Was I really looking forward to seeing I, Robot? Yes and no. Yes because sometimes Will Smith is fun to watch (Independence Day, Men in Black). No because sometimes he isnt (Bad Boys 2, Wild Wild West). Plus youve got the whole robot special effects thing and that could be extremely disturbing to watch or it could be extremely entertaining. I dont believe Ive worried over seeing a movie as much as I stressed about I, Robot since I paid to see Moulin Rouge. Full of anxiety and popcorn, I sat through the screening of I, Robot and emerged totally overwhelmed and glowing with hope for the future of Will Smith movies. I, Robot is one of his best, thanks to the stunningly stylish, almost eerily alive robots he shares the screen with.
Set in 2035 I, Robots not-too-distant-in-the-future-world features robots who handle all of lifes most mundane chores. Cooking, cleaning, balancing checkbooks, walking dogs, answering phones, going to the restroom okay, so that ones pushing it. But you get the idea. Humans are now free to enjoy life without the normal little everyday stresses. Best of all, robots do not commit crimes. Yet one techno-phobic cop, Detective Del Spooner (Smith) doesnt really trust the machines. Theres something in his past that left a sour taste of robot metal in his mouth, and hes just waiting for the day when he can prove to everyone hes been right all along. The day finally comes when a biggie at US Robotics, James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning, is found dead after apparently having jumped to his death out of his office window. Spooners got a personal connection with Lanning and immediately assumes the man would no more take his own life than pigs would fly (they still dont in 2035). Suspicion immediately falls on Sonny (voiced by and based on the terrific physical performance of Alan Tudyk), a very specialized robot who claims to dream and exhibits emotions. Is Spooner right? Are the robots just waiting to take over the world? Thats the question you have to see the movie to have answered.
I, Robot doesnt resort to throwing in a love story between Spooner and robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan). Theres a mild flirtation between the two, at best. I, Robot instead focuses on Spooners connection with his beloved grandmother (Adrian L. Ricard) in whose presence Smith gets to lighten the mood by bringing out his charming, funny side. It also focuses on the ever-changing relationship between Spooner, Calvin, and Sonny the robot.
Some of the best CGI effects of the year can be found in I, Robot. Director Alex Proyas and his staff seamlessly blend the dozens sometimes hundreds or thousands of robots with the live actors. When Smith and Monaghan are interacting with Sonny, you swear hes a real person who just happens to look a bit odd. In one of most amazing battle scenes, robots are battling robots alongside humans battling robots, and you actually feel pain when one of the good robot guys gets injured.
Cars drive sideways, appliances are voice activated, and gasoline is almost a thing of the past. I could learn to live in that world. But thanks to I, Robot, I will forever refrain from having a personal robot assistant. Not just an action-packed brainless summer movie, I, Robot is a murder mystery that addresses serious moral questions, but does so in such a way youll leave the theater both entertained and contemplating the wisdom of technology.
"I, Robot" was directed by Alex Proyas and is rated PG-13 for intense stylized action, and some brief partial nudity.