Review: “I, Robot”

Fun, interesting, and all round entertaining – just like “Minority Report” was to Spielberg, so is “I, Robot” to Proyas – a film that won’t go down as one of his greats or more artistic, but he helps turn what could’ve been a generic sci-fi action blockbuster into something with a bit more depth and bang for your buck. It’s not a faithful adaptation by any means, but the script pays careful homage to the themes of Assimov’s original story whilst carving an action packed FX filled Hollywood blockbuster around it.

Many are probably going to say Proyas, responsible for the dark fantasy noir-dripping dramas “The Crow” and “Dark City”, has sold out which is a shame. The world of the future Chicago is just as vivid and detailed as the ‘dark city’, if not more so. Ok 2035 won’t be so technologically advanced, but what’s here certainly feels quite plausible and the idea is kind of frightening to say the least. It’s a bright clean city but people still do things very much like today, even if certain hassles like driving around and walking the dog are taken care of automatically.

The action is fast and frenzied, even if the end does go over the top in intent. Most notable is a great chase sequence between two robot trucks and Will’s car, not only including death-defying vehicle antics at high speed but dozens of swarming killer robots are added to the mix. It’s all got a strong energy and even if the mystery is a little predictable, the outcome isn’t and you do wonder how things will end up.

More important though is the issues. There’s an interesting exploration of well-trodden themes like giving up control to machines to the less covered ideas of machine consciousness and what constitutes self-awareness. It’s not a deep study by any means, but the precepts beg more study – as does the opening credits which establish the three rules of robotics which are a key element to the whole story.

There’s not many characters here but the actors are all solid, Smith’s turn a little less wise cracking than normal but still with that usual Smith every guy charm. Moynahan does a solid if indistinctive supporting turn that’s better than much of her similar work of late in the likes of “The Recruit” and “The Sum of all Fears”. Cromwell, Greenwood and McBride all turn in serviceable turns, whilst Tudyk’s work as a robot with emotion approaches the quality of Brent Spiner’s work in better episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

The effects are impressive and whilst the ‘crash dummy’ looking robots are quite CG, there’s a lot of other elements and scenes which blend seamlessly the line between reality and computer aside from some lagging motion blur. The product placement is a little obscene (Converse and Audi most notably) but that’s par for the course these days. “I, Robot” has more visual strength, smarts and cleverness than many of the films of this genre. Escapist Hollywood entertainment that actually makes you think.