SUB-GENRES: Action / Mystery
DIRECTED BY: Alex Proyas
WRITTEN BY: Jeff Vintar & Akiva Goldsman (screenplay); Jeff Vintar (story); Suggested by the book by Isaac Asimov
PEW PEW: There are plenty of action sequences that are supposed to be thrilling, but I didn’t find them terribly compelling.
CAT FOOD: There are plenty of opportunities for this film to make social commentary, but it didn’t seem to know what to do with them.
I’ll tell you outright, if you don’t like Will Smith, slash a star off my score and move along — you won’t find much to enjoy in this one.
In this original story that is more or less cropped and resurfaced to awkwardly fit into Isaac Asimov’s brilliant vision of the future, disappointment is pretty much the name of the game.
Basically, by the year 2035, robots have become like the apes of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: they are in every home and see to our most mundane and tedious chores. These robots are programmed to be bound to a strict three-law system that prevents them from 1. harming or allowing humans to be harmed, 2. disobeying orders from humans, unless those orders lead to harming or allowing humans to be harmed, and 3. allowing themselves to be harmed, unless humans stand to be harmed in the process.
It’s an airtight system… except that we’ve all seen the Terminator and Matrix films.
At the heart of the story is the apparent suicide of Dr. Lanning, who created the hyper-intelligent robots. Our protagonist, Will Smith’s Del Spooner, is a robot-hating detective who takes it upon himself to solve the mystery surrounding the death — which seems to have a lot to do with Sonny, a very unique new robot with the ability to express emotion and even dream.
Well, here’s the thing: I, Robot is nowhere near as exciting as it thinks it is, it’s not quite as intelligent as it tries to be, and it’s definitely not as emotional as it wants to feel, either. Also, the mystery is rather mundane and doesn’t offer much of a thrill ride. Most distressing of all is that neo-noir heavyweight Alex Proyas is behind the thing, and there’s nothing terribly artistic or hard-boiled about the thing.
I’ll hand the film two things: the slightly interesting Sonny, and the casting of Will Smith. The former is at the very least minorly compelling and interesting to watch, the latter usually wins in my book… If, however, you don’t like the Fresh Prince, then you’re shit out of luck, because that’s pretty much all the movie has. He’s pretty good in the film, and it’s enough to make it enjoyable for fans of the man, but really, films like I Am Legend and Hancock are more plugged into what Will Smith is really about. I, Robot just kind of leaves him floating at times.
I’ll close where I started: if you like Will Smith, you’ll be mildly entertained by I, Robot, and if you don’t like Will Smith, you’ll probably find it severely lacking. I will give the film a passing grade and offer it up as a recommendation for people who aren’t terribly picky about their brand of action thriller, but don’t ask me what I think of it as a fan of Isaac Asimov’s work…