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When I was growing up, one of my favourite authors was Isaac Asimov. I
loved his books and his ideas about robots. The man was a genius in the
way he wrote, he invented the three laws of Robotics, as the very
beginning of the movie tells us, they are: 1) A robot can never harm a
human. 2) A robot must obey all human orders unless it conflicts with
the first law. 3) A robot must protect itself unless it conflicts with
the first two laws.
Because of this and because of the fact that I knew Will Smith was the leading actor in this movie I went into this movie with lowered expectations. I expected to see a corny movie full of explosions and killer robots.
I did get that, or at least the explosions part, but imagine my surprise when the movie ended up exceeding my expectations and more. Even though during the ending credits it says that the movie was suggested by the books by Isaac Asimov most of the movie seemed to play quite well with Isaac Asimov's ideas about robots. The movie played with concepts that Isaac Asimov played with, if the three laws can be made, they can be broken. And it was an Asimov-ish "whodunit" as well.
Will Smith managed to pull off a stunning performance as "Del Spooner", a Chicago detective that is suspicious of robots and is against technology. His acting is much more like his acting in "Enemy of the State" than his performances in his other two Science Fiction flicks, "Independence Day" and "Men in Black". He is a believable character, one that you end up sympathising with as you learn why, exactly, he hates robots so much.
A highly critiqued point usually comes from the fans of the book in that Bridget Moynahan plays Susan Calvin. It is true that Moynahan as Calvin is much younger than the Isaac Asimov version, but beyond that I found her to be a pleasant surprise as well. She plays her persona very well, delivering a wooden, robot-like performance. She is obvious in the fact that she likes robots much more than humans, and her dislike of Spooner is amusing. Over the course of the movie she thaws a little, but not an incredible lot. I find her to be a believable character.
The pure stroke of genius in this movie is the robot, Sonny, who at first reminds one of Data from Star Trek. His character evolves over the course of the story, and Alex Proyas does a good job at keeping us guessing at whether the emotional robot is a "good guy" or not.
This movie, which I've now seen twice, has been raked over the coals so to speak in the realm of artistic licence, but I felt that Isaac Asimov, if he were here, would have been rather pleased with this movie. The only two points of conflict, perhaps, would be the amount of violence against actual robots in the story (he was never that violent in his short stories/books) and the very typical Hollywood blow'emup climax, which, yes, smacked heavily of Terminator for a while there. The ending, I felt, repaired and wrapped up nicely, making up for whatever excessive action went on before it.
Two notes about the cinematography in this movie, first of all, the Matrix scene was not necessary. A character was being chased and did a Trinity pause in mid-air pose, which pulled me out of the movie for a couple seconds. Luckily it wasn't too hard to get back into the movie. Second note was something that I felt was very innovative on the part of Alex Proyas, which was the "camera moving with moving object" shots. I noticed at least three of them in the movie. Very nice film work there. I'm sure it will get horribly overdone in the next few years, but for now it is nice. The CGI also gets honourable mention for making the robots meld so well with their surroundings. Finally CGI has reached a point where they don't seem fake, even for a moment.
In regards to nudity in the movie... I've read a couple of reviews which notice the Moynahan nude in fogged up shower scene, and forget to notice the Will Smith completely nude with no fog shower scene. I must say, as a female viewer it is nice to get the generous end of the stick when it comes to seeing something as, dare I say appealing? as Will Smith's very nicely developed body.
Lastly and in a point that has nothing to do with the movie and more to do with questions brought up by it-- It took until a day later and thinking about the movie some more that I realized that "I, Robot" was also very socially different. As in two of the main characters, including the hero are black males, one woman, and one (male) robot. I didn't find this odd at all in watching it, perhaps because Will Smith is such a recognisable character, but after thinking about it, I felt that this is a very positive sign. It shows, to me, that society is changing. I feel that I wouldn't have been able to see that, even 10-15 years ago and thought nothing of it. I've noticed this before though... that the most gender/social equal views seem to come from science fiction in our media... it is interesting.
Now, of course the movie does bring up some ethical questions like if it's all right to make a servant/slave class out of robots, etc., but all in all I really liked this movie. Any movie that makes you think is a good movie, any movie that gives you fun, drama, action, mystery, and makes you think is a great movie. Thank goodness I, Robot is all of the above.
