In the year 2035, technology and robots are a trusted part of everyday life. But that trust is broken when a scientist is found dead and a skeptical detective (Smith) believes that a robot is responsible. Bridget Moynahan ... more »co-stars in this high-tech action thriller that questions whether technology will ultimately lead to mankind's salvation . . . or annihilation.« less
"Those who grew up, as I did, with Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and the rest of the SF grandmasters as their constant companions may find this movie too action-oriented, with too little emphasis on ideas, with not enough ratiocination to justify having Asimov's name associated with it. But at the same time, I found this movie to be quite entertaining, in places visually stunning, and, while not following the format or story line of any of the original stories contained in the book I, Robot, does hew fairly closely to the larger story line about robots that Asimov eventually developed in multiple related books.
The original book was based upon the then (1940) unheard of idea that robots, rather than being creatures prone to run amuck and destroy their creators, would be constructed with built-in laws that would not only make them safe, but a great boon to all humanity. The stories were careful little logic mysteries, dealing with the potential problems that can occur when there are conflicts between the governing three laws, the situation, and commands given the robot.
Will Smith plays a detective here, one who does not trust robots, who is afraid there is something decidedly wrong about these powerful and nearly ubiquitous machines which are driven only by logic, without any trace of emotion to leaven their choices. Clearly this places him on the wrong side of general (and his commanding Lieutenant's) opinion. But nevertheless he is called upon to investigate the apparent suicide of Dr. Lanning, co-founder and chief scientist of USR (Asimov's name was U. S. Robotics, but that has since been used by a real company). Susan Calvin (played by Bridget Moynahan), the company robo-psychologist, is assigned to help him with his investigation. Early suspicion falls on Sonny, a prototype NS5 robot, as possibly having something to do with Dr. Lanning's death.
The story line through this early portion of the movie is decidedly Asimovian in nature, leading me to believe that it really would follow the type of story construction contained in the original book. But later sections of the movie take it far beyond the problems of one robot, and into the realm of management of human society for a greater good, a theme that Asimov did tackle in later stories. It's almost as if this movie crammed about six different Asimov stories into this one, with a decidedly uneasy result: part action, part mystery, part character study, part utopian/dystopian world image, but none fully developed.
Will is OK in this part, although there are a couple of places where his actions are decidedly unbelievable (pin-point accuracy shooting two revolvers from a motorcycle that has just bounced into the air?), and there are a couple of times when he doesn't seem to be totally comfortable in the detective role. The portrayed character of Dr. Calvin, though, came as a shock, as the depiction by Ms. Moynahan here is almost the antithesis of Asimov's Calvin. For those who have never read Asimov, her portrayal is good, with just enough mixture of clinical logic and overboard emotionality to be fairly convincing - but the clash with my mental picture of Calvin as dry, unemotional, and not conventionally pretty made it difficult for me to truly evaluate this performance. James Cromwell as Dr. Lanning was almost perfect, though a very small role. Sonny the robot is played (or at least voiced) beautifully by Alan Tudyk, and the CGI work here is excellent - in many ways this character steals the show.
A mixed bag: better than average visuals, some decent acting, even a plot line that at least understands the original book material (no sure thing when it comes to Hollywood understanding real science fiction); but a lack of cohesiveness, action for action's sake, and some ideas not fully developed. Better than the normal Hollywood attempt at adapting an SF classic, good for a couple hours of entertainment, but not a great movie.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
Malvolio | Charlottesville, VA United States | 07/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I Robot takes place in the year 2035, when robots have taken over many of civilization's functions. In order to ensure their safe coexistence with people, all robots are hardwired with the "three laws" - core programs that prevent them from harming, or allowing harm to come to, humans. That's not enough for Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith), though, who has his own reason to distrust robots. When a prominent scientist (James Cromwell) is found dead of an apparent suicide, Spooner quickly comes to believe it was actually murder - perpetrated by a new generation robot who calls himself Sonny (Alan Tudyk). Spooner's investigation is resisted by U.S. Robotics, the corporation that made Sonny and is on the eve of rolling out millions more like him. As the clock ticks toward the rollout, Spooner fights the corporation and his own department to unlock Sonny's secret and avert a worldwide calamity. He is reluctantly aided by Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynihan), a scientist who specializes in robot behavior.
