Monday, November 18, 2013

I, Robot (2004)

I, RobotThis is a pretty good movie, and I was excited to see it in 3D as I have been amazed by some other 3D blurays (Thor, Captain America, Avatar).

Despite the fact that this wasn't "made for 3D", I was hopeful that the 3D reworking would yield some pretty cool results. Unfortunately, I didn't really see much 3D that enhanced the film or made it really worth it to buy a new bluray since I had the dvd (and it isn't a "gotta have" film for me I was interested in it for the 3D feature.

If you don't have the film yet, it is a good addition to your collection. If you love this movie and have the dvd, then sure buy it, but if you just like the film and have the dvd, and are looking to expand your 3D film collection for some cool 3D films, you might wanna spend your money on other 3D discs.

My first reaction as this film began was "Wait! This isn't Asimov." The Asimov I grew up reading was a weaver of ideas, more mind candy than adventure story. But here I found myself in Will Smith's bedroom, and then suddenly catapulted into a wild chase after a purse grabbing robot. A far cry from the delicacy used by Asimov. It took a while for the shock to wear off but eventually the conflict between Smith's gritty performance as Del Spooner and his original inspiration in the reminiscences of Dr. Susan Calvin (played by Bridget Moynahan) wears off and the view settles into a film that is inspired by Asimov, but does not imitate him.

The sooner that happens, the better, because this is an exceptional film in its own right, even if it does proceed with the speed of a video game. Smith creates a wisecracking character with a deep mistrust of robots. He is called in to to investigate what appears to be an impossible killing robots can't kill humans, it's the first law of robotics. But Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) lies dead and the only suspect is 'Sonny' a Series 5 robot with some surprising circuitry (played by Alan Tudyk).

The death is declared a suicide, but Spooner refuses to give in. suddenly the automated world turns on the detective, whose unlikely ally is Dr. Calvin, a robopsychologist responsible for the psyches of masses of robots about to be distributed around the planet. One hair-raising escape after another propels the story along until viewers find themselves at a surprisingly reflective conclusion. Not exactly classical Asimov, but a great story nonetheless.

Will does a good job as Spooner, but he is upstaged by Moynihan's performance. And both are blown away by Tudyk and the animators performance as Sonny. As you watch Sonny develop from being slightly more simpatico than the scenery into a full-blown personality there are countless moments of surprise. Moynihan and Smith do their best, but from the moment Sonny turns to Spooner and says "Thank you... you said someone not something." The film belongs to the robots.

Excellent animation and CGI create a world that is a retro version of the future perhaps exactly what Asimov imagined rather than what we would now. The result is a compelling mix of the outré and the mundane that sticks in the mind just as Sonny's wink does.

This is not just an action film. Threaded through it are the same questions that Asimov raised about the nature of self and intelligence. Robots may never be human, but there are far more than furniture. And if their thought processes are alien, they are more than the sum of their programming. The result is one of the more carefully thought out science fiction films in recent times.

Buy I, Robot (2004) Now

I watched this one with my family over the weekend and, quite frankly, had a ball. Yeah, to some extent it's a movie with a message, but mainly it's just plain entertaining. If you try to read too much into it, you'll miss the opportunity for a good old-fashioned sci fi romp.

Fast forward to the year 2035. The monolithic company "U.S. Robotics" has put NS-4 domestic assistant robots into mass production, so much so that they are commonplace "members" of American society. Their artificial intelligence is designed to be as much like humans as possible, but is regulated by the "3 laws" programming that is hardwired into every robot. These laws are: 1. To protect human life above all; 2. To obey human commands except if it would violate law 1; and 3. To protect its own existence unless doing so would violate laws 1 or 2. The laws seem a foolproof way to ensure that the robots would never pose a threat to humanity. But all that changed when the man billed as the father of robotic technology and the 3 laws turns up dead in a very public, and very suspicous, manner, just as the new and improved NS-5 model is about to flood the market. The death is quickly written off by all concerned as a suicide. All except detective Dale Spooner, this is.

Being a good cop and a sharp detective, Spooner (played by Will Smith) in not content that the professor's death was a suicide, and begins investigating with the lead suspect, an NS-5 robot named "Sonny". Sonny's intelligence is so advanced, and his "emotions" so well simulated, that he appears to have something resembling a human soul. Spooner believes that Sonny killed the professor, and sets out to prove it. His (over)zealous approach to the task, coupled with his deep distrust of robots and their manufacturer, quickly lands him in hot water with some powerful people. Some difficult and destructive encounters with the metallic menaces leave him looking like an obsessive paranoiac, and ultimately result in his suspension from the police force.

Spooner continues his chase nonetheless, following a series of clues left by the dead professor, as step by step the mystery begins the unwind. All along the way are some great action sequences, plot twists and one-liners. However, except for Will Smith's character (which is the same as it has been in every film he has done since "Men in Black"), nothing about the story is predictable. When the final shoe drops, most viewers will be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected ending.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. It was a wild ride with lots of great sci fi treats and effects. The only downsides were the lack of character development on any signficant level -this is a purely plot-driven movie -and the fact that Will Smith essentially played himself, much as he always does. Still, it's worth seeing. I certainly don't regret the investment of two hours.

Read Best Reviews of I, Robot (2004) Here

Amazed to read some others found the 3D conversion suitable on I Robot.

I am using a top of the line blu ray 3D player and a new LG TV and I found I Robot to be a big disappointment and a very bad sign of where 3D (conversion) is headed -studios using the cheaper conversion option and movies having little depth and no pop-out whatsoever.

The funny thing about the I Robot conversion to me was the small on-screen menu that would appear when prompted was the ONLY popout in the whole movie and the sad thing about that is that it immediately and constantly shows you and reminds you of how the movie COULD have been.

I do think the 3D version of I Robot is better than just the bluray experience BUT when you watch other 3D movies like Titanic and Avatar you'll see a day and night difference. At least I sure did.

To all studios: I will be re-thinking future decisions on 3D purchases if this is what you'll be offering us. What I see in I Robot is not worth the $30 pricetag at all. It's an amazing and entertaining technology but you are going to miss your opportunity if this is what you'll be offering us.

Want I, Robot (2004) Discount?

Although I read Asimov when I was young, I didn't recall enough of it to spoil the movie for me. In fact, I read elsewhere that the movie only loosely follows pieces of Asimov's famous short story collection.

That being said, I loved the movie it was highly entertaining, and a little philosophical, but not over-the-top philosophical like AI was (and nowhere near as lengthy). Will Smith does his usual fine job on screen, so you won't be disappointed with the acting. Don't listen to the critics who warned you away from seeing this movie they were wrong again, as usual.

It didn't occur to me when I read Asimov years ago, but I finally "got" the significance of Dr. Calvin's name... John Calvin was a theologian of the reformation who argued that humans are pre-destined by God, and therefore do not have free will. Asimov's Dr. Calvin believes that the three laws of robotics make it impossible for a robot to have their own free will, and in a sense pre-destines their fate with humanity. Oh well, enough philosophy for a simple movie review. You'll have to see the movie if you want to know more.

The DVD also comes w/ some nice featurettes on the making of the movie, cast & director interviews, the writings of Asimov on robots, and various other of the usual things the studio throws in whenever they have some space left over on the disc.

My final recommendation is: five stars for the movie, and four stars for the supplemental material and packaging. This will make a great Christmas present for that sci-fi fan in your family.

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