The maker of a film adaptation has three choices. First, he can try to
translate the original medium as faithfully as possible, striving as
much as possible to preserve the spirit and content of the original
while re-imagining the story as a film. Peter Jackson's Lord of the
Rings films exemplify this approach. Second, he could instead try to
capture the essence of the original, while largely abandoning the
particulars of the original, as in the intelligently satirical but
hard-hearted film version of Starship Troopers. Third, he can try to do
something original with the material, drawing inspiration from the
written story, but creating a unique film with a unique vision. I,
Robot is more the the third than the first or second. While little
remains of Asimov's stories in this killer robot metropolitan fantasy,
the film is informed by, and offers no disrespect, to the good Doctor's
Will Smith plays a Jack Slater-styled maverick cop. If it's old, it's good.
He wears vintage converse, listens to Stevie Wonder, and apparently regards sweet potato pie as a food group. Will Smith's acting is a naturalistic shuffle, a Columbo-like pastiche of mumbling, sarcasm, and unexpected outbursts of charisma and off-balancing interrogation techniques. He delivers his one-liners with unnecessary seriousness. While in Men in Black, he aimed for the ballparks with his power-swinging action-comedy style, here his conscientious style gets in the way, suggesting a character who stands in front of the mirror practicing his zingers like a Tuesday night comic. It's not entirely Smith's fault, as the movie itself can't seem to decide if he's standing in for Bogart or Schwarzenegger, or if the character had a life of his own before the film starts rolling. His performance is intelligent, marred by occasional "Gotcha, suckaz!" moments that remind us that all films made in Hollywood are made in Hollywood.
His opposite, Bridget Moynahan, fits her role more surely. She's an ice queen in the classic action movie tradition, a stiff-necked, self-important, lonely woman who has been absorbed by her work so completely she remains a teenager at heart, awkward, vulnerable, and searching for the approval of others. Moynahan's bug-eyed discomfort and clipped, TV-sarcastic delivery are those of the quintessential comedy sidekick. Nonetheless, in rare moments, she invests the character's personal revelations with warmth, doubt, and a glow of determination and moral purpose. While Smith vacillates between supercop and Bogie, Moynahan seems to have found a happy medium between the Saturday matinée and the midnight marathon, a mixture of fun and humanity with a carriage of seriousness appropriate to what is essentially a monster movie.
The robot, Sonny, is a character himself, a curious, frightened creature that seems capable of anything. Could Sonny be the murderer? We hope not, and yet, we see the grim possibility that a machine might consider itself more than a human being. We understand Sonny's drive to live and grow. As human beings, we know what lengths we would go to to ensure our survival, whatever the moral charges facing us.
A top scientist has been murdered, and there are no human suspects, so the powerful US Robotics corporation (no relation to the modem manufacturers) convinces the powers-that-be to consider his unexpected death a suicide. Spooner (Will Smith) alone searches for the truth of the matter, fueled by hatred for robots and a personal debt to the dead scientist. Dr. Calvin (Moynahan) feels his intrusive investigation is unnecessary, although new pieces of evidence appear that gradually shake her confidence. Robots are programmed by the Three Laws to serve humanity, but Spooner is convinced one of the new NS-5 units, a unique prototype, is the murderer. As Spooner gets deeper to the heart of the mystery, the story explodes with robotic violence. Like all good mysteries, the real question is not "Whodunnit?" but "Why?" The heroes do some things for the wrong reasons, and the villains do some things for the right, rational reasons. Although I, Robot hardly pauses for introspection, it does asks us, "What makes a human being superior to a machine?" There are twists and surprises, although in the end, the movie plays out in the only way it can, a band of brave heroes trying to throw the ring into Mt. Doom while the armies of evil march. And yet, the movie leaves us wanting more. What is the future of humanity? How will we control our machines, and how will we prevent the machines from becoming our masters?
While not as ambitious as A.I., it is more successful, and while not as intelligent as Robocop, it is better played. While the movie does suffer from inconsistencies in mood and philosophy, such hiccups are secondary to the emotionality and drive of the film, its fury of thought as well as action. In moments, I, Robot is a terrifying vision of the future. Too few science-fiction movies manage to scare us with the power of technology, but future shock is vital to the science-fiction story. Modern science-fiction truly began with the detonation at White Sands. The Atomic Age has given way to the Digital Age, but we still have not solved the problem of how to wrest the power of technology from the creatures of the id.
It is the year 2035 and the world has forgotten the lessons we learnt
in the 20th Century from films like Bladerunner and Terminator. Robots
are the new must have accessory, carrying out menial tasks for
households and boosting profits for businesses that have workforces not
requiring payment. While this is now the norm, Officer Del Spooner
refuses to move with the times and, due to an incident in his past
refuses to accept the robots as anything approaching human. When an old
friend, Dr Lanning head of the robotics company, is found dead
everyone suspects suicide but Spooner suspects a robot that flees the
crime scene. Despite the robotics company lawyering up, Spooner
continues his investigations and, several more malfunctions later, he
begins to uncover a much bigger problem with the robots.
