Based on the short stories by visionary writer Isaac Asimov, I, Robot hits the big screen. However, having read the aforementioned short stories the link between the film and the book is tenuous to say the least. Luckily the key to the stories, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, has been kept intact and is the basis of the movie.
Set in 2035, the film opens showing the considerable reliance humans have on their robots helpers. These ADA (Automated Domestic Assistants) have become a trusted part of everyday life, where they clean houses, deliver packages, walk pets, remove and empty dustbins and do anything that their owners wish for them to do. Every robots is hardwired with the Three Laws of Robotics which ensure the safety of humans.
On the eve of the release of the latest model robot, the NS-5 which looks like a human version of an iMac, the father of modern robotics, Dr Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) seemingly commits suicide by launching himself from his tower block office.
He leaves behind a recording for Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) who is called to investigate the death. Spooner has a deep mistrust of technology and robots, for example preferring to drive himself rather than let his car drive itself automatically. Arriving at Dr Lanning’s office and seeing that the window that Lanning allegedly threw himself out off is reinforced, Spooner deuces that Dr Lanning must have been thrown out of the window and the fact that the office was sealed from the inside; the killer must still be in the room. Suddenly Spooner finds himself chasing an NS-5 unit that was hiding in Lanning’s office.
The NS-5 unit, it turns out to have a name; Sonny (Alan Tudyk), dubbed that by Lanning himself and is capable of much more emotion ever seen before in a robot. Spooner is convinced that there is more to the NS-5 launch than it seems, but his peers believe that Spooner’s paranoia stems from his hatred of robots and take no heed.
So Spooner sets of to investigate what Dr Lanning wanted him to see, aided by a robot psychologist Dr Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) and a series of clues left like a breadcrumb trail by Lanning himself.
I, Robot borrows its looks heavily from other films such as Robocop and Minority Reports yet still manages to have some very impressive visuals, making the futuristic look of Chicago 2035 appear very realistic. Will Smith manages to keep in check the cockiness of his other characters to a minimum and manages to actually act as opposed to pretend to be another incarnation of the Fresh Prince. Bridget Moynahan is good especially with her moments with Sonny. Alan Tudyk is superb as Sonny for he does much more than the voice of the character having been filmed using the same technique that was used to create Gollum for The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. This results in a very real and emotional performance from what is essentially a walking iMac.
There are a few weaker aspects to the film such as the totally throwaway character of a young lad played by Shia Laboeuf which seems pointless beyond having someone that Spooner knows. Also there are a few moments where the pace slows down considerably.
The action sequences are well directed and choreographed with director Alex Proyas having cameras revolving around and under the action to create some great visuals. He manages to create a style of his own for the look of the film and even the technological advances of the future are grounded in recognisable reality (for more info see the Extras on the DVD). On the whole I, Robot hits the mark and is an entertaining and visually thrilling ride for a summer blockbuster.
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