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Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Casual Critic — I, Robot

I, Robot is not your typical Will Smith summer blockbuster film, which may or may not be a bad thing. With a decent plot that had at least a solid twist at the end, the film (based on a collection of science-fiction short stories by Isaac Asimov) over-reached just a touch as a cautionary tale about our ever-growing reliance on technology.

Set barely in the future, I, Robot shows a world where robots are just starting to be fully integrated into every day life. In fact, the manufacturer is on the verge of putting a robot in every home. Mostly filling service roles, robots are embedded with a "perfect sphere" of protection intended to always keep them in human control. Detective Spooner (Smith) is skeptical of the intrusion of robots into every day life, and, while investigating the apparent suicide of the inventor of the modern robot who also happened to save Spooner's life years ago, his skepticism finds fertile ground.

I know, the overall plot sounds pretty typical—the hero is the one guy that catches on to a potentially massive problem. And, at times, the over-used formula hurts the movie. Yet, there were times I was intrigued by the questions being raised about artificial intelligence, which probably could have been pushed further. Also, not only is the ending "not the guy you expect," it doesn't come out of nowhere. It's not like one of those mysteries where you suddenly get a bunch of information at the end which explains a twist Nostradamus couldn't have otherwise foreseen.

My knowledge of acting wouldn't fill a thimble, and I basically like Will Smith . . . sorry for the obvious but . . . but he just didn't seem to fit in this role. His usual humor didn't come through even in the few opportunities offered, and there seemed to be several missed opportunities to develop his character. Most of this isn't his fault, but I was left wondering why (besides sales) such a big name was cast in a role that wasn't going to be developed.

I feel compelled to say something about the special effects and DVD extras. The effects were done well, but certainly nothing that made me take notice. That may actually be a compliment, because the robots no doubt took plenty of high-tech work to put on screen and they just seemed to blend in to the movie. I think I saw the most interesting DVD extra on one of those "behind the scenes" shows on cable, but nothing you'll really need to see.

Overall, this one is just entertaining — not great, but not leaving you wondering what else you could've done for a couple hours.

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