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I, Robot /

Rated: PG-13

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

Directed by: Alex Proyas

Produced by: Topher Dow, John Davis, Laurence Mark, Will Smith
Written by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Vintar

Distributor: 20th Century Fox


Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan in 20th Century Fox's I, Robot

Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner in 20th Century Fox's I, Robot
Shia LaBeouf and Will Smith in 20th Century Fox's I, Robot

     Do not confuse ambition for art. The two terms normally clasp together, hand-in-hand, but there are occasions in which this does not ream to be true. Sometimes, a promising concept with a bold execution can fall victim to its own self-expectations. I, Robot would like to be something more than the average summer blockbuster, and desperately tries to ensure its viewers that pure thought is abundant in the sum of its parts. But, even though director Alex Proyas is quite convincing in his attempts at doing such, moviegoers will discover that he has tricked them. I, Robot is not a clever or intelligent movie; it is a mere showcase of advanced special effects, completely ignoring the concepts of storytelling, chemistry between the lead actor and actress, and probability’s relationship to possibility. What is so bad about mindless summer fun? It has been done before—time after time—in fact. I can enjoy this type of film when it takes the form of flashy briskness (as seen in Charlie’s Angels), but when it lies to itself and aspires to exhibit complexity, the entire idea morphs into a form that’s artificial and boring. Not since The Matrix Revolutions has such a great amount of dazzling eye-candy inspired this extreme a need for a cup of coffee while watching.

     The entire film is conducted in a fitting method for the epic sci-fi opus it would like to be. Soaring thirty-one years into the future at a fast pace, equipped with a costly Hollywood-made postal stamp, it embarks on a conventional human versus machines battle. Taking place in Chicago, as the situation it speaks of is ignored by Proyas in all other areas of the globe, I, Robot follows Del Spooner (a flimsy, cardboard cut-out version of Will Smith), your average homicide detective. The only difference between a regular crime drama and this one is that instead of dealing with a human murderer, the police force has to investigate a killing, suspected to be committed by a robot. First ignorant about one of the everyday helper machines, which exist in a 1:5 ratio with every human, murdering someone, Spooner’s police force is rather nonchalant in aiding him on the case. It is believed that all robots must abide by their three, programmed laws, which prohibit them from taking the life of a real person. After all, the man killed, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), was their creator, as well as a likely candidate for suicide. Spooner is also very paranoid about the metal-men, too, and this doesn’t help his case against them in the least. Are his suspicions about the supposed evil, program-defying bastards correct? You better believe they are. What kind of a hero would he be if they weren’t?

     Straight from the opening scene in I, Robot, audience members will realize that their ticket-money has bought them viewing-privileges to some images that are very pleasing to the eyes. Fleets of robots, in addition to booming explosions, have never looked better, on the big screen. In the action sequences, I was surprisingly engaged in the material; the visual awe kept me interested in them. Many films, nowadays, are careless about instituting graphic-composed characters, particularly the comic-book adaptations. It is nice to see them finally done well. The only problem is that most of the rest of I, Robot is downright terrible, in every way imaginable.

     The few dialogue-driven sequences I did enjoy featured the internally conflicted personality of the convicted robot, who names himself Sonny. As the picture moves on, we discover that his model of the machines, called the NS-5, will soon replace all of the old makes. These have the ability to dream and keep secrets; Lanning worked on them to a point in which their “brain” activity would become close to that of a human, when activated. In many senses, they will now be superior to the human race, so, naturally, their overthrowing it is only sensible.

     After enduring I, Robot, I can officially say that I’ve had enough of Will Smith. His one-liners do not even come close to being amusing, he cannot act his way out of a paper bag, and the charisma he once had, in the days of Men in Black and Bad Boys, has clearly disappeared. Perhaps the reason why I like the sketches involving robots is not because they’re particularly cool, but, rather, because Smith isn’t. Anytime in the movie that he doesn’t talk or motion is a good one; allowing the guy to simply pose for the teenage girls in the audience is always for the better. Opposite him is Bridget Moynahan, who is surprisingly terrific, but noticeably finds that she has no purpose in such a brain-dead and exhausting flick, before long.

     As amazing as they may be, visual effects, alone, cannot make me like a film, on the whole, anymore. My tastes have matured, and currently inhabit much more restrictive confines, in which a certain amount of sophistication is required to win me over. Sure, I would’ve considered the morning better-spent had I been able to find amusement in I, Robot, but I’m afraid that such would’ve damaged my psyche, as well. The look of any given movie may be able to please the average teenage boy, but as I write this review, I notice that the same frown I left the theatre with has not yet left my face. Maybe I shouldn’t have hoped for another classic in the world of science fiction, only a mere two years after the masterful Minority Report’s release.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.18.2004)

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