I, Robot

Isaac Asimov is considered a genius among science fiction authors. Thankfully, I, Robot credits the film as "suggested" by Asimov's work, rather than based on it, because if it were the latter, Asimov fans would probably protest. The film takes some of the characters and principals set forth by Asimov in novels now over half a century old, but still extremely relevant. It then guts any sense of intelligence and opts for big special effects appropriate for a summer movie. The result is somewhere in between. It's definitely unsatisfactory for a science fiction movie, and barely tolerable as an action one. I, Robot is built on the three laws of robotics. These laws state that robots cannot harm humans, they must obey humans except when orders conflict with the prior law, and they must preserve their own existence as long as said preservation does not conflict with the first two laws.

The futuristic world of I, Robot has US Robotics manufactured robots taking over mundane roles. They are like any other sort of technology; completely taken for granted. Apparently, the one luddite amongst the population is Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith, Bad Boys II, Men in Black II), who harbors an inherent distrust of anything robotic. Proving the brainless nature of this film is a gratuitous peek-a-boo scene of Smith in the shower at the beginning of the film. Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell, The Sum of All Fears, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), inventor of the robots, commits suicide and leaves a message for Spooner, who immediately suspects the robots of the crime. Of course everybody, especially US Robotics President Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood, Hollywood Homicide, The Core). Spooner persists, believing that somehow, the robots evolved. His prime suspect is Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk, Dodgeball, Ice Age), a robot that seems to exhibit more emotions than the rest of them. Lanning's assistant, Susan Calvin (Bridge Moynahan, The Recruit, The Sum of All Fears) also thinks Spooner is crazy, but he keeps coming to her and strange things keep happening.

Well, it's not a stretch of truth to state the Spooner is correct. After all, this is the basis of the film. And the investigation gives way to massive robot mayhem courtesy of screenwriters Jeff Vintar (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Long Hello and Short Goodbye) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, Practical Magic) and director Alex Proyas (Garage Days, Dark City). Proyas is a master of the visual, and while the rest of I, Robot is lacking, it still looks great. The robots in particular look extremely creepy. Rather than going for the standard all-metal look, Proyas and his production crew made the robots with skin-like limbs and faces, giving them an extremely creepy look. The rest of the film is standard Hollywood summer fare. There is a moderately engaging whodunit about who murdered Lanning, but the focus lies squarely on how many CGI robots Proyas can put on screen at once. The rest of the film involves car chases, man vs. robot fights, bland chemistry between Moynahan and Smith, and a few one-liners from Smith. But everything seems so, well, mechanical. It feels like Proyas slapped together all of the elements people think are necessary for a good blockbuster without putting any feeling or emotional into it. The result is that I, Robot feels a bit lifeless, like some of its stars.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 55 minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense stylized action, and some brief partial nudity.

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