I, Robot
Directed by Alex Proyas
Written by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, suggested by Isaac Asimov's novel
Starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan


I, Robot

"I, Robot" is the kind of summer blockbuster that gives summer blockbusters a bad name. While it has a few good moments - a robot has the choice of saving Will Smith or a drowning child and saves Smith because he has a 43 percent chance of surviving while the girl has only an 11 percent chance - most of the rest of the film has that stale look of recycled action tropes that undercut any attempt at originality.

Smith is Chicago police detective Del Spooner in the year 2035, when U.S. Robotics has provided human-style robots to serve us all with anything we need. But there seems to be something wrong with the new model; they're not quite as devoted as they should be. Spooner is convinced that they're being programmed differently and mean us harm, in spite of the famous Three Laws that supposedly govern robot behavior, namely that they must protect humans and never do them harm, which is a command that comes from one of Isaac Asimov's sci-fi stories from the mid-20th century.

In the course of the film Smith is pummeled, run down, has his badge taken away for being paranoid, confronts the oily head of USRobotics (Bruce Greenwood), works with the token white woman (Bridget Moynahan as a robot psychiatrist (really), consults the hologram of his mentor Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), who apparently committed the suicide that triggers the plot, and in other words fulfills every requirement of the traditional summer blockbuster.

The computer-generated robots are very well animated, and the one we get to know best, called Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk) is brilliantly expressive without violating our expectations of robotics. But the tedious plot keeps intruding without a shred of originality or emotional resonance, and so the hope we might have had for the film is quickly gone. Smith, who has wit and smarts to burn as a comic actor, is kept too busy running, fighting and driving his retro scooter through the dark streets of the city, and never gets the chance to show his chops. Maybe "I, Robot 2," if it ever gets made, will bring back Tommy Lee Jones to work with him. At least then we'll get a worthwhile script.