Do not confuse ambition for art. The two terms
normally clasp together, hand-in-hand, but there are
occasions in which this does not ream to be true.
Sometimes, a promising concept with a bold execution can
fall victim to its own self-expectations. I, Robot
would like to be something more than the average summer
blockbuster, and desperately tries to ensure its viewers
that pure thought is abundant in the sum of its parts.
But, even though director Alex Proyas is quite
convincing in his attempts at doing such, moviegoers
will discover that he has tricked them. I, Robot
is not a clever or intelligent movie; it is a mere
showcase of advanced special effects, completely
ignoring the concepts of storytelling, chemistry between
the lead actor and actress, and probability’s
relationship to possibility. What is so bad about
mindless summer fun? It has been done before—time after
time—in fact. I can enjoy this type of film when it
takes the form of flashy briskness (as seen in
Charlie’s Angels), but when it lies to itself and
aspires to exhibit complexity, the entire idea morphs
into a form that’s artificial and boring. Not since
The Matrix Revolutions has such a great amount of
dazzling eye-candy inspired this extreme a need for a
cup of coffee while watching.
The entire film is conducted
in a fitting method for the epic sci-fi opus it would
like to be. Soaring thirty-one years into the future at
a fast pace, equipped with a costly Hollywood-made
postal stamp, it embarks on a conventional human versus
machines battle. Taking place in Chicago, as the
situation it speaks of is ignored by Proyas in all other
areas of the globe, I, Robot follows Del Spooner
(a flimsy, cardboard cut-out version of Will Smith),
your average homicide detective. The only difference
between a regular crime drama and this one is that
instead of dealing with a human murderer, the police
force has to investigate a killing, suspected to be
committed by a robot. First ignorant about one of the
everyday helper machines, which exist in a 1:5 ratio
with every human, murdering someone, Spooner’s police
force is rather nonchalant in aiding him on the case. It
is believed that all robots must abide by their three,
programmed laws, which prohibit them from taking the
life of a real person. After all, the man killed, Dr.
Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), was their creator, as
well as a likely candidate for suicide. Spooner is also
very paranoid about the metal-men, too, and this doesn’t
help his case against them in the least. Are his
suspicions about the supposed evil, program-defying
bastards correct? You better believe they are. What kind
of a hero would he be if they weren’t?
Straight from the opening
scene in I, Robot, audience members will realize
that their ticket-money has bought them
viewing-privileges to some images that are very pleasing
to the eyes. Fleets of robots, in addition to booming
explosions, have never looked better, on the big screen.
In the action sequences, I was surprisingly engaged in
the material; the visual awe kept me interested in them.
Many films, nowadays, are careless about instituting
graphic-composed characters, particularly the comic-book
adaptations. It is nice to see them finally done well.
The only problem is that most of the rest of I, Robot
is downright terrible, in every way imaginable.
The few dialogue-driven
sequences I did enjoy featured the internally conflicted
personality of the convicted robot, who names himself
Sonny. As the picture moves on, we discover that his
model of the machines, called the NS-5, will soon
replace all of the old makes. These have the ability to
dream and keep secrets; Lanning worked on them to a
point in which their “brain” activity would become close
to that of a human, when activated. In many senses, they
will now be superior to the human race, so, naturally,
their overthrowing it is only sensible.
After enduring I, Robot,
I can officially say that I’ve had enough of Will Smith.
His one-liners do not even come close to being amusing,
he cannot act his way out of a paper bag, and the
charisma he once had, in the days of Men in Black
and Bad Boys, has clearly disappeared. Perhaps
the reason why I like the sketches involving robots is
not because they’re particularly cool, but, rather,
because Smith isn’t. Anytime in the movie that he
doesn’t talk or motion is a good one; allowing the guy
to simply pose for the teenage girls in the audience is
always for the better. Opposite him is Bridget Moynahan,
who is surprisingly terrific, but noticeably finds that
she has no purpose in such a brain-dead and exhausting
flick, before long.
As amazing as they may be,
visual effects, alone, cannot make me like a film, on
the whole, anymore. My tastes have matured, and
currently inhabit much more restrictive confines, in
which a certain amount of sophistication is required to
win me over. Sure, I would’ve considered the morning
better-spent had I been able to find amusement in I,
Robot, but I’m afraid that such would’ve damaged my
psyche, as well. The look of any given movie may be able
to please the average teenage boy, but as I write this
review, I notice that the same frown I left the theatre
with has not yet left my face. Maybe I shouldn’t have
hoped for another classic in the world of science
fiction, only a mere two years after the masterful
Minority Report’s release.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.18.2004)