Will Smith should be covered. He’s been to the past (“Ali”), and alternate present day (“Men in Black”), did an animated film (“Shark Tale”), went to a futuristic past (“Wild Wild West”), and now he’s made his way into the future. “I, Robot” is a typical summer blockbuster, filled with all sorts of fancy effects and one-liners. It’s entertaining compared to other films of the same vein, just not one that’s very insightful even though it could (make that should) be.
In the not too far future, robots have become commonplace. They perform basic tasks to aid people while living by the three rules of robotics, which basically forbids them from ever harming a human. Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is not too fond of the change in technology and soon believes a robot has committed murder. Rejected by his squad mates, he now must try and figure out exactly what happened to the founding father of robotics, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) and if a robot named Sonny killed him.
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.
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 get, exciting and energetic.
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 fine; her lines are not. 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 anyone even remotely responsible for its inclusion should take a long hard look at why they’re in the industry. 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. (*** out of *****)
Wow. Fox never really ceases to amaze DVD aficionados with their video transfers and the treatment given to this film is remarkable. Rest assured that you have never seen facial detail captured on a DVD like this. In fact, you’ve never seen this much detail period. The black levels are simply outstanding. If you want to nit-pick, you can count on one hand the number of times you can notice some edge enhancement. It’s a minor flaw on one of the best transfers in 2004. (*****)
Likewise, the audio presentation is also one of the best of last year. You can listen to the film in either 5.1 or DTS 5.1. It is of course the action sequences that draw you in, filling a sound field used to effectively convey motion. Bass is brutal on the subwoofer and shaking the room the way home theater enthusiasts want it to. Even the non-action scenes have nice subtlety like people walking and chattering as they go about. Dialogue is perfectly mixed in with the action, never becoming too overpowered. As is the norm, DTS will pack a bigger punch and to those really listening, offer better separation. (*****)
It seems almost useless to dig into the special features. Considering how good the rest of the disc is there SHOULD be plenty to talk about. Director Alex Proyas and his screenwriter Akiva Goldsman prove that with a talkative commentary, covering almost all the aspects of production. It’s a shame their enthusiasm doesn’t carry over to the rest of the extras.
“The Making Of I, Robot” is totally useless promotional tripe. When all you do is tell the story of the film over some behind the scenes footage, you’re not telling anyone anything about how the film was made. If you make it through to the end, you’ll realize you wasted about 12 minutes of your life. The rest of the disc is nothing but trailers, including the already cult favorite TV Show “Arrested Development” and the Fox Inside Look at “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” which the studio is already pushing heavily. Oh, there’s a still gallery too. (*)
If the Isaac Asimov fans want to stage some revolt against the studio, maybe they should stop and think first. At the very least, people now know who the man was and very well may take an interest in his theories. Without the film, regardless of how much it changes from his original concept, only a select few would ever appreciate him.