It’s good to know that, in the future, we can still thaw out a cryogenically-preserved Will Smith to save the world every July.
In a not-so-distant future Chicago, robots have replaced humans in doing the tasks nobody wants to (with apologies to Dennis DeYoung). USR is the company automating the world, and its new NS-5 robot will number one for every five humans when it’s released to the public. On the eve of this achievement, the chief designer Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) is found dead of an apparent suicide. Only Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) seems to think otherwise, and as picks up what he believes to be a trail of clues, everything points to malfunctioning NS-5 robot that has affectionately named itself “Sonny” (Alan Tudyk).
Director Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) is well-known for his ability to craft a unique place where interesting things happen. I, Robot is no exception, believably blending now with tomorrow while still concealing the frightening within the friendly. Will Smith’s character is a self-made anachronism, the character we can all identify with as this fantastic tale unfolds. As summer blockbuster fare, it succeeds admirably, but science fiction purists will find plenty to pick apart.
Like the film itself, the story (suggested Isaac Asimov) is equally mass marketed and isn’t nearly as clever as it aspires to be. Marvel at the miracle of Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), who starts off looking like a Vulcan ice queen from Star Trek but (surprise!) she looks good freshly showered and even better with her long flowing hair down while she runs for her life. Be amazed at James Cromwell as “the dead guy,” because he isn’t “the bad guy” in this film. Okay, this IS nitpicking, and this isn’t a bad film; big ideas, amazing effects, and great editing all come together to tell an unlikely (and sometimes heavy-handed) story that’s fun to watch.
Forget that the Department of (future) Transportation doesn’t have traffic cameras in high-speed underground tunnel highways; neither do the cops of thirty years hence yet have personal video or audio recorders to back up their entries and one-man investigations. And completely disregard the fact that everyone in the world except our hero is just fine with the fact that robots are everywhere, completely trusted, and no bad guy has every reprogrammed one to do a foul deed (for a more realistic view, for rent “Artificial Intelligence” if you can find it). What you WILL get is Will Smith, kicker of robot butt and starring in a much better movie than either of his Men in Black outings.
(a recommended three out of four skulls)