Hollywood looks to use the groundbreaking work of a tremendously influential science fiction writer to create a film and make it look like they are making a groundbreaking film. In this regard I, Robot fails completely, and people who know their films will see through this charade, and likely may be frustrated by it.
On the other hand, for the people that can ignore delusional Hollywood film objectives, then the movie is fun to watch and it’s entertaining. It stays on track, paces itself well, and Will Smith acts like Will Smith which should be enough to carry the average person through to the film’s conclusion.
Set in Chicago, 2035, robots are highly developed machines that bare a lot of human like features. They have dominated the economy and they are governed by three laws designed to keep them from being dangerous and to keep them under control. These three laws are:
- A robot must never harm a human being or, through inaction, allow any harm to come to a human.
- A robot must obey the orders given to them by human beings, except where such orders violate the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence unless this violates the First or Second Laws.
Chicago Police Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is called into investigate the suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Lanning works at U.S. Robotics the company that makes the world’s robots, and Lanning is responsible for being the robots architect. Believing Lanning’s death to be a murder, Spooner begins to investigate USR (U.S. Robotics) and their robots. Spooner, suspicious of robots due to a past traumatic experience, believes one of USR’s robots broke the three laws and killed Dr. Lanning.
You can see the Hollywood executive type going off a check list of what he thinks would be profitable ideas for a science fiction film as I, Robot”s story progresses. Plot based off of Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick Novel – Check. Numerous one-liners to punctuate the action from actor Will Smith – Check. Slick looking slow motion action sequences and lots of guns – Check. Have an attractive female co-star (Bridget Moynahan) that assists Will Smith in his detective work, but don’t allow them to engage in any romantic activity because she’s white and he’s black. – Check. Run four different product placement commercials for Will Smith’s Converse shoes in the film – Check.
Looking into movies can be depressing, and if you look into everything that happens production-wise in I, Robot you can still see how ass backwards Hollywood is. Excluding these elements, or if you can look past them – I can, but I won’t stop me for calling them out on it- then I, Robot is a fairly decent movie.
Will Smith was the right man to cast for his character. Sure he’s not doing anything new acting wise in this film, but he fits the role of character perfectly, providing the sentiment needed for dealing with his traumatic past, while still being able to come across as a robot ass kicker in the films myriad of action scenes.
Bridget Moynahan acts more robotic in the film than the actual robots. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it’s never remarked upon in the film’s duration so I’m guessing it’s not. It would have been nice to have tied this aspect into the film thematically in some way, or if they weren’t going to tie her robotic acting into the film, then maybe she could have been a little livelier.
The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t really add much to the movie. Shia LaBeouf as Farber isn’t even developed as a character and his existence on screen appears to allow Will Smith to look either heroic or funny. Chi McBride as the police lieutenant seems to have nothing better to do than to police one cop on his entire district’s police force. Acting and plot really aren’t this film’s strong points.
For all of its action and firepower, I, Robot still tries to ask deeper questions. What does it mean to be human? What is our purpose here? This type of depth tries to add some of Asimov’s flavor directly into the story, and it is appreciated. The film attempts to get people to ask these types of questions, but it doesn’t dole on these issues for too long. After all that’s not what Hollywood is all about.
If you want to enjoy I, Robot, don’t look into its deeper meanings. I had higher expectations for this film, especially considering the director, Alex Proyas’s, previous work, Dark City, which is a much more visually stunning and well thought outscience fiction film. I, Robot could have been better, but ultimately it can still be fun to watch.