As summer blockbuster seasons go, this one has been quite good. In addition to the terrific Shrek 2, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man 2, we've been treated to a flawed-but-interesting Troy and a not at all bad King Arthur. With the possible exception of The Day After Tomorrow, there hasn't been a mutt in the pack. Even documentaries are filling auditoria this year. And now we have I Robot, a much better film than most critics expected. If The Bourne Supremacy is this good, I may have to leave IT for good and see if I can get a job as a projectionist somewhere.
I Robot makes an interesting comparison with Steven Spielberg's 2002 opus Minority Report. Both involve troubled cops in a near-future world who buck their own departments to investigate crimes that technology should have rendered impossible. Spielberg's movie is more visionary, and perhaps more involved with complex moral questions. But it's also ultimately cold and uninvolving. I Robot is more engaging, more visceral, far more conventional - and a lot more fun.
That's partly due to the charismatic Will Smith, who is at his wisecracking best here. With his sleepy, laid-back delivery and brawny athleticism, Smith is the perfect foil to the creepy mechanical sleekness of the robots - and their spokesman, the billionaire chairman of U.S. Robotics (Bruce Greenwood).
The other real star of the movie is Sonny. Voiced by Tudyk and brought to life by great CGI, Sonny is a complex adolescent of a robot. In a wonderful scene where Spooner interrogates him, we watch the robot's deferential, rational demeanor unravel in the face of the detective's deliberate insults and accusations. Later, when Sonny is about to be "decommissioned", we are moved by his obliquely-expressed fear and sadness. It's a very nice performance.
The film's other performers also turn in uniformly good roles - notably Greenwood, Moynihan as the robot psychologist, and Chi McBride as Spooner's boss. Special effects are what you would expect from a big budget sci-fi thriller (and more).
If you like a good action film, better hurry on out and see this one. With so many good movies floating around, who knows when another one will come along to replace it?"
Entertaining and imaginative, but the same old Will Smith.
No one of consequence | Cincinnati | 10/28/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this one with my family over the weekend and, quite frankly, had a ball. Yeah, to some extent it's a movie with a message, but mainly it's just plain entertaining. If you try to read too much into it, you'll miss the opportunity for a good old-fashioned sci fi romp.
Fast forward to the year 2035. The monolithic company "U.S. Robotics" has put NS-4 domestic assistant robots into mass production, so much so that they are commonplace "members" of American society. Their artificial intelligence is designed to be as much like humans as possible, but is regulated by the "3 laws" programming that is hardwired into every robot. These laws are: 1. To protect human life above all; 2. To obey human commands except if it would violate law 1; and 3. To protect its own existence unless doing so would violate laws 1 or 2. The laws seem a foolproof way to ensure that the robots would never pose a threat to humanity. But all that changed when the man billed as the father of robotic technology and the 3 laws turns up dead in a very public, and very suspicous, manner, just as the new and improved NS-5 model is about to flood the market. The death is quickly written off by all concerned as a suicide. All except detective Dale Spooner, this is.
Being a good cop and a sharp detective, Spooner (played by Will Smith) in not content that the professor's death was a suicide, and begins investigating with the lead suspect, an NS-5 robot named "Sonny". Sonny's intelligence is so advanced, and his "emotions" so well simulated, that he appears to have something resembling a human soul. Spooner believes that Sonny killed the professor, and sets out to prove it. His (over)zealous approach to the task, coupled with his deep distrust of robots and their manufacturer, quickly lands him in hot water with some powerful people. Some difficult and destructive encounters with the metallic menaces leave him looking like an obsessive paranoiac, and ultimately result in his suspension from the police force.
