I, Robot (2004) – Film Review

I, Robot Movie PosterI, Robot

Starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell

Directed by Alex Proyas, based on the short stories I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

IMDB Rating: 7.1

Based on the legendary Isaac Asimov’s nine short stories, this classic robot mystery is perhaps one of the most realistic Sci-Fi stories ever made.

Set in 2035 AD, US Robotics (or Apple, if you prefer) has become the biggest company in the world, creating a world in which robots freely walk around assisting humans. All robots are governed by the three rules of robotics, designed to stop robots putting human lives at risk, and as such no crimes have been committed by a robot. The film follows Detective Spooner (Smith), a man with a hatred for the robots and believes that robots have the capacity to commit crimes as well. His belief compounded when he is specifically called by Dr. Alfred Lanning (Cromwell), the co-founder of USR, to investigate his own suspected suicide inside the USR tower.

I really like the story for I, Robot, the main reason being the twists and turns involved. Now, I’m not sure twists and turns is the best way to put it, because the end result is pretty predictable, but what I mean is that the story gathers more and more depth as it goes on. I’ve seen so many films recently that tell you everything that’s going on in the first half-hour, then spend 90 minutes on a straight road towards the end. Those films usually focus a lot more on character development (something I, Robot does lack) and that’s fine, but it’s nice to see a story and a plot that evolves over the course of the film for a change! While this film might not seem like the time or the place, the writers have made room for plenty of Will Smith ‘damn-that’s-cool’ one-liners, but do it in such a way that it doesn’t seriously take away from the impact of the movie. Note that I’m not saying it doesn’t effect the seriousness of the movie at all – you could quite easily compare this film to the more recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and you would note that while PotA misses a charismatic leader, it also feels a lot more serious than this does. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing (I mean, I’m not a huge fan of RotPotA), but it does make you wonder if this film would have been better if it was more Terminator, and less Men in Black.

With that being said, I did like Will Smith in I, Robot. I think the character was made for him, as it’s these types of roles that he excels in, something serious but with a cool aftertaste. It wasn’t necessarily the best acting I’ve ever seen, and at some points it felt like there was some comedic residue left over from the Men in Black films when there wasn’t any need for it, but he does fit the mould of the film perfectly, and his one-liners are executed perfectly as always. The rest of the performances were okay – Moynahan playing Spooner’s woman on the inside was okay, although she wasn’t given much of a chance to do more than okay, and the only other character of note was Lt. John Bergin, played by Chi McBride, who was also solid. However, special praise should go to Alan Tudyk, the voice of Sonny, who seemed to nail it!

The directing in this film by Alex Proyas – whose other meaningful works include Nicholas Cage’s Knowing and Dark City – was okay. While some shots in more basic situations were a bit off, he seems to get it spot on with the action/fight sequences, and that’s what makes this film memorable. I must add that the special effects on this film do now seem fairly dated, and there’s quite a few easy to spot cuts, even for a novice like myself!

Overall, this is a really interesting film to watch, even 11 years on from its release! Sure the special effects don’t look great, and the directing could have been better, but the story itself is a really interesting, and more importantly well executed piece that will keep your interest throughout.

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