Published on June 20th, 2008 | by simeon0
Tales of a dark and foreboding future where technology has run amuck have been cautioning viewers ever since Orwell made the phrase “Big Brother” a household expression. Other films such as ?”, “Westworld”, “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator” often show a dark and dangerous future where dependence upon technology created to serve mankind has lead to its eventual downfall.
In the film “I Robot” Director Alex Proyas who’s past work includes “The Crow” and “Dark City” tells the tale of a near future where robots have become commonplace and are entrusted to do all manner of tasks ranging from package delivery to waiting table and caring for households. The robots are assured to be safe as they are governed by a set of behavioral restrictors that require them to obey all human commands save for those to harm another human, as robots are not allowed to harm or by inaction allow to be harmed any human.
The film stars Will Smith as Del Spooner, a Chicago Homicide detective who does not trust robots and is highly suspicious of them. The fact that in 2035 there has yet to be one documented case worldwide of a robot ever being involved in a crime is of little concern to Del as he sees the potential for danger in technology that is so widely spread.
Del is in many ways a technophobe as aside from his modern car, he has a retro lifestyle including an old fashioned alarm clock, vintage 2004 shoes, and a fondness for music from the 1970’s. An incident in Del’s past has kept him off the force for a while and has only furthered his distaste for robotics and their growing place in society.
No sooner is Del back at work than an apparent suicide at U.S. Robotics by a friend sets the film into motion. What to all seems to be an open and shut case of suicide only causes Del to become more suspicious. Del soon discovers a new model robot locked in the office of the victim, who flees from crime scene and refuses to obey the orders to halt given to him.
The fact that the robot ignores command given by a human thus violating his central laws of programming is put off as a simple malfunction by Billionaire Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), who does not want Del’s suspicions to disrupt his business plans on the eve of the largest rollout of new robots in history. It is explained that the new NX-5 model is about to be released to the public and soon there will be one robot for every 5 humans in the world and with so much invested in this, Robertson places a gag order on Del and the entire police force to forget about the renegade robot and not say a word to anyone.
Naturally Del does not follow this command and he suspects that there is a larger and much more serious threat posed to the public even though everyone around his says that he is paranoid and desperate to find or create any evidence to support his theory that robots are not as safe as everyone believes they are.
What follows is an action packed game of cat and mouse as Del and a U.S. Robotics scientist named Susan (Bridget Moynahan), start to uncover a deeper mystery, once in which the very world they have taken for granted is about to change.
The film is a visual marvel that shows you a fairly realistic view of the future as aside from the robots and futuristic highways, the world of 2035 does not look that much different than today.
Proyas knows that Smith is his star and he does a great job allowing him to carry the picture without allowing the visual effects to dominate the film, though they are spectacular. The futuristic highways and a great chase sequence were highlights of the film and had a surprising amount of tension and drama mixed into what was a solid action sequence.
Smith plays Spooner, as a man with demons yet never ceases to become a sensitive character despite his hard edge. He is a man that is determined to follow his instincts and do what is best for the people he is sworn to protect.
The film does only play lip service to the series of novels by Asimov, but it does tell a very good cautionary tale of human’s interaction and dependence upon technology without becoming preachy or losing site of the message that society must ensure to have a balance between humanity and technology in order to thrive.
If I had to find fault, it would be that many of the supporting roles were fairly bland, as Moynahan was not given much to do aside from play a Damsel in distress and the always solid James Cromwell and Bruce Greenwood were not used nearly enough. That being said “I Robot” delivers everything you want in a summer film and more.
4 stars out of 5