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I, Robot Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/31/2005

When I originally saw I, Robot in the theater, I will admit, I was a little tired while watching it.  Then I got behind on several reviews, and I was never able to finish my review of this one specifically.  I remember not being too impressed with it though.  Now that has been released on DVD and I was able to see it with a clear head, it still doesnít impress me as much as I would have thought.

In the not-too-far future of Chicago in 2035, homicide detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is probably the only person around who doesnít like robots.  They are a little hard to avoid though, since they do everything for humans now, from cooking and cleaning to walking the dog.  He is haunted by a recurring dream about being rescued by a Nestor Class 4 (NS4) robot (voiced by David Haysom) from a drowning car while a little girl named Sarah (Emily Tennant) in another car drowned, which might explain why he hates robots.  After running into street kid named Farber (Shia LaBeouf), who tries to borrow his car, and visiting his grandmother Gigi (Adrian L. Ricard), who reminds him to call his ex-wife Marci, Del heads to work.  Before that though, he sees another NS4 robot running down the street with a womanís (Sharon Wilkins) purse.  After tackling it, he realizes that the robot was retrieving the purse from her home because she forgot her inhaler.  When he gets to work, Lt. John Bergin (Chi McBride), Delís boss, chews him out.  He doesnít understand why Del canít seem to understand that no robot has ever committed a crime.  It goes against the three robot laws.  Law #1 - A robot cannot harm a human being, nor through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; Law #2 - A robot must obey a human being, except when it conflicts with the first law; and Law #3 - A robot must strive to protect its own existence, except where it conflicts with the first two laws.  There is a case to work on though.  It involves the apparent suicide of U.S. Robotics executive Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), who designed the NS4 robot, and who also developed the new NS5 robot (voiced by Scott Heindl), which CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood) is planning on launching throughout the world.  Lanning is an old friend of Del, and a preprogrammed hologram image of the doctor contacts him to investigate the suicide.  On the way to Lanningís office with the companyís programmer and robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), Del learns of the companyís central positronic operating core called the Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence, a.k.a. V.I.K.I. (voiced by Fiona Hogan), which continuously uploads fresh software to each of the NS5 robots all over the world.  When he gets to Lanningís office, Del finds it a little weird that the doors were locked from the inside and the windows to his office were installed with reinforced glass, making it rather difficult to easily commit suicide.  The hologram doesnít help much either, since it can only answer specific questions, but Del starts to suspect foul play.  As he is investigating the office, Del has an encounter with an NS5 robot that calls itself Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk.)  Sonny runs off, but it is captured and held in custody.  The robot insists that it didnít kill Lanning, but Del thinks otherwise.  Sonny will be decommissioned anyway, though both Del and Calvin notice that there is something a little different about this specific NS5 robot.  As Del continues with his investigation, he wonders why Lanning had contacted him, and if these so-called harmless robots are actual dangers to mankind, or as Lanning calls it, ďghosts in the machine.Ē

This movie isnít actually a complete adaptation of science fiction author Isaac Asimovís work.  It was merely ďsuggested byĒ Asimovís collection of robot stories.  Originally the screenplay, written by Jeff Vintar (with help from Akiva Goldsman), was called Hardwired.  When 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to the Asimov novel, it became the Will Smith vehicle that it is today.

Alex Proyas, who has made some visually impressive movies like 1994ís The Crow and 1998ís Dark City, directed the movie.  I wasnít too keen on the look of this one though.  It felt like we were watching a video game, and everything looked phony all around.  It reminded me of the 1982 movie Tron, especially the scene where the NS5 robots attack Delís car in the tunnel.

The acting was okay.  Smith did his summer popcorn flick thing that he always does, and I like it almost every time.  Moynahan is a decent actress for a model.  Even though Iím sick of the female scientist being an unbelievable hottie, a.k.a. Tara Reid in this yearís Alone in the Dark, she made it believable.  She reminded me of Jolene Blalockís character TíPol from UPNís ďStar Trek: Enterprise,Ē with her technical speak and her cold expressions.  None of the rest of the cast were in it long enough to make some sort of an impression on me.

I was somewhat surprised that the DVD was light on the special features side.  There was a commentary track by Proyas and Goldsman, a ďmaking ofĒ feature, still photos, and promotional crap.  Normally, Fox DVDís are some of the best ones around, but this one was a letdown.  They have a collectorís edition version that is now available though, with more commentary tracks, more special effects featurettes, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending.  I donít know why the original one didnít have all that stuff the first time around.

While I, Robot wasnít the best movie of 2004 (or even the best Smith movie), it wasnít bad.  While I wasnít gung ho on the visual effects, apparently someone was, because it was nominated for an Oscar for Visual Effects (it lost to Spider-Man 2.)  The story was interesting, but I guess I just wasnít blown away by it overall.  Thatís what I get for dozing off during a movie!

1/2

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