Monday, August 02, 2004

The movie I, Robot was on the top of my list of movies to see on the big screen ever since I first saw the full trailer (I always confused the teaser trailer with "The Stepford Wives" so it doesn't count). The story is set in the year 2035 and far from portraying a dark and brooding New York City (like "Blade Runner" and "The Fifth Element"), the movie's city is shown to be quite as normal as now with the exception of a few standouts like blue-collar robots, skyscrapers mostly made out of glass, super efficient car parking, and lack of car traffic. Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) himself also stands out like a sore thumb among his peers, with his particular dislike of robots and taste for old traditional stuff. His character is one big pain the neck and the film never explains why until after the first half (I didn't read the original trilogy nor the reviews). Being the best Detective in the force, despite his surly attitude which gets him in a lot of trouble with the Police Chief, he was called upon to investigate the strange suicide case of a good friend of his Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Dr. Lanning was also the inventor of the modern Robotics technology and creator of the Three Laws a robot is programmed to do. As Det. Spooner was going about with his investigation aided by the late Dr. Lanning's brainy and lovely assistant, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), they encounter their robotic suspect hiding in the Doctor's office. They managed to haul it off to the precinct after a long chase and what transpired next intrigued the Detective. First off all the robot, a superior model of the upcoming NS-5, requested that he be called by his given name Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Second, after a barrage of questioning it was beginning to exhibit signs of emotions and thirdly it related a series of consistent dreams that's been plaguing him everytime he sleeps. All three qualities are unheard of in a robot, so when Sonny was hauled off by its makers reasoning that there was an error in his programming and it will be disposed of immediately Del Spooner decides to investigate further. But someone at the robotics company wants his investigations stopped and has arranged a series of "accidents" that would efficiently put an end to his meddling.

The movie as a whole reminded me of Minority Report what with the toned down hues of blues and grays, curvy cars, and Spooner's tough-guy-against-the-new-system-because-I-witnessed-the-loss-of-a-kid attitude which reminded me of Tom Cruise's Det. John Anderton and his brooding mien. There were also traces of The Matrix somewhere. I'm not saying that this isn't good, I just can't help myself getting Philip Dick's work confused with Isaac Asimov. The action scenes in both movies cannot be compared and they both rock! The twists and turns in both movies revealing the surprise villain is pure genius! The special effects were seamless! The production design was flawless! And the script? Engaging. Spirituality also came into play throughout the whole film with the terms "prophecy", "creator", "father" (as Sonny refers to Dr. Lanning), the cross on the hill, a messianic figure, etc. Whether this was a deliberate action or not on the part of the director and screenwriters, all i could say is they did a really good job of it. Sure, purists are raising their fists in anger for tampering with a story that not once touched the issue of religion, but there wasn't that great an alteration to the original story. At least that's what I heard from a reliable source (thanks Daniel!). There are also plans to do a series of sequels as Director Alex Proyas was wont to talk:
"By the way, I, ROBOT was created with the intention of it being the first in a series of films - early on I decided there was no way a single 2 hour movie could do justice to all the ideas Asimov explored in his collection of stories. Will there be more films? - we'll have to wait and see"
In the meantime you might want to check out this NS-5 site and think about getting your own robot.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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