I, Robot (2004)
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Favorite Movie Quote: "11% is more than enough. A human would've known that."
As the name-holder for a beloved book (really just a series of short stories), I expected more bile from the peanut gallery. Whether the book has enough miles between it and this flick or simply didn't have the same loyal following of, say, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I have no idea. One thing is for sure, to say that the book was better would be comparing apples to oranges to a certain extent, because other than the title, the three laws (which are so pop culture that most movies just use them anyway), and some concepts, the movie and the book are really just different.
Detective Spooner (Will Smith) is a human cop in a robotic land, seemingly the one superstitious holdout who has open disdain and mistrust for his society's growing population of robot servants. Everyone, including his fellow officers, find him irrational and antiquated, helped by his cliche fondness of the past (ala Sandra Bullock in Demolition Man). When the man who is to robotics what Steve Jobs was to music players, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), dies, it becomes Spooner's job to follow the breadcrumbs to the truth about how Lanning died and why. To help (or hinder) are Lanning's last project, a unique robot named Sonny (Alan Tudyk), and robot 'shrink' Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan).
The movie that I, Robot most reminds of me of from a movie-going perspective is Aeon Flux. Like Aeon Flux, I found myself thoroughly bored by the action sequences, which I felt were overblown and right out of big dumb action movie. However, also like Aeon Flux, I found the performances, the mystery itself, and the ideas being kicked around were able to carry me through the action to the next time people started talking. I, Robot has some neat ideas it's playing with, and while you'd think that they all came from the source material... not so much.
For Will Smith this is too often his standard schtick - "Aw, hell, naw" and so forth - but when they give him good dialog and purpose in scenes - such as his reveal about where his bigotry against the robots comes from - he executes them with aplomb to the point that you wish he was channeling that throughout the piece. The other standout is Tyduk, whose performance could be called Serkisian. If you don't tear up when he asks, "Will it hurt?" you lack the soul that Sonny arguably had.
This is one of those times when I think the writing outpaced the direction, which is weird, considering that Alex Proyas directed two of my favorite films, Dark City and The Crow. I, Robot spends its running time losing me and winning me back, but ultimately it finishes with its head above water, which was better than that little girl fared in the car.
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