I, Robot is set to be this year’s summer extravaganza, although looking at the dark, rainy skies as I write this, it seems as though summer has already gone and autumn is steadily approaching. Nevertheless, like many, I expected the film to be in keeping with most blockbuster flicks – lots of predictable, cheesy morals and one-liners, and a loveable rogue, who goes against all the odds to save the world. The film is exactly that. However, it is also surprisingly good and somehow manages to keep you guessing, with a ‘whodunit’ plot right to the end.
Directed by Alex Proyas and ‘suggested’ by Isaac Asimov’s 1950 book of short stories, I, Robot is a warning against making robots too smart – a point which is continually laboured throughout the film. There’s no need to be preoccupied with working out what the film is trying to say.
It is 2035 – a little too near 2004 for my liking – and robots have become a necessity for modern living. They walk dogs and essentially act as personal valets. Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) has a seemingly irrational prejudice against these robots, which have become an integral part of life – mirroring racial prejudice in the United States. When Spooner is called to investigate the apparent suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) one of the bigwigs at U.S. Robotics, he stumbles upon an NS-5 (latest domestic assistant robot) hiding in Lanning’s quarters. Spooner, with the help of USR robot psychiatrist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), comes to the realisation that this robot has violated its programming. The robots live by three rules, the first of which is never to harm humans and the other two appear to involve looking ‘puppy-eye’ cute and being able to insist innocence at all times, especially if they are accused of disregarding rule one.
Will Smith is really good in this – he’s still a ‘wise ass’ but pulls off the world-weary cop very effectively. Chi McBride as the police-supervisor, also very world-weary and stereotypical to the grotesque, is however, also very good. The best performance in the film has to be the rogue robot, NS-5, or Sonny (Alan Tudyk), who along with robot hater Spooner, and robot lover Calvin, discovers a sinister plot, connected to Spooner, Lanning and the USR.
The story roars its way through this film and is definitely better than expected.
**** (Four Stars) Nothing amazing, but brilliant special effects and a subtler approach to its action genre than anticipated.