Friday, January 25, 2019

"I, Robot" (2004)

When I say that Will Smith is the best part of this movie, I don't mean that the rest of the movie is bad.  It's just that Smith is so doggone watchable and likable, he can't help being the best thing on the screen.  But I also dig this movie because it is smart and twisty, and especially because it has a reveal at the beginning of the third act that shifts everything in the best possible way.

It's the year 2035.  Robots are everywhere, serving humans.  Homicide detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) hates robots.  Fears robots.  Suspects robots of being up to no good basically all the time.  He won't let his grandmother (Adrian L. Ricard) get one to help her around the house.  He goes out of his way to be mean and ornery to robots, calling them slurs like "canner."  He gets in trouble with his boss for antagonizing and falsely suspecting robots of crimes.  But he refuses to trust robots, no matter how safe they're supposed to be.

This movie is probably the main reason that, when my husband wanted to get a robot vacuum, I insisted we get the least-sentient robot vacuum there is.  It can't turn on by itself, it can't recharge by itself, and it can't detect messes by itself.  I don't need any spooky sentient robots in my house, thanks.


Because, of course, Spooner is going to turn out to be right.  The robots are going to be too powerful, too pervasive.  There's going to be big trouble between robots and humans.


It all starts when Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) falls to his death inside the headquarters of U.S. Robotics.  His successor, Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), insists it must have been suicide.  He pushes to have the police investigation wrapped up quickly.  But Detective Spooner is suspicious.  He insists on poking around the facility, so Robertson assigns robot-psychology expert Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) to show him around.


Together, they find a robot hiding in Dr. Lanning's office.  A robot that looks like all the rest of the latest generation of robots, called NS5s.  But this robot is different.  It has a name, it has dreams, and it's voiced by Alan Tudyk, who a decade later would also voice another of my favorite robots, K-2SO from Rogue One (2016).


This robot, dubbed Sonny by Dr. Lanning, bothers Detective Spooner deeply.  It was hiding at the scene, it then jumped out a window to elude capture when discovered, and it behaves emotionally.  So you'd think that the robot-hating detective would be thrilled when everyone agrees with Robertson that the robot must have killed Dr. Lanning and thus must be destroyed.


Except Spooner is convinced that there's something even more sinister than killer robots at work here.  He suspects Robertson of having used Sonny to kill Dr. Lanning so Robertson can take over US Robotics.  Spooner himself endures multiple robot attacks during the course of his investigation, but because the rest of the homicide bureau see him as paranoid about robots, his attacks are dismissed as simply ordinary events blown out of proportion by Spooner himself.


And then.  And then it gets REALLY GOOD because you finally find out the reason that Spooner hates robots.  And I refuse to spoil this part because it's the other main thing (besides Will Smith's natural charm) that makes me love this film.  I'll only say that it's a bit of a paradigm shift, with things you kind of assumed about Spooner twisting in a new direction that clarifies him for the viewers.


The villain turns out to be not who anyone suspected, and of course, Spooner and Calvin save the day, with some help from a new friend.

I, Robot is very, very loosely inspired by the Isaac Asimov short story collection of the same name.  It does involve robots, the Three Laws of robotics, and a character name or two.  That's about it.  I reviewed the book a couple years ago if you're interested in the source material.




Is this movie family friendly?  Not precisely.  It has a LOT of bad language.  A LOT, and of various flavors.  (If you watch it with the closed-captioning on, you'll find out it even has the F word once, but I totally never heard it when watching without captions).  It has some far-away, side-view nudity of Will Smith in the shower.  You also see Susan Calvin in the shower, but it's all steamed up, so you only see her bare shoulders.  There's nothing sexual in either of those scenes, and aside from a few mild bits of innuendo in dialog, there's no sexual content at all -- no kissing, no romance between Spooner and Calvin, nothing like that.  There's a lot of robot vs. human violence.  Dr. Lanning's dead body is shown with blood all around the head.  One character has memories of a child drowning, which could be disturbing.  If you watch this with something like ClearPlay to filter out the language, it could be pretty family friendly, though.


This has been my entry into the Robots in Film blogathon that Quiggy and I are hosting this weekend!  Check out the main posts on my blog or on Quiggy's to get links to all the other amazing robot-related reviews.

20 comments:

  1. Wow! You really pulled me into this movie. Now I have got to see it!

    I think I would be distrustful of robots. The remote won't even do what I want when I press the buttons!

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    1. Caftan Woman, this is a really fun movie! I hope you get a chance to see it. I grinn through basically the whole thing, except one part that makes me tear up.

      Yeah, my DVD player refuses to play nice for the first few minutes when I've turned it on, so I definitely don't want anything more sentient than it going wrong in my house.

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  2. This one has never really been on my radar but it sure sounds like a fun watch on a cold stuck at home kind of day!

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    1. Bob, that is exactly the sort of watch this is! Fun, enjoyable, memorable... not great art, but not trying to be.

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  3. After reading your review I really have to see this now. I like Will Smith and this sounds like a good Saturday afternoon movie.

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    1. Margot, it's a great one for an afternoon with popcorn and a comfy spot on the couch, that's for sure!

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    1. :-D That's cool, Skye! It's really great for rewatching.

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  5. I like this movie, too, Hamlette, it is very well done, and Smith is so winning...he is the perfect leading man in just about anything, actually. Need to see this again.

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    1. Chris, glad you like this one too! You're right, Smith is a great leading man in any genre. I've seen too few of his films, but the half-dozen or so I have seen, he's been amazing in.

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  6. I've got to watch this again. That part about saving the day doesn't ring true with my recollection, so maybe I watched it when I was drunk... which is a distinct possibility since it came out on video during a time when I was still drinking. Good review, though. And I will watch it again soon.

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    1. Quiggy, definitely give it another watch! The day absolutely gets saved :-)

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  7. Will Smith looks so young . . . wow . . .

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    1. Jessica, lol! I watched him in Independence Day and the first MIB movie sooooo often as a kid that he looks all grown up here to me!

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  8. Hamlette, thanks for your look at this action-packed, intriguing movie. Not only does it have Will smith, but it also features two of my favorites, Bruce Greenwood and James Cromwell.

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    1. John V, glad you liked it! James Cromwell is always interesting to watch, isn't he?

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  9. You think I'd have seen this, you really would. But nope. I love Bruce Greenwood, too, so I'd watch this just for him. Alan Tudyk and his many voices is always a bonus! I'll have to rent this sometime.

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    1. DKoren, I really am surprised that you haven't seen this. I'd merrily watch it with you if you ever so desire! It's great fun.

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  10. I read the book and liked its cleverness a lot. By your review, I see a many liberties were taken in relation to the book, but I'm still curious to see the film - as you side, Will Smith is too likeable. And I agree that, the less sentient a robot is, the better.
    Thanks for the kind comment! Kisses!

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    1. Le, oops! I missed your comment until just now. Anyway, yeah, this is more inspired by the idea of the Three Laws than anything -- it's not retelling any of the stories in the collection of Asimov stories by the same name.

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