I Robot

I Robot
One of the best things to happen to Sci Fi movies in recent years is the demise of the deadly silver jump suit. Movie makers have thankfully concluded that no one will ever wear these things, and they have gone out of fashion before they were ever supposed to come in.

I, Robot is a case in point. The movie opens with world weary cop Del Spooner (Will Smith) getting ready for work in a decidedly grungy low tech apartment. When he gets dressed, there isn’t a silver jump suit in sight. He wears what you expect Will Smith to wear.

The first hint we get that this is, in fact, the future is when he opens the door and confronts a skeletal robot. Uh oh, we’re not in Kansas anymore. We are in 2035, and robots are as common as toasters.

The movie is based on the stories of robot guru Isaac Asimov, who invented the three laws of robotics. I, Robot is based on the first law – "A robot may not injure humanity, nor, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm". Although Asimov is listed as one of the writers, his contribution is more inspirational than material.

I bought this DVD with my own funds.

The book by Isaac Azimov:
I, Robot

The movie:
I, Robot (Widescreen Edition)

When robot scientist Dr Alfred J. Laning apparently commits suicide, only Spooner suspects murder, and the movie quickens pace into a detective thriller. There is one big difference – Spooner’s prime suspect is a robot called Sonny.

Sonny is an amazing creation along the lines of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. There is a real actor behind those strangely expressive eyes (Alan Tudyk) and a real performance. Sonny is scared, on the run and strangely vulnerable. When Spooner questions him, Sonny pounds deep furrows into a metal desk, yet those unnerving eyes radiate fear and distress. It’s cleverly done, with Sonny becoming another character so real that you cease to marvel at the technology and enjoy the performance.

Spooner loathes robots and may be just looking for something to pin on the technology, but right away he comes up against a nasty legal twist. As the CEO of the robotics company points out, robots are machines, not humans. They can’t be accused of murder, only malfunction.

Whether it’s homicide or malfunction, Spooner is soon in deadly danger, in a futuristic twist on the old two semi-trailers menacing a car stunt. Caught in a tunnel between two gigantic robot transporters discharging red killer robots at him, you can see Spooner’s point in hating technology – if he’d been driving his robot car himself instead of reading, he might have been able to outrun them.

Director Alex Proyas, who previously directed the entertaining Australian film Garage Days and the Brandon Lee hit The Crow, creates a nice atmospheric blend of humor and suspense. The action is fast paced and exciting, and there are some amusing scenes, like robot psychologist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) trying to vocally activate the low-tech CD player in Spooner’s apartment.

There are a few lame ideas, like the red glow that distinguishes the `bad’ robots from the `good’ robots. It makes them look like fire ants, but at least we can be thankful they don’t wear black hats. Anyway, it makes up for all this with some seriously cool robot fighting.

While not a great movie, I, Robot is an entertaining thriller that relies as much on good performances and an intriguing story as it does on special effects. Proyas brings all these elements together with considerable style and intelligence.

And best of all – no jump suits.

I rented this DVD with my own funds.

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