manually. The intelligent machines that soon become his enemies when the robot revolution starts are imaginatively designed and the CG visual effects are largely convincing.

Standing room only in the Robots Lounge

I, Robot is inspired by Isaac Asimov's 1950 anthology of the same title, but very little detail from the book's nine short stories is featured in this movie. Asimov is renowned for coining the famous 'Three Laws of Robotics'. Since everyone and his wife has been quoting either the originals, or the movie's amended version in full, here's the robo-law short form:

1. They are harmless
2. They are obedient yet safe
3. They cannot do anything wrong

Nice car, shame about the hat, Will!

Of course, the inhumanly powerful robots in this film turn mean, spectacularly. Luckily the hero is a cyborg (the result of an earlier brush with death) and can ably defend himself when, first an automated bulldozer starts demolishing a house while he's still inside, and then squads of homicidal androids attack him in a road tunnel. Dr Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan, The Sum Of All Fears) isn't convinced by Spooner's view that alleged killer robot Sonny (Alan Tudyk) is capable of murder, despite evidence to the contrary - as when the startled Sonny initially evades arrest by throwing Spooner across a room, and later exhibits signs of a violent temper during interrogation at the police station. Of course, and quite predictably, the message that robots are our friends, and it's actually the dodgy programming - in this case, courtesy of a supercomputer, V.I.K.I. (voiced by Fiona Hogan) - that's at fault here, is subsequently hammered into the narrative with no subtlety whatsoever. Lacking the occasionally thought-provoking themes of Spielberg's A.I., but thankfully avoiding the excessive sentimentality of The Bicentennial Man (that other major film based upon an Asimov text), this blockbuster sci-fi action thriller from the director of The Crow (1994) and the impressive Dark City (1998) is satisfactory even though it offers nothing more than average entertainment.

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