‘I, Robot’ Is a Summer Movie that Could Start a Debate About What Life Is

It’s the year 2035 and robots are an everyday part of life.  They deliver packages, walk dogs, clean our homes, and even help us cook.  These robots live by three basic laws…

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Seems pretty simple right?  Well, simplicity goes right out the window when a brilliant robot programmer is – ironically – thrown out of his office window and the only suspect a brand new top-of-the-line robot model known as Sonny.  Is he malfunctioning or is there something more insidious going on?

That’s what Detective Spooner, played by Will Smith, wants to find out.  Spooner, you see, hates robots because of a tragic event in his past.  He can’t stand the little metal pests so, of course, he doesn’t mind jumping on a robot murder suspect.  But, what he sees as a simple investigation turns into a very complicated one as he and a beautiful robot programmer try and get to the bottom of a huge conspiracy that could threaten the entire world!

I ain’t never read the Issac Asimov books and I hear a lot of folks whining and complaining about how I, Robot doesn’t follow Assimov’s books to the letter or how it’s completely different and, since the movie is “suggested” by Assimov’s book, I can imagine that the differences are great, but I will say it again…  I don’t care.  I’m here to talk about a movie and not a book.  You don’t like it, I’m sure there are many, many, many reviewers out there who will pander to you.  I won’t so just get used to it.

Personally, I enjoyed this movie.  Granted, it’s not very cerebral – let’s face it, putting Will Smith in anything brings a movie’s IQ down a few points – but it is entertaining.  Sure, this movie could have been a lot more than it was – that, surely being the fault of the great Akiva Goldsmith.

Alex Proyas, who directed Dark City which is, I believe, one of the greatest films ever, gives this movie a slick futuristic look where buildings are tall and things move fast.  It’s not really a bad future if you look at it.  Things look simpler and easier and, although they do have problems, they also get to drive 120 on the highways which is always a plus in my book.  To put a point to it, Proyas gives this movie a great and unique look which adds to its seeability.

Will Smith… what can I say.  Hard to believe he was once the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, isn’t it?

Actually, no it’s not because ten years later, he’s still playing the same part.  Sure, he’s a little older and a little more buff than he was when he was trading witty quips with Carlton and Hillary, but it’s still the same old part.  The same old wise-cracking, street smart, urban price that he played all those years ago.  He’s still at it… holding onto his persona like it’s a blanket and he’s freakin’ Linus from Peanuts.  Independence DayBad BoysEnemy of the State, and now I, Robot… you could switch the Will Smith characters from these movies and no one would notice.  Will Smith isn’t the worst actor in the world.  In fact, he’s really not bad at all, but when you find yourself being upstaged by a CGI robot, it’s time to seriously consider expanding your range.

Now, the robot known as Sonny.  That was one smooth performance.  A bit of HAL-9000, a bit of C3PO, and a dash of Hannibal Lector… Alan Tudyk, doing nothing more than lending his voice, has created one of the most memorable characters of the year.

in the end, I, Robot isn’t likely to cause much debate.  I know the little woman and I had a pretty philosophical discussion about artificial intelligence, what life really is, and if a thinking robot would have a soul on the car ride home, but we referred more to the movie AI than I, Robot.

Still, as far as action-packed Summer fare, this is a real winner… it certainly has more meat to it than The Chronicles of Riddick or Van Helsing, that’s for sure.  But, when you consider the ideals and questions this movie could have raised but didn’t, it almost makes your heart break.  Still, I say see it, enjoy the almost mystery, watch the pretty special effects, see stuff explode, and take in some pretty original action sequences.  Set your sights on those and you won’t be terribly disappointed.

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