Set in a future Earth (2035 A.D.) where robots are common assistants and workers for their human owners, this is the story of "robotophobic" Chicago Police Detective Del Spooner's investigation into the murder of Dr. Alfred Lanning, who works at U.S. Robotics, in which a robot, Sonny , appears to be implicated, even though that would mean the robot had violated the Three Laws of Robotics, which is apparently impossible. It seems impossible because.. if robots can break those laws, there's nothing to stop them from taking over the world, as humans have grown to become completely dependent upon their robots. Or maybe... they already have? Aiding Spooner in his investigation is a psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, who specializes in the psyches of robots. Written by
Instead of opening credits, the beginning of the movie features Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics: LAW I. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. LAW II. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. LAW III. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. See more »
If ever there was a movie that seemed to be a deliberate statement by Hollywood that it despises the intelligence of the American moviegoer, this movie is it. And based on the colossal box office receipts the movie garnered, the studios are dead-on in their assessments. This summer's (2005) box-office slump clearly is more an indication of moviegoers finding other brainless amusements (like reality TV, I suppose) than their displeasure with the vile crap the studios feed them. This past weekend seems to confirm that, since the universally-panned "Fantastic Four" broke the slump.
The story in "I, Robot" has virtually nothing to do with Asimov's wonderful series of tales, which are actually more philosophy than science fiction. He was never better at pondering the human factor in a world of ever-increasing technology. I read the stories when I was a kid, and I've just recently listened to them on audio CD. It confirms what I was pretty sure I remembered: that the stories are genuine, warm, full of human insight, and wonderful.
All of that is entirely absent from this movie. It is an opportunity to worship at the altar of Will Smith, and nothing else. He struts around--and "struts" is far too weak of a word--clad in ultra-stylish leather from head to toe, with two gigantic guns in matching shoulder holsters. He lives with his grandmother, a plump, bespectacled caricature of Aunt Jemima. (Almost like Martin Lawrence in drag.) He's glib, garrulous and rude, but he keeps flashing his patented grin to excuse his crass personality. The dialog is banal to the point of incredulity. The movie is largely CGI, and Smith performed his role mostly wearing weird suits inside a small set and standing before a blue background. One can imagine what kind of soulful performance that coaxes from an actor. Considering that the actor is Smith, who is hardly Shakespearean-caliber to begin with, the result is about as convincing as a bunch of 8th-graders trying to act tough down at the maltshop.
The movie is so focused on Smith's "personality" to the exclusion of all else that one is almost surprised the editors didn't add in a sitcom laugh-track to punctuate his weak one-liners.
The only thing close to the irony of Asimov's tales that this movie achieves is purely unintentional. The rise of CGI technology in movie-making has made it possible, and even profitable, to make movies that are nearly purely eye-candy, with no story, no dialog, no ideas, no thoughts. Like a two-hour music video. Man uses technology to corrupt and debase an artistic medium that was once capable of beauty. That would elicit a wry smile from Asimov.
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