El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Directed by Alex Proyas
Screenplay by Jeff Vinter and Akiva Goldsman
Screen Story by Jeff Vinter
Suggested by stories by Isaac Asimov

I, Robot is an entertaining, action-packed thriller. It has all the elements you expect from a Hollywood summer blockbuster: a good-looking star, plenty of action and dazzling special effects, which were fantastic and they seamlessly melded into the scenes. To create some of the robots, they used the technique that created Gollum from the Lord of the Rings films.

The year is 2035, but try not to be distracted by how advanced everything is only 30 years out. Chicago Police Detective Will Smith, [no point is using the character’s name because there’s no acting by Mr. Smith; he only recites lines.] is called to investigate the suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning, a prominent scientist at U.S. Robotics, the world’s largest robotic corporation. As he investigates the crime scene, he finds some clues that make him doubt it was a suicide. One that is very significant is that the doctor couldn’t have opened the window by himself. A robot, which Lanning named Sonny, is found hiding and before he can be questioned, it escapes. Will thinks he has a suspect but no one believes him because of the three laws of robotics, which were created by author Isaac Asimov in his short stories. They are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

As Smith finds more clues about what’s going on, his life grows perilous, which means an increase in the scale of action sequences, such as trying to escape a house as it’s being destroyed and the main scene from the trailer as wave upon wave of robots attack Smith as he drives.

Some silly things that weren’t needed but had to be in the film were scenes of Will with his shirt off or in the shower. The man has a nice body and since he can’t act, he needs to keep the female fans coming back for some reason. His limited range is probably why Bridget Moynahan starred opposite him. She was a bit of a stiff with no range of emotion, but to be fair, I haven’t seen her in much so it might be the fault of the script. The product placement was a little over the top, especially the Converse sneakers. Will kept drawing attention to them just to draw attention to them. He’ll probably be wearing them until 2035 with all the plugs the company gets.

I enjoyed the film as I watched it; however, I was disappointed once it was over because it had the potential to be so much more and once I had time to think about the story, it didn’t make much sense. If you can live in the moment, you’ll probably like it. Otherwise, you certainly won’t miss anything if you take a pass. I’m not ever going to watch it again.

If you have any doubts about how the film will end, whether or not the hero saves the day, then you must think this stars the other Will Smith, but I must reveal secrets to discuss the film anymore, so stop reading here if you must and be sure that if you see it, you do it on a big screen.

The villain is in control of many things and is able to observe a great deal, so it is near impossible to believe that the heroes were able to accomplish anything. When the film pushes you to think the villain is Mr. X, it’s plausible that the heroes could pull some things off, but then twenty minutes later, when Mr. Y is revealed as the villain, you’ve been bombarded with so much stimuli that you don’t have time to rethink the story and figure out that the heroes could not have accomplished what we were shown.

The death of Dr. Lansing is the catalyst that sets the story in motion, and while that seems to be an interesting device, there’s no way it can be the best way to have resolved the situation. I’m a reviewer not a scientist, but even I could think up ways to have defeated the villain with killing the good doctor.

All the interesting philosophical issues are hinted at, but never explored. Issues like bigotry and the soul are mentioned in passing, but then it’s off to a chase sequence before anyone starts thinking. I would like to see different versions of the script to find out how it evolved, but my guess is that the dumbing-down was the work of co-screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, a purveyor of cinematic swill, who must be a master of neuro-linguistic programming because his writing skills leaves much to be desired. He must have been traumatized by movies at a young age and is exacting his revenge on the art form, yet it is we who suffer. Since only suggestions from Asimov’s writing were used, hopefully one day a serious filmmaker can explore the more though-provoking issues that are dealt with in his stories.