General Audience: B-
Sci-Fi action thriller starring Will Smith. Lots of shoot-‘em-up sequences minus the blood and guts. Will Smith briefly nude. No mentally challenging conundrums.
Family Audience: C-
Rated PG-13 for intense stylized action and brief partial nudity. However, they forgot to mention all the non-stop swearing by Will Smith. Should have been rated R.
Chicago in the year 2035 is quite a spectacle. Virtually everyone traversing the streets of the Windy City has a robotic domestic servant tagging along to carry groceries or walk the dog. All of these folks trust their robot to behave, because each robot has been programmed to obey the cardinal rule: Robots can never harm a human. Or can they?
That’s the question at the core of this film, and the answer arrives faster than you can say, “Open the pod bay door, Hal”.
What’s amazing is how highly advanced and agile robots have become a mere 30 years from now. They’re like an economy version of the The Terminator. Considering I can’t even get my robotic dog to cross the room without burning out four D-size batteries and falling over, it’s difficult to imagine an I, Robot kind of world for at least another hundred years.
By then our descendants will worry less about a robot turning on them and more about the thing dropping the groceries or breaking down.
I, Robot stars Will Smith as Del Spooner, a slightly paranoid robot-phobic police detective investigating the untimely suicide of the head inventor at U.S. Robotics, the leading manufacturer of the nation’s robots.
The death is suspicious because it comes on the eve of the release of the highly advertised NS5- generation robots.
During Spooner’s investigation he meets Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), a beautiful and brilliant scientist working for U.S. Robotics. At first she’s put off by this loud, bumbling loose cannon with an attitude.
Spooner tries to convince her that the robots they produce are defective and violent. She stoutly defends their creations. Then, she witnesses Spooner get knocked around like a ping pong ball by one of the robots, and a wisp of doubt passes quickly through her mind.
Calvin still needs more proof of the robots’ violent tendencies. After Spooner experiences several more body slamming workouts from friendly robots, Dr. Calvin suddenly and predictably accepts Spooner’s uncanny insightfulness and begins to work with him to flesh out the artificial intelligence that’s corrupting these work drones.
One of the robots that kicks Spooner around turns out to be a special, highly intelligent robot with emotions called Sonny. Sonny was created by the recently deceased top scientist at U.S. Robotics for the purpose of providing Spooner with a trail of evidence leading Spooner to the real killer. Sonny and Spooner quickly become pals and the threesome head for the yellow brick road in search of the proverbial wizard pulling all the levers from behind the curtain.
Director Alex Proyas (Dark City) has taken the tale of I,Robot, inspired by a short story by Isaac Asimov, and synthesized it by incorporating elements from four other sci-fi films including A.I., Matrix, 2001A Space Odyssey and The Terminator.
From Sonny the robot we see a self-conscious artificial being relishing his “uniqueness” and fearing death. From the invisible computer intelligence we see an entity that wants to protect mankind from screwing things up. And in the robots we see a frightening army of emotionless Terminators.
However, the story only scratches the surface of these themes because what the director is really targeting is male teens wanting to blow away robots on a game screen. Electronic game spin-offs from a movie with continuous Blade Runner type shoot-‘em-ups are a conscious part of filmmaking today. No one can deny that the robots in this film look like the real thing, and that’s the focus here. The robots blend seamlessly among the throngs of real people. Alex Proyas gets an “A” for special effects.
If you’re young and looking for an action-thrill ride I, Robot is for you. And, if you’re looking for a good story you don’t have to look too far. The ending reminds me of Wizard of Oz . Sonny the Robot gets a heart, Spooner gets a brain and Susan finds courage.