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Blu-ray Review: I, Robot

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Will Smith should be covered. He's been to the past (Ali), and alternate present day (Men in Black), went to a futuristic past (Wild Wild West), went into the future (I Am Legend). I, Robot was Smith’s first future trip, a typical summer blockbuster, filled with all sorts of fancy effects and one-liners. It's entertaining compared to other films in the same vein, just not one that's very insightful even though it could (make that should) be.

Though it's based on some thoroughly interesting theories by Isaac Asimov, I, Robot is as brain dead as summer blockbusters get. It doesn't really do anything particularly interesting with the subject except offer up tons of action and a dry mystery. Basically, it creates a lot of fun without requiring any deep thought. The few lines that do address mankind's ways gone awry come in the final moments, and these feel like an afterthought.

At the top of everything are the special effects. Not surprisingly, there's massive use of CGI and it's actually quite good. Everything is clean and sharp without that fuzzy quality that you can usually spot. It makes the action sequences, no matter how ridiculous they become, exciting and energetic. Some green screen shots are beginning to look dated (the giant warehouse of robots), but they are otherwise seamless.

Will Smith is always a great choice regardless of what role you're tossing at him. He's charismatic and always entertaining. Here he develops a small character with a back-story solid enough to get through the movie. The obligatory love interest is played by Bridget Moynahan, a woman deeply rooted in the development of this new line of robots. Her performance is wooden and her lines are ridiculous. You have to cringe when she explains some of the science early on.

What really detracts from the overall feel is slow motion. It's so overdone, overused, and beaten to death here that this feels like it was directed by John Woo. There are a few innovative camera movements (one is really amazing during the final sequence, a wild wrap-around shot), but then they settle right back in for the slow motion.

There's so much potential here for a deep, insightful movie, it's a real shame something more wasn't done with the concept. Then again, this is Hollywood and if you expect anything different, that's entirely your fault. What is here is a great, big budget, B-movie that doesn't try to be anything but. There doesn't seem to be much room for original entertainment nowadays and I, Robot settles in nicely into that ever-closing gap.

The DVD releases of the film were all reference quality transfers. This Blu-ray follows suit. The astonishing level of detail in everything, including long shots of futuristic Chicago, is an incredible sight to behold. Sharpness is remarkable, and the black levels are masterfully set. Colors are bold, bright, and accurate. This is one of the best live action offerings the format has seen to date.

Likewise, the DTS-HD audio track here is mind-blowing. Phenomenal deep bass delivers every time it’s called on. Subtle atmosphere in the cities such as trains going by or general chatter by the populace always finds its way into the surrounds. As expected, the action scenes are filled with subtle nuances in motion. Wraparound shots carry the appropriate audio trailing, and motion is enhanced by the brilliantly mixed sound.

Behind the Camera starts off the extras with multiple production diaries turning into a massive 71 minute documentary. While the video quality is abysmal, this is still an excellent piece of behind the scenes work. CGI Design describes itself before you settle in for the 21 minute piece. Sentinet Behavior is a half hour piece focusing on the robots' movements.

Four deleted scenes offer a slightly alternate ending amongst the crowd. A selection of three commentaries lets fans in on everything, and one comes from composer Marco Beltrami. The latter is a unique take on a commentary given his involvement in the film and the fact that the track features only him.

Also of note is how the extras can be accessed. Everything is accessible by pressing the colored buttons on the Blu-ray remote during the film. While a nice option, these features are only relevant to the current scene, and there’s no indicator to tell you when there’s something available. It becomes guess work, and it’s far easier to just select what you want from the main menu.

There are multiple references to the sci-fi classic Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The first robot to appear on screen carries the number 42 on his head. Will Smith later says his only good day was a Thursday. Minor, but notable trivia.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.