Main cast: Will Smith (Del Spooner), Bridget Moynahan (Dr Susan Calvin), Alan Tudyk (Sonny), James Cromwell (Dr Alfred Lanning), Bruce Greenwood (Lawrence Robertson), Adrian Ricard (Gigi), Chi McBride (Lt John Bergin)
Director: Alex Proyas
I hope nobody rush to the theater hoping to see the hyped “Will Smith shows everything!” scenes because if you do, you will be disappointed. You get to see him in tight black boxer briefs within the first five minutes of the movie (and one more time later on), yes, but that shower scene is filmed from a distance away and it’s a side profile with his left thigh lifted to shield any dangling bits from the audience’s view. Will Smith has shown more skin in Six Degrees of Separation – go watch that one if you want to see some Will Smith skin.
On the other hand, I, Robot is a visually impressive science-fiction drama loosely based on Isaac Asimov’s work of the same name. The slick visuals and the well-designed and no doubt expensive car chases are very successful in distracting me from the gaping weaknesses in the script. It is only when I reflect on what I have seen do all the dirty little dents and chips in the story begin to show.
It is 2035 and robots are being used for all possible purposes from industrial serfs to household helps. Our hero Det Del Spooner is prejudiced against these metallic slaves, however, due to an incident in his past that I still find rather far-fetched as a reason for our hero’s prejudice. Anyway, he’s alone in his beliefs as even his beloved grandmother Gigi wants a robotic help of her own.
US Robotics is a huge robot manufacturer. Think Microsoft. And like Microsoft, the latest US Robotics product, the NS5 may be flawed. Or at least Del thinks so as he is called to investigate the apparent suicide of the principal founder Dr Alfred Lanning. Incidentally, Del has a shared history with Dr Lanning relating to the reason why he hates all robots. Anyway, Del will have a hard case proving that the robots are up to no good because the robots are designed to obey the three laws that fans of Isaac Asimov would be very familiar with:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
An unusual NC5, named Sonny, however, seems to be designed with the capabilities to break these laws. But is Sonny the evil robot that murdered Dr Lanning? Or is he a good guy who can turn the tide against the evil robots (if he isn’t one of them)? Del thinks that all robots are shifty creatures up to no good. Dr Susan Calvin, whose job as the designer that “humanizes” the robots of US Robotics puts her in conflict with Del Spooner, thinks that robots are incapable of breaking the Three Laws and therefore what Del Spooner is paranoid about can’t be happening. Or can it?
There is very little similarity between this movie and the book. I, Robot, on the most part, is an enjoyable science-fiction whodunit. Will Smith tones down his trademark wisecracks but he’s still an enjoyable hero in the sense that his Del Spooner gets to be a macho action hero while showing some human traits. In short, he’s quite a “real” action hero. Bridget Moynahan doesn’t have much to do with her role, with Susan Calvin being a messy Dana Scully kind of skeptic eventually mutating into a convenient plot device (she knows everything from how to sneak into US Robotics to how to shut down the system).
Still, this movie would still hold together if it doesn’t slather on the Jesus symbolisms so heavily late in the movie. My objection isn’t in the nature of the symbolisms as much as it is in the unimaginative way the movie deals with these symbolisms. I can see them coming a mile away the moment Sonny’s uniqueness is revealed. Likewise, the culprit is predictable (Del is a dumbass for not seeing this coming sooner) and the whole “human beings are destroying each other” message is an overused theme in nearly every science fiction drama that has come before this movie.
If this movie is content to let me sit back and enjoy the whodunit without beating me in the head with its blatant and unimaginative Jesus symbolisms, I would have enjoyed this movie more, predictable script and all. But with its trying too hard to be very important and meaningful, I, Robot comes off as a poseur that tries to be something more than it actually is. Chalk this one up as a movie that tries a little too hard in all the wrong things.