It's man against the machines. No, it's not TERMINATOR 4 but I, ROBOT, which
plays like this year's MINORITY REPORT. A smart -- albeit with a troubling
number of logical flaws -- sci-fi film, I, ROBOT is an intriguing movie that is
a thinking person's action picture. Although it has plenty of humor, it
expects to be taken quite seriously. It starts as a murder mystery and quickly
blossoms from there into a movie with a lot on its mind.
Will Smith plays Del Spooner, a surly detective who has a definite prejudice
against the earth's fastest growing race -- robots, "harmless" helpers who are
literally everywhere. The friendliest and sweetest is one is named Sonny (Alan
Tudyk). This life-sized E.T. of a figure is the prime suspect in a murder
case. His creator, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), has died, and Spooner,
but no one else, suspects Sonny must have killed the good doctor in a death
currently labeled as a suicide. Calling in the political power that being the
richest person on earth affords him, Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), the
CEO of the robotics firm (USR), gets any attempt to sully the reputation of his
mechanical wonders quickly quashed. Bill Gates could only dream of such
There are "three laws" governing robotic behavior that were originally devised
by writer Isaac Asimov. These laws could be summarized to say that a robot can
never harm a human. USR's corporate slogan is "USR: Three Laws Safe."
The movie makes some infuriating mistakes and poor decisions. The story is
supposed to occur in Chicago in 2035, but the sets are a confusing blend of
1950 and 2235. If you really believe that we are going to advance this much in
just thirty years, I have a robot I want to sell you. What is clear is that
the distant future is made of blue screens and CGI effects while the retro past
look is done with traditional sets. Although there are numerous little
irritants, none is more needlessly wrong than the time Spooner and his helper,
Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan, THE RECRUIT), quickly climb a flight of almost
three-thousand steps and arrive at the top floor of a gigantic skyscraper not
the least bit out of breath. Man, what great shape they must be in.
Most of story has Spooner following a fascinating series of clues that Dr.
Lanning has left him. Spooner likens the clues to Hansel and Gretel's bread
crumbs. As Spooner tries to find out why the doctor couldn't just tell him his
secrets directly, Spooner keeps being ambushed by rogue robots but can't get
anyone to believe him. Flaws and all, I, ROBOT is always fun and
thought-provoking without ever being pretentious or silly. It may not be a
great film, but it is definitely one of this summer's better blockbusters.
I, ROBOT runs 1:55. It is rated PG-13 for "intense stylized action, and some
brief partial nudity" and would be acceptable for kids around 9 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 15, loved it, giving it *** 1/2. He thought that it was
really cool and fun, with great action and special effects. He especially
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes