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I, Robot   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Tuesday, 24 August 2004

A cautionary tale for the new millennium. Or Willenium.

"It is the business of the future to be dangerous", as Hawkwind once said. Having said that, even though they have spent the vast majority of the past 3 decades out of their heads on mind altering substances, they still got it right. Now, enter Isaac Asimov and Will Smith, stick in Minority Report , a helping of Matrix Revolutions , a side order of Planet of the Apes...bingo! You new FX laden summer blockbuster here.

Kind of.

Not so much adapted or inspired but 'suggested' by Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics (which he posited back in the 40s), this originally was written as a screenplay called "Hardwired". Then they spotwelded it to the book rights of the Asimov classics, and added enough Will-ism's to make it sufficiently "Independence Day" / "Men In Black"-esque , though Men in Converse sneakers due to over abundant product placement opportunities might be more like it. The premise isn't exactly original, but what is?

Quite simply put: A robot cannot harm another human, cannot be ordered to do so, and cannot stand idly by and let a human come to harm via inaction. The so called 'Perfect Circle of protection' - or '3 laws safe' as the film logo states. So when the inventor of cybernetics - Dr. Alfred Lanning (played by James Cromwell in a star turn) - dies in bizarre circumstances, enter wisecrackin' Will Smith is on the case. Of course, he's the only man in the world not to trust robots, and of course, he's the only one who might be right. The main suspect is a robot calling himself "Sonny", who feels fear, gets scared, and runs away. The kind of stuff robots don't do. And the last thing the robotics company led by (in a great performance by Bruce Greenwood) needs just days before the global roll out of the new NS-6 model is some snoopy cop. Enter robot psychologist Susan Calvin (Bridget Monayhan)

As they start to track down the renegade that is the "Sonny" NS-5...And that's when weird stuff really starts happening.

Directed by Alex Proyas - the man behind the sci-fi classic Dark City and The Crow - It looks great. Sumptous, dark production design, lots of incidental detail (Two Beers? "$46.98 please" says the robo-bartender) but somehow, It feels shallow, thanks to an over-reliance on plastic-looking CGI that's superslick and unbelievable:- though the NS-5 CGI is utterly fantastic. But before the end it starts feeling like there's no more tricks to pull out of the box, after all, there's only so many times you can invent the wheel.

Ultimately, the main downfall in this film is Will Smith. He just plays Will Smith, same as he always does. Or, in other words, as a wise crackin' Smartass who has it easy. After all,His prediction for the next 1000 years was set back in 1998. Why? His new album he promised wouldn't be sending the tone for the next millennium. Or, as he called it - Willenium. And Now it's the turn of the movies. Hell, if this had Martin Lawrence in it, this is "Bad Boys III: Rise of the Machines."

Will Smith is one of the best things about this movie, butunfortunately, he seems to be in a different movie to everyone else. What we really have here is a slick, efficient, cold and brilliant sci-fi thriller, but to Smith, it's nothing more than Episode of his "Wisecrackin' Cop with Gun" film series..and it shows. There is, in all fairness, exhilarating action sequences - See the car chase sequence in the tunnel, or the ending (which is ridiculously over the top but over-adundant on CGI and flashy camera moves simply because it can) - brilliant production design and a lot of enjoyment to be had, but conversely, there's excessive and misplaced product placement, plasticky looking CGI and an ending which tries to be Planet of the Apes (1968), but is more Planet of the Apes (2001)...

For all it's flashes of brilliance, I, Robot is a missed opportunity. Much better and much more intelligent than 99% of the multiplex clogging blockbusters you see, but a overall a magnificent failure .A pretty lookin' one though.

File under interesting.

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