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I, Robot

I, Robot

What She said:

She

So, apparently this movie is based off a well-known sci-fi book, which is actually a collection of short stories.  I’ve never read it, don’t particularly care to.  Maybe one day.  Anyway, I’m told the movie doesn’t exactly bear much resemblance to the book.  But that’s all an aside, just to acknowledge the fact that there’s a piece to this that I’m wholly unaware of.

This is what I can definitely tell you:  I, Robot tells the story of Del Spooner, played by Will Smith, a detective living in a not too distant future where robots are used as our minions.  They basically do all the stuff that mankind has come to loathe—babysit, trash pick-up, cooking, cleaning, etc.  Detective Spooner has a natural aversion to robots, and doesn’t trust them one bit.  His suspicions are confirmed with the death of noted scientist Dr. Alfred Lansing, who actually created the robot type that is all the rage in this new society.  Spooner finds evidence that it was a robot who actually killed Lansing, which everyone else thinks is impossible.  Why?  Because the robots abide by these three laws that forbid them from harming people.  The thing is, Spooner believes that one of the robots has become conscious and is able to disobey.  So there’s a lot of chasing, and action, and some furrowed eyebrows.  As robots begin to turn on humans, Spooner has to save the day, while also dealing with some tough questions about how we define life.

Will Smith is the king of one-liners in the movie.  In fact, I think he rarely says more than one or two sentences at a time.  He’s joined on his crusade by some sort of robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, played by Bridget Moynahan.  Her character is 100 percent forgettable.  First of all, if the robots are not expected to be cognizant, then why does a robopsychologist exist?  Talk about a useless college degree.  Secondly, she seems to given an inexplicable amount of free reign within the U.S. Robotics company.  It’s fortunate for Spooner that she can pretty much do whatever she wants at work and no one thinks twice about it.  Thirdly, and this is just my opinion, I thought that Moynahan was absolutely brutal in this role.  I did not believe a word that came out of her mouth.  Her acting just seemed that bad.  I think she was there as a potential long-term love interest for Will Smith’s character, but I would have rather she not been around. 

The film is filled with plenty of action scenes, and I think it’s trying to make a deeper statement, although the plot doesn’t seem developed enough to really get us to that point.  This is a fine movie for summer weekend fluff.  The special effects, while not so spectacular by today’s standards, were, I’m sure, pretty good for back when this was made.  It’s a bit cartoony at times to my eyes.  Still, I, Robot is a painless action movie that gets the job done well enough.

Thumbs mostly up.

What he said:

He

I didn’t see this movie when it came out in theaters. To be honest, I don’t exactly remember when I did see it for the first time. What I do remember is finding many a person online who did not like this movie. I remember encountering several people who were upset it was not more like the book. I read the book and liked it, but it was a series of short stories that would be impossible to duplicate on film. If I remember correctly, not all the stories are even connected.  Most of the later ones are – particularly when it comes to the Dr. Calivin character – but the earlier ones are not or are very loosely. So I always thought it was a little unfair to hold it accountable for not being able to tell 9 separate stories in one movie. The movie took several characters from the later connected stories combined it with the “three laws” and made a movie out of that. I also remember liking it significantly more than many people I encountered. I was actually pretty curious about revisiting it because I had not seen it in years.

I, Robot revolves mostly around detective Del Spooner (Will Smith). Spooner is something of an outcast. He doesn’t like robots and he lives in a world filled with them. They walk our dogs, clean our houses, and to just about anything we want (within reason). He thinks they put people out of jobs. He doesn’t really trust them either. He keeps waiting for one to go haywire.

Well it turns out he may get his wish when Dr. Alfred Lanning – the creator of robotics as society knows it – turns up dead in the lobby of his own company. CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), robopsychologist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), and just about everyone else involved things Lanning (played by James Cromwell) committed suicide. Spooner isn’t so sure, especially when a robot named Sonny (Alan Tudyk) shows up at the crime scene. Sonny seems different than most robots. He’s a little more human. Granted, he seems very childlike, but still more like a human than any other machine around. Spooner and Calvin try to figure out just what exactly happened, but things get complicated when somebody tries to kill them. Whoever it is keeps sending all kinds of various machines after them.

Interestingly enough, I found a lot of the chase scenes boring. For a movie that sold itself mostly as an action flick, some of them were quite dull. There was no tension at all and the effects were bad to boot. There were times – particularly during the chase scenes – where the movie looks very amateur. I was really taken aback by that, because I didn’t remember feeling that way the first time around. There was also something else about the effects that bugged the hell out of me. For whatever reason, some of the robots looked like characters in a Kung Fu flick. I think it was the way they moved that bothered me. It was some weird mix between moving like an insect and martial arts master. It looked so phony at times and I found it really distracting. I didn’t feel that way about every action scene in the movie, but I think I did about enough of them where I actually started to realize I don’t think I like this movie very much anymore.

That kind of surprised me because I remember liking this a great deal more than most people I had encountered. I was also disappointed, because the whole premise of artificial intelligence, what it means to be alive, yada, yada, yada, really intrigues me.  But it’s hard to care about the message when your bored by the parts which are supposed to excite you. 

It’s a shame because I like Will Smith and I didn’t think he was too bad in this. Some of his jokes fell flat more often than in other movies, but I still found him to be engaging.

I even thought Bridget Moynahan’s wooden performance was kind of funny. It wasn’t a great performance, I agree with my partner on that. But I thought that character was supposed to be, you know, like a robot. She was uptight, anti-social, and preferred the company of machines. It reminded me of when Sheldon (from the Big Bang Theory) gets put into one of those situations he’s uncomfortable with.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty bland movie. Not what I remembered and I actually don’t like it anymore.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on June 7, 2012.