I Robot

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating:PG-13 for violence and language
Starring: Will Smith, Alan Tudyk, Bridget Moynahan
Directed By: Alex Proyas

Final Grade:

Ever since the movie was announced, I’ve heard little but bickering about I, Robot, which claims in its credits that it is “Suggested by” the works of Isaac Asimov, not based on them. Despite all the angst from fans of Asimov, Alex Proyas’ film has hit theaters, and anyone who’s not caught up in their own anger toward the film’s lack of connection should find it to be an easy film to enjoy.

In this summer full of uninteresting and disappointing action films (excluding Spider-Man 2, of course), I, Robot is the first outstanding blockbuster actioner we’ve seen. This is due to plenty of factors, most notably its script and its stars.

That script, by Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), is an entirely captivating one. It uses Asimov’s rules of robotics to guide us into a web of mystery and mistrust, balancing paranoia, comedy, and character development (at least in its lead – the supporting characters definitely leave something to be desired) with ease.

The downside to this comes in the overly stylized action sequences we get from time to time, which are good, but not always in tone with the story that’s just been laid out for us. We’re often offered up a large bit of calmness with a touch of paranoia, which inexplicably explodes into a fury of effects and camera tricks, and then calms right back to the story. I couldn’t help thinking back to Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi flick, Minority Report, which handled the same problem much better than Proyas does here. My hunch is that the studio wanted to build the plot around these effects laden bits, and that little change was allowed to them. This is the film’s biggest problem, though it’s one that should be easy to discard every time the story kicks back in to gear.

The lead performance by Will Smith is a good one, as he proves once again that he can handle a big-budget “cool” role as well as anyone. His character here is a funnily inept one at times, an almost nerdy hero that it’s easy to like and almost identify with, even if he can inexplicably handle every obstacle thrown his way while still looking good.

His support is given by a bunch of good actors playing a bunch of standard characters. Bridget Moynahan (The Sum of All Fears, The Recruit) channels Sandra Bullock as the strong female scientist, while Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days, Below) is the all-too powerful millionaire, and Chi McBride (Undercover Brother, The Terminal) is the disciplining police chief. The most intriguing performance is that of Alan Tudyk (Dodgeball, A Knight’s Tale) as the voice of Sonny, the robot that’s the film’s real star.

These robots look very good, and the effects are extremely well done, especially in the interactions between them and the real-life actors. Sonny, in particular, is an almost human character even in motions and gestures, which helps out the film immensely. The futuristic settings are also a sight to behold, and Proyas’ command over a landscape that was so evident in his past films is as evident as ever. It’s a beautiful film to behold, and there’s really little to complain about technically.

In fact, there’s little reason for me to not fully recommend I, Robot, especially considering what’s preceded it this summer. While the summers big films of May and June failed in plot or character, it does enough to remain interesting and look good doing it, cementing itself as the popcorn flick of the summer. It’s not perfect as a film, but it’s exactly what people should want to see this time of year.

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