22 July 2004

Review: I, Robot (3/5)

Contrary to what was feared by /.ers everywhere, this is not Men In Black 3. Yes, Will Smith offers up his share of wisecracking, but it's all secondary to the movie as a whole. The real complaint about Will Smith movies is that they're more Will Smith than movie. Wherever the deficiency has been in those films (in the writers, directors, etc.), I, Robot is solid enough to hold its own.

But let's get the actual flaws out of the way first. The movie is set in Chicago in 2035. Dear Sci-fi writers et al., it costs nothing to type 2065 or 2135 and put us in a more plausible time-frame for sentient robots and concept cars from Audi. It's so minor, but so annoying. I understand the need for the viewer to feel that it's a close future, but Minority Report, IIRC, got away with it without specifying a year.

Second, and more seriously, the burgeoning humanity of the robots was not addressed as fully as it could have been. That's a vague complaint until you see the movie and see how effective the scenes were when their emotions were suggested. The pathos that I had hoped to see, but that was nearly absent, in A.I. was achieved more fully here. And it's the brief accomplishment of those scenes in I, Robot that unfortunately leaves the theme less-than-fully examined. Although you might interpret as a flaw the fact that the greatest humanity in the movie was in the CGI robots and not the human actors, it's a deft flaw to have.

The basic story is a murder mystery involving the suicide (apparent suicide, I can say without any threat of spoiler) of U. S. Robotic's resident genius. Will Smith is brought in as a clever request from the deceased to do some sleuthing, and all clues point to an unusually emotional robot. Or do they? Once the mystery is set up, the fun begins. All of the clues are there, but I'm a little slow so I missed out on a couple. It's less logical deduction than movie deduction ("he looks too suspicious, so it can't be him") that defines the puzzle. And as you're following the bread-crumbs, there are some fun effects to keep you occupied.

I, Robot tries to pack in a lot, and although it fails to balance everything completely, the fact that it stayed so entertaining is to its credit. I really wish I would've kept my 25-cent paperback from high school. It's out there somewhere.


-> Rotten Tomatoes

[ posted by sstrader on 22 July 2004 at 12:42:45 AM in Cinema ]