When the film opens with a flashback scene that cuts to a bitter, old-fashioned cop who dresses like Shaft and don't take no rubbish from his weary captain I immediately started to worry that this would simply be a clichéd cop thriller in fancy clothes and, in some ways, that is what it was. But it is also good fun and, along with Spiderman 2, stands out as one of the best of this years generally disappointing crop of blockbusters. The plot is interesting enough to keep the film going and, although it goes just where you will expect it to if you've seen Terminator (or had any involvement in popular culture) it builds gradually with an intriguing investigation leading to a very impressive climax. The set pieces are well directed and are mixed well with the drama and the film delivers just what I had come expecting fun, excitement, effects and an involving story.
Of course this is not to ignore the fact that the film has its weak points. The worn 'tough cop' clichés are heavy on the ground and show a script that hasn't put as much effort into its characters as it really should have this is also seen in Calvin, who's background with Lanning is hinted at but never followed though. The film also hints at a very intelligent story around the robots but again it never totally follows through in as much detail as it could have done. The structure of the society is not clear if robots have taken many jobs how can everyone afford a robot? Spooner lives in a poor, overcrowded area with graffiti on the walls but yet everyone owns a robot. While I accept that the film couldn't go into the whole universe behind the scenario, it could have shown us an underclass just as easily as it showed us what I suspect were the middle classes. Likewise the final shot of the film implies that there is more to the robot-ethics of the story but mostly this is put to the side in favour of running and shooting. But these are minor complaints when you accept that this is not art it is a blockbuster and, in this way, it succeeds and is an enjoyable film.
Matching the lazily written character that he is given, Smith plays it like Shaft. He eats pie and takes lots of sugar (but yet has a superb body can't wait for that part of the future!), makes wisecracks and sneers a lot.
He tries to bring something individual out in Spooner but mostly he settles for playing along with the clichés and delivers a familiar performance but one that fits well with the aims of the film. Moynnahan is a bit dry but actually works better than the usual screaming love interest that we get served with thankfully the film resists the temptation to impose a romance on us. Tudyk looks the part and does a very good 'HAL' voice but he is constrained by his character and can only work within that but he works it well enough. Greenwood is a good part, Cromwell's familiarity helps us care for a character who has died before the film even starts, McBride is the gruff, weary captain but basically the film is Smith's and his Shaft is quite fun. Outside of the real things, the effects are great they look real and match the design of the future which is at the other end of the scale from the usual grim future that we all suspect will be nearer the truth! Alex Proyas may not be a great master of the narrative but he does OK here while also indulging his first love the visual effects and style.
Overall this is an enjoyable summer blockbuster and stands out in the crowd of average sequels and trashy attempts at blockbusters that have crawled in and out of our cinemas this year. Yes, it's full of the usual tough cop genre clichés and the sci-fi element doesn't get as interesting or morally complex as it should have done but this is an action movie and I found it to do all the things I needed to do to entertain me set pieces, interesting story, fun, effects that are actually special and a film that builds to a satisfying (if overblown) conclusion. In the cold light of day it is an imperfect film but it is easily one of the better blockbusters of 2004.
Like the Matrix and many other major movies, I, Robot has its foundations in
philosophy, in its case the question of epistemology(The study of knowledge
itself and computers being self-aware).
Will Smith is Spooner, a cop with an apparent attitude problem. Set in the future, I Robot sees Spooner embarking on a puzzling case of suicide where he believes it was actually murder. By a robot.
In this future society (With more than a homage to Blade Runner) robots are used as slaves of humans in all facets of life. They have 3 rules of conduct hard coded into them which essentially state they cannot harm humans. So the postulation by Spooner that a robot killed a man after a history where no robot had ever committed so much as a mugging presents a big problem to both his peers and his boss.
Suffice to say the story's plot thickens and a number of twists and turns emerge before the truth is revealed.
Will Smith is an absolute surprise here. Having previously been a light-hearted comedy actor he puts in a truly excellent and believable shift as a wise-cracking cop with a dark past.
However, the real star is the special effects and visual trickery. Impossible but ingenious camerawork and some jawdropping animation really make I, Robot feel truly alive and utterly believable, while never being dull for a second.
It arguably doesn't delve too deep into its philosophical undertones, but it doesn't really need to. It's a traditional Hollywood blockbuster action flick but it unquestionably has a brain and is a clear cut above the likes of Armageddon et al.
