In 2035 Chicago, robots have become an everyday household item, trusted by all, except the slightly paranoid Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith). When the creator of new robotics at USR (US Robotics Corporation) Dr Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), commits suicide, Spooner is summoned by the late Dr's hologram device. Spooner quickly grows suspicious of a special robot called Sonny (Alan Tudyk). But neither Dr Lanning's associate Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) or USR boss Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood) believe that any robot could be responsible, as robots are all hardwired with The Three Laws of Robotics, preventing them for harming humans. As Spooner investigates, he and Calvin discover that there is a greater danger than a single robot.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I, Robot is the meanest, meatiest, coolest, most engaging and exciting science fiction movie in a long time, with echoes from 2001 A Space Odyssey... and from the final scene in Planet of the Apes.
Adorned with a blend of intelligence and drama, excellent stunts and superb production values, sensational special effects and a big heart, the film also boasts three great performances - one from an actor we never see. That's he, robot ... nicknamed Sonny, the symbol of all that's great and weak in mankind. Yes, that's how grand this film is.
Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan ensure that Spooner and Calvin are fully realised characters, and Alan Tudyk's performance as Sonny brings to mind the powerfully effective Robert Patrick as T-1000 in Terminator 2. We see less of Tudyk, but sense him just the same.
As his many fans will know, the reason for Isaac Asimov's legendary status among science fiction writers comes from his ability to bring the future and humanity's present state of mind inexorably together. His universes are peopled. They resonate with human elements and conflicts. I, Robot, while not pure Asimov, being a fusion with another story idea, is a classic story in which several important themes come together.
Through Sonny, the robot who breaks through the status of controlled machine to a unit with a sense of self - soul, even - I, Robot explores notions of trust, science and the individual. Our relentless urge to be unique and to be valued is mirrored in this story. But the real power of Alex Proyas' film is its absolute veracity in every department. Using the most advanced tools of filmmaking, Proyas takes us deep into humanity, while providing thrills and action, entertainment and meaning, all in the same frame.
I, Robot is truly engaging and exciting because it is more than a digital effect deep. The creative elements of the film are extraordinary, but they always serve the story and characters. There is a spectacular, deadly and crunching chase in a giant tunnel, and a extensive climactic battle - both involving dozens of household robots gone feral.
These giant action scenes are both violent - but pretty well bloodless, of course - and brilliantly staged. What really sets them apart from so many other action scenes is Alex Proyas' discipline and imagination. He and his DoP (another Aussie) Simon Duggan, create some exceptional camera moves, but always keep us in the picture. We get a sense of physical context that elevates the action to something meaningful. Likewise the riveting scene of a mansion being destroyed around Spooner by a giant machine.
There is none of the mawkishness of Bicentennial Man [1999, dir. Chris Columbus, stars Robyn Williams] - even though Asimov was the inspiration for that one, too - and all the grunt of great technical achievements in production design (Patrick Tatopoulos) and music Marco Beltrami). In particular, this future world is made particularly real for us by its retention of today's metropolitan look and feel. The old sits side by side with the new; this is how cities evolve. For example, not all cars on the streets are the latest model. Not all buildings are high tech. The familiar suburban corner store is dwarfed by the latest skyscraper housing the headquarters of USR. These almost subliminal elements add great veracity to our absorption of the film.
I, Robot is destined to be a classic of its kind.
Review by Louise Keller:
From start to finish, Alex Proyas' I, Robot zings with all the elements that make a superb sci-fi action thriller. Proyas thrives on creating menacing, gloomy realities and this concept, inspired by Isaac Asimov's short stories is the perfect vehicle, with its basic notion that we are limited by our own logic. A powerful concept indeed.
The film is complex and multi-layered, relying heavily on the charisma of Will Smith's troubled protagonist Del Spooner. Spooner is weighed down by his hang-ups and secrets, and Smith is as likeable as ever, injecting splashes of humour here and there. There are a few great one-liners, and his 'I'm allergic ... to bullshit' is one phrase that is guaranteed longevity.
The script from Jeff Vintar (Final Fantasy) and Akiva Goldman (A Beautiful Mind) is concise and intelligent, its characters always fully developed. Of course, much of the film's success relies on the extraordinary special effects that never seem like effects at all. Proyas' vision of a futuristic world is stream-lined, silver and ultra sleek. Robots are an integral part of every day life - they take out the garbage, walk the dog, make deliveries, shop, cook..... They even detect elevated stress patterns in your voice. Sounds like a dream come true!
Both Spooner and Bridget Moynahan's robot programmer, Susan Calvin, take an emotional journey, starting at opposite ends of the spectrum and achieving a common goal. When we first meet Calvin, she is as robotic as those she programmes, with a clinical, almost sterile appearance and manner. As she becomes more human, Spooner loses the sharp edge of his paranoia, and their emotional journey together is satisfying.
Brilliant CGI brings the robots to life, making them flexible, mobile, athletic and near-indestructible. Of course it is vital that we believe in Alan Tudyk's Sonny, and that his robot displays expressions, emotions and the promise of a heart. How else could you explain our tears when Calvin is ordered to decommission Sonny? It's a subtle and convincing performance, as Sonny's piercing blue eyes modify from menacing to soulful.
The action sequences are a spectacle, and Proyas squeezes every drop of tension from them, fully utilising Marco Beltrami's dense and majestic classical score. There's an amazing sequence when Spooner's speeding high-tech car is hijacked by robots as it powers along an underground tunnel, flanked by two giant robot-transporters. The scene when Lanning's house is destroyed, while Spooner is trapped inside, is terrific, and watch out for an award-winning performance by a grey and white tabby cat. The armies of robots, with red lights flashing their warnings, are ominous indeed as they wildly run out of control. And in the home run, our hearts are in our mouth for the climactic finale, when robots lithely skim up the side of a skyscraper like ants before a dazzling display of acrobatics and stunts.
I loved every moment of I, Robot. It's a high-voltage sci-fi thriller that leaves us stimulated and thoroughly entertained.
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I, ROBOT (M)
CAST: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, James Cromwell, Bruce Greenwood, Chi McBride, Shia LeBouf, Alan Tudyk
PRODUCER: John Davis, Topher Dow, Laurence Mark,
DIRECTOR: Alex Proyas
SCRIPT: Jeff Vintar, Akiva Goldman (book source Isaac Asimov)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Duggan
EDITOR: Jeffrey Ford, William Hoy, Richard Learoyd, Armen Minasian
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrick Tatapoulos
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 22, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: November 24, 2004