If Will Smith doesn’t trust technology, neither should anybody else.
In the year 2035, robots co-inhabit the earth with humans, acting on our every hand and knee. But before people start getting worried about whether or not they’re taking over, have no fear, because they are kept in line by a set of rules integrated into their make. For the most part, they revolve around not hurting humans, but also knowing when to allow for themselves to be destroyed, if that’s what a human believes that needs to happen. Even though everyone is in love with these robots and has one, one person who does not trust them is cop Del Spooner (Will Smith). He doesn’t hate them, but he doesn’t really trust them either, which is why when he’s called onto the scene of a supposed “suicide” of the creator of these robots, Spooner is quick to believe that it’s the robots, more specifically, a rather more intelligent one named Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk). But nobody will believe Spooner and his suspicions, so he’s forced to take matters into his own hand and follow the case on his own terms. This, obviously, can lead to some very dangerous situations, where Spooner may have to put up with a lot of robots attacking him.
I, Robot deals with a lot of issues about the modern day that, in 2004, seemed a bit silly. However, nearly 12 years later, they have all but become a reality. While we don’t necessarily have robots walking around society, side-by-side with humans on a daily basis, technology, in and of itself, still takes over our everyday life. Most people you see on the streets, either have some sort of headphones in, or are caught staring down at their phones, swiping through whatever bit of information they want, or trying to win their next game of Candy Crush. Either way, what I, Robot discusses, is very much true to what is going on in today’s day and age, but at the same time, the movie doesn’t really even seem concerned with these types of ideas and themes.
Instead, it just wants to feature a whole lot of action, explosions, gun-shots, robots, and most of all, Will Smith screaming.
In other words, it’s a traditional summer blockbuster, that maybe, just maybe, has a little bit more going on beneath the surface than your usual, aimless popcorn fodder. As has been the case with mostly all of director Alex Proyas’ other films, he clearly seems interested in the visuals of his films, rather than what’s actually going on in the movies themselves, and this can sometimes help, rather than hurt his movies. There’s a few neat sequences here, like for instance, a car-chase through a tunnel, that grab you right away and show Proyas’ inspiration for visual-imagery, which is all the more surprising considering how old this movie’s CGI can look.
Sure, it’s dated and a bit sketchy at times, but still, it’s a movie from 2004 and for a movie then, it’s pretty damn impressive. It also helps that once the action does get going, the movie keeps a fun and exciting pace that’s hard to get past. The story itself is a bit conventional, as it starts out as a whodunit, to being something of a conspiracy-based sci-fi flick, but mostly, Proyas goes between the many stories quite well. He doesn’t really get down and dirty with the idea of artificial intelligence and how it affects our everyday lives, but he does bring it up just enough to have us think maybe a bit more than we normally would, had this been another blockbuster, by any other director.
Then again, it is a silly summer blockbuster, and there’s no way of getting around that.
Are we human, or are we robot?
By the end of I, Robot, it becomes clear where it’s going and can start to disappoint. Not to say that the movie was breaking down any genre-barriers either, but it is to say that once we realize that the movie is all going to be about Will Smith saving the human-race from extinction, it gets a bit over-cooked and crazy. You’d probably expect this, but it also can’t help but feel like something of a cop out.
However, it’s fine because throughout the whole movie, Will Smith is doing what he usually does: Charm the shorts off of every single audience-member. Though the script is pretty lame and feeds Smith some cheesy lines, he’s still confident enough of an actor to get through it all and give this Del Spooner character some sort of personality that makes us root for him more. There’s something of a backstory to Spooner, his hate for robots, and why he was called onto this case in the first place, that can tend to feel a bit tacked-on, but Spooner isn’t here to draw emotions – he’s here to be the hero of our story and have us stand behind him and hope that he kicks as much robot ass as he wants to.
That’s why the rest of the cast, as good as they may be, don’t really get a chance to stretch far and wide beyond the borders set around them. Bruce Greenwood, once again, plays the typical white guy in power that may be a villain, or may just be a general a-hole; Bridget Moynihan plays the possible love-interest of Spooner, who also happens to be a scientist for these sorts of robots and is at least sympathetic enough that we want to see her understand the issues about this corporation she’s working for and start hooking up with Smith; James Cromwell is barely around and he’s sorely missed; and Alan Tudyk does a solid job at voicing these robots, showing that there may be a slight bit of emotion underneath the intentional dull delivery of his lines.
Oh, and Shia LaBeouf is here and curses a lot. That’s fun. I think.
Consensus: Though it deals with some interesting ideas about technology running society, I, Robot, the actual movie itself, seems less concerned about them, and more concerned with blowing stuff up, which is fun for awhile, until it isn’t.
6 / 10
Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.
Photos Courtesy of: Movpins