Director Alex Proyas, helmer of such cult favorites as 'Dark City' and
'The Crow', steps into the Hollywood limelight with his first attempt
at a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster.
'I, Robot' chronicles the life of Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) who has a techno-phobic view of the world's newest appliance, a life-like robot created by the world's leading technology giant US Robotics. A link in Spooner's past is linked to his phobia of the automaton movement sweeping the nation. According to US Robotics, there will be eventually 1 robot to every 5 humans.
Spooner is called to the offices of US Robotics when a leading scientist (James Cromwell), with a secret link to Spooner, has apparently committed suicide. His death seems to have mysterious circumstances which could link to a robot. With man's complete trust in the new robot technology, it seems too ludicrous to every one except Spooner.
As the mystery deepens, Spooner unravels the very fabric of the robotic giant, locks horns with CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood) and learns more about his automated enemy with the aid of scientist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan). Through the course of these events he may learn more than he could ever imagine.
It is hard to defend a film like 'I, Robot' but I am going to try. For sci-fi purists, Isaac Asimov's legendary work about the robot and how he will intricate into our society has filled the minds of readers for over 50 years. But the similarities between the film presented here and his work are few and far between. Kind of like last week's release of Jerry Bruckheimer's 'King Arthur'. Both films take sacred subject matter and re-invent it with a new twist. I would have to say that 'I. Robot' is better in a lot ways.
At the core of 'I, Robot' beats the soul of Asimov as his 3 laws regarding robots are sacredly left intact and the film does abide by them. Also a lot of the characters have similar names to the people in the text. It is almost like taking Star Trek's 'prime directive' and some of the now classic characters and setting them in a new idea of the future. The core is left intact but in some ways it has been updated and refreshed.
The story, special effects and extremely zealous direction, however, all seem to be brought forth by the collaborators who cobbled this film together. There are influences of 'Robocop', 'Short Circuit', 'Blade Runner' and even the classic comic-book series 'Magnus: Robot Fighter'. Each of these robot influences echo back to what makes 'I Robot' so intriguing, a joy to watch and memorable.
Sure the story does have a lot of sci-fi influences and clichés aside from robot films including 'Star Wars' and 'Planet of the Apes' but don't these benchmark sci-fi films influence everything coming down the turnpike these days. It even has the classic sci-fi cliché of the social outcast claiming there is an invasion coming except no one believes him. But that is not what should bring us into the film.
You really need to give credit to director Alex Proyas because it is his magic as a filmmaker that holds this film together. He knows where to play it straight and where to let his lead actor bring on the charm. Also you really have to admire the man's technical ability. His brilliant inter-laying of robots into the photography is astounding. Proyas is an A-list director in the making and 'I, Robot' shows that he can deliver a big Hollywood film.
I also give credit to Will Smith who starts out being very unapproachable with his character but as the film goes we really become fond of his hero. Smith's Spooner does have a lot of his previous sci-fi heroes inter-laced into Spooner but it comes off as more of a homecoming than an annoyance. In some ways I think Proyas had something to do with that especially in the chase down scene towards the beginning of the film. It almost felt like 'Men in Black' again.
As for Smith's co-stars, Cromwell's Lanning is a throwaway character used mainly for effect, Moynahan is timid and sometimes robot-like but it is a sturdy performance and Greenwood is menacing and a good match to face off against the rebellious Smith.
The reason I was so fond of 'I, Robot' is because for once it was a summer film that didn't apologize for trying to be entertaining. The special effects, the performances and the direction are all what people want to see in the summer and this film is loads and loads of fun. It is a great giant popcorn film with a light layering of message.
My only small problem with this film was that it is supposed to be set in Chicago in 2035. I didn't buy it but if it was 2135, then maybe.
Sure the film doesn't pave new ground but why does every film have to. It is pure summer fun and what is wrong with that.
If you want Asimov and sci-fi purism then you can always read the novels. Stop apologizing and most of all stop belly-aching, just give the film a chance. If you like science fiction films and want to be remembered how much fun they used to be then this picture is the perfect ticket for you. So Says the Soothsayer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I, Robot" was this year's most entertaining Blockbuster: a lot of action, witty dialog and a fine plot. In fact, I thought the plot was so good that it was a waste to turn this project into a Will Smith vehicle. Not that he ruined the movie or anything but his funnyman performance - and the witty dialog - just kept the story from getting deep. So many other recent Blockbusters were unnecessarily lofty (*cough*SPIDER-MAN2*cough*MATRIX2&3*cough*cough*) and could have used some irony. With "I, Robot", however, it would have been a great idea to go for a more philosophical approach. The direction is very spectacular and fast paced, which isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't help to create an intriguing atmosphere, either. The special effects look great for the most parts, except when they are used to create landscapes. Sometimes a location looks like it was taken directly out of a video game. Anyway, "I, Robot" is a fantastic way to spend 90 minutes, but it's no masterpiece and won't be remembered among classics who deal with similar topics ("Blade Runner", "The Terminator", "The Matrix 1"). Pity. The potential was there.
