Futuristic action flop merely 'suggested' by sci-fi legend's revolutionary stories of robots breaking their programming
In turning Isaac Asimov's groundbreaking, intellectually and morally challenging series of stories entitled "I, Robot" into a summer blockbuster, director Alex Proyas ("Dark City," "The Crow") has stripped it of even the smallest hint of intelligence or originality. Instead the movie offers only superstar Will Smith as a wisecracking, stunt-driving, guns-a-blazin', future-cop action-hero cliché -- who bears no resemblance to anything in Asimov's book (although there may have been a character with the same name).
Detective Del Spooner may live amid self-driving cars and abundant automatons in the year 2035 (which looks as if it was created on leftover "Minority Report" and "A.I." sets), but he's a shopworn 20th century anachronism -- a newly divorced, rebellious cop (complete with a butt-chewing lieutenant to take away his badge) who has a theory no one believes.
See, Spoon (gotta have a nickname) thinks a robot committed a murder -- throwing his corporate-scientist creator out a skyscraper window. But of course everyone else is downright stubborn about the fact that this simply cannot be. Robots made by the monopolistic U.S. Robotics are hard-wired with three base rules that supposedly make it impossible for them to harm a human being. That safety protocol is why they've become prevalent in homes and menial jobs around the world. (Naturally, no mention is made of the job losses this must have caused.)
Asimov's book consists of stories in which these rules contradict each other, leading to independent thought and evolution. (They are arguably the basis of every subsequent evolving-robot character in the sci-fi genre.)
This movie, however, is nothing but one big chase scene in which Smith jumps motorcycles in "Matrix"-style slow-mo while fancy-firing his futuristic hand-cannons to save The Girl (sexy U.S.R. robo-psychologist Bridget Moynahan) and The Kid (two-scene tag-a-long Shia LaBeouf) from characters involved in The Giant Conspiracy to Take Over the World.
Yeah, that's right. It plays as if robots even wrote the script -- and stupid robots at that.
But human stupidity runs rampant as well. The picture's shallow priorities are underscored by Smith's dialogue being mostly catch phrases and one-liners, by gratuitous shower scenes (Smith showing off his extra-buff body) and by obscene product placement ("Converse All-Stars, vintage 2004!").
Pivotal points in the story don't make a scrap of sense (like why would thousands of outdated robots be put in storage without being deactivated, and why would U.S.R. hold a big news conference announcing that fact?), and the climax depends on the ridiculous contrivance that parts of the high-security U.S. Robotics headquarters have no security whatsoever.
In fact, the robots themselves are the only element of "I, Robot" that isn't a slap in the face of Asimov (whose book is given only a "suggested by" credit) and of anyone who expects more from a movie than the next big computer-animated stunt.
Impressive, unsettling CGI creations with translucent rubberized skin, these new android models with a permanent uplink to U.S.R. -- the ones that are perceived as a threat by Detective Spooner -- are so perfectly integrated into every scene that it never once crossed my mind that I was watching a special effect.
Of course, that might have been because I was too busy thinking: Who in Hollywood do I have to kill to put an end to sacrilegious adaptations and brain-dead $100-million rubbish? And could I get a robot to do it for me?