December 7, 2004
Starring: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, Bruce Greenwood, Adrian Ricard, Chi McBride, Jerry Wasserman, Fiona Hogan, Peter Shinkoda, Terry Chen, David Haysom, Scott Heindl, Sharon Wilkins, Craig March, ,
One mistake was all it took for Big Willie to lose his crown as king of the summer blockbuster. Now I, Robot is his rise from the ashes of Wild Wild West.
The script is near perfect. The special effects are near perfect. The direction is near perfect. Will Smith is nowhere near perfect. This sincerely wonderfully science fiction piece is ever so slightly let down by the main star. Will Smith is not bad as Detective Del Spooner, but he does look and feel uncomfortably naked without his loud-mouthed antics, wise cracks and vein charm and just as much as he is forgettable, the robots are not; they steal the show.
A slave race of robots created by Dr Lanning, his dream: to have one in every house; the year is 2035 and the company is about to release its newest model. Days before the impending release date, Dr Lanning commits suicide and in steps technophobe Del Spooner to investigate. His conclusion is that not everything is as straightforward as it seems and Lanning’s suicide is actually murder, and his prime suspect is Sunny, a robot, of the new variety. This would throw up the first enigma as robots are programmed to obey three laws and in doing so would prevent them from hurting a human being.
Thus starts a risky investigation that includes many twists and turns, action scenes and some serious pondering into life and death, feelings, the soul and Artificial Intelligence. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t find comparisons to The Terminator or Blade Runner hidden at every turn, but this is by no means a run-of-the-mill rehash of old ideas, I, Robot has it’s own tale to tell. The script is near perfect, although things do feel slightly forced with the right clues to unravelling the mystery are left in convenient places and found at just the right time, but you can’t fault Alex Proyas’ direction. After proving himself with The Crow and Dark City, you might be expecting something a bit darker and morbid but he settles into summer blockbuster mode with ease. The climax is beautifully shot with the use of spinning, rotating and mind bending camera movements, really giving you a sense of fear and the danger that the characters are in.
Spending the film being intensely entertained and at the same time wondering how Will Smith is not more charismatic you miss that fact that he is not exactly backed up by the supporting cast. James Cromwell is dead when we first meet him, Bridget Moynahan plays a robot psychologist who has no screen presence and Bruce Greenwood is the owner of the company responsible for distribution of the robots, and tragically has little screen time. This really does opt for story over character development.
The Fresh Prince is back on top, but he might not be able to claim his kingdom for himself, as he does have some help along the way, in the form of Alan Tudyk, the robot. The computer generated Robots are brilliantly crafted and integrated into the movie almost seamlessly. The human looking face on the upgrade design shows some real emotion for the robot that dreams, Sunny. In turn this creates an emotional attachment to this piece of technological advancement, like that we felt for that Extra-Terrestrial some twenty years or so ago.