I thought the concept of the storyline was good, as it could be
conceived as realistic. Given the ever increasing advances in modern
technology, one can, indeed, conceive the possibility of this kind of
I did not really see any flaws in this movie or in the actor's character but the philosophical aspect of the movie questions at what point does artificial intelligence cease to be artificial and true consciousness arise? Anyhow, I did like the A.I. in this movie and would definitely recommend, especially if you like Will Smith movies are the Terminator series. I do, however, prefer there to be no sequels to this movie due to the fact that a sequel would probably be no more than a revamped version of the first one. With that being said, I recommend seeing it. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't really think of any redeeming features of this utterly bad
rendering on Asimov than the art direction. Forget the product
placement disaster, the unconvincing performance from Will Smith and
the gargantuan plot-holes. This wasn't only laughable and but painful
to watch. Even the action was boring. A mixture of MTV inspired
production values and utterly bad dialogue probably aimed at very small
What a shame that sci-fi this bad can still be made after we've had Bladerunner, Minority Report or to a lesser extent Dark City (by the same director). This one really belongs in the bottom 100 list. Truly awful.
I watched this 'adaptation' of Isaac Asimov book and found it to be the worst case of 'artist freedom' that ever existed more like 'Artist Decapitation'. This movie destroys 50 years of Asimov work and is a disgrace to the film industry. 20th century thinks it can only make a buck by special effects if that what it wants do use some cheap piece of writing. I, Robot (the book) may not be action pack but it has the possibility of a great movie (some day by someone who as true vision of artist freedom and expression). I, Robot could have been made exploring the characters and settings of the book. People went to see the Truman Show, Bicentennial Man, Saving Private Ryan, Notting Hill as well as movies like The Lord of the Rings, Stars Wars. I, Robot is similar in some ways to all the movies mention above (Although some in very small ways) My point is if a real writer and director had handled this movie it could have combined great special effects with great stories, characters and actors. It would have been a challenge but to me it would have shown great creativity and skill Not some 5cent rip off of a man with great vision who inspired thousands of people including some who created real robots and went into the field of science because of his dreams and ideas of the future. If this is how Hollywood treats a great idea I truly feel sorry for future moviegoers.
This "film" is the culmination of everything that is bad about modern
film. unnecessary slow motion, unnecessary
flipping/jumping/somersaults, unnecessary characters, unnecessary
dialogue.... basically unnecessity. (is that a word? well, it's just
been invented by I, Robot.)
What happened to practicality? (i.e. the car garage, the skin spray) the only tool that shows a combination of futuristic and realistic function is the card swipe at the coffee shop.
What happened to showing respect for women? (i.e. smith's character does nothing but degrade the doctor for the better part of the film, and yet she still "wants" him. WHERE IS THE TENSION? I'll tell you where, good looks and not admiration or common ground)
What happened to a detective that detects? Smith did nothing but sit around and feel sorry for himself, complaining to other people, and when they said something that sparked a thought he was off. this is such a lame way to get the story from point b-c-d-etc... it was OK once, but not several times in a row. (speaking of several times in a row, what was the "I'm snoring and not listening to you joke? Twice In One Scene?)
What happened to the small parts in a movie being somewhat meaningful and not just a tool to promote rescue scenes? Shia LaBeouf (the kid) is in the movie for a total of TWO SCENES, we know that A-he degrades women, and B-he knows Smith....... so of COURSE we should care about him and whether or not he comes to harm,
What happened to Hero's? let's just forget that there are people, women and children everywhere getting attacked by robots and selfishly save the only person withing my view that I have an acquaintance with. and why did he have to ramp his bike through the air, showing off, while the doctor was somehow able to reach the same distance in a matter of seconds on foot.
don't get me wrong, I'm all for spectacle. but I'm also all for a shred of realism and meaning.
I have to say I've never laughed quite so hard at a film in a long time. so thanks Alex.
I pray for the swing of the social pendulum back to simpler techniques, simpler stories and simpler everything else in films...... but mainly simpler techniques.
Big Budget Action films: "you so have to die"
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