Spooner continues his chase nonetheless, following a series of clues left by the dead professor, as step by step the mystery begins the unwind. All along the way are some great action sequences, plot twists and one-liners. However, except for Will Smith's character (which is the same as it has been in every film he has done since "Men in Black"), nothing about the story is predictable. When the final shoe drops, most viewers will be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected ending.
All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. It was a wild ride with lots of great sci fi treats and effects. The only downsides were the lack of character development on any signficant level -- this is a purely plot-driven movie -- and the fact that Will Smith essentially played himself, much as he always does. Still, it's worth seeing. I certainly don't regret the investment of two hours."
Great summer movie
magellan | Santa Clara, CA | 08/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm surprised the average review here is only 3.5 stars; I'd rate it at least 4 and more like 4.5 stars if I could, as I thought this was a pretty good adaptation of the Asimov robot concept. Usually Hollywood produces absolutely dismal adaptations of great science fiction classics, such as what happened with Heinlein's Starship Troopers a few years ago, and the original movie for Frank Herbert's Dune (I thought the recent TV series from a few years ago was better) so I wasn't expecting much. But I liked this much more than the Heinlein movie.
Asimov wrote five robot books: two novels, The Naked Sun and The Caves of Steel, which were both really detective novels set in the future in which one of the two main characters is a robot detective, and three collections of short stories. I, Robot, The Rest of the Robots, and The Robots of Dawn were all short story collections. There might have been one other book but I'm not sure.
Anyway, although not based on any of the specific stories that I can remember, I thought this was a pretty exciting and suspenseful movie that lived up to the spirit of the original books. Some sci-fi purists might not like it, but I thought it was fun. The action scenes are great, and the robots seem very realistic and true to Asimov's original idea. One good thing they do is to show Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics at the beginning of the movie, and explain how those work a bit, and then work that into the plot, as Dr. Calvin explains why a robot couldn't harm a human.
The Dr. Calvin character is true to the original, too, but the actress who plays the part gives it a bit more emotional warmth, at least toward the end. The Dr. Calvin character in the books is more coldly unemotional, at least toward humans, and doesn't really care for people that much, preferring the simple honesty and the mincingly logical positronic brains of her beloved robots instead. So all in all, a decent adaptation of the Asimov idea with lots of great special effects, spectacular action scenes, a suspenseful story, and all wrapped up in a mystery that Will Smith and Dr. Calvin have to solve. It's worthy summer fare and I give it two thumbs up. Big Bubba says go see it and don't Bogart the popcorn. :-)"
US Robotics, I thought they made modems... ???
Rick Chen | Toronto, ON Canada | 07/18/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Is it just me, or is this movie strikingly similar to Men In Black? I mean, replace the robots with aliens, throw in Tommy Lee Jones, some shades, a black suit... and voila! This thought first occurred to me in a scene where Will Smith is chasing down a robot who he thinks has stolen a purse (just like a scene where I recall him chasing an alien). Okay, that may be simplifying things a bit.This movie takes place in the year 2035 where civilization is moving towards having a computer, oops... I mean robot, in every household. Problem is that the robots are going to take over and only 1 man sees it coming. Based on the book of short stories by Isaac AsimovThis movie has the feel of one of those low budget films where they saved all the money for the visual effects rather than on casting and actors. I can count all the characters that Will Smith (Spooner) interacts with throughout the movie in 1 hand (his grandma, the lady scientist, the police chief, and the president of USR, did I miss anyone?).The robots are pretty cool, especially when they crawl and jump around like Spider-man. The story is a bit cheesy, I mean Hansel and Gretel (oh brother...), but based on an interesting premise. There's some pretty cool cars, although I doubt those models will be around in 30 years. I prefer BMW anyways. The ending was a bit confusing. I think there's a setup for a sequel. Go see for yourself and draw your own conclusions."