> Volume 6 > Number 28


Alex Proyas

Will Smith
Bridget Moynahan
Alan Tudyk
Bruce Greenwood
Chi McBride
James Cromwell

Release: 16 Jul. 04

I, Robot


I, Robot is credits Isaac Asimov with the title “Suggested by,” an attempt to glaze over their artistic license that still gives the wrong impression of any connection between the two. In many ways, the only uniting factor is are the three laws of robots and the title. Otherwise, this is just repackaged Hollywood action fare posing for sci-fi literature’s acceptance. Like the haphazard spate of recent Philip K. Dick adaptations, there’s little of the intellectual stimulation brought over from the source to this overblown, two-hour special effect. It’s the type of film that is as inexplicable as the Forrest Gump saying “Stupid is as stupid does,” and exemplifies it at the same time.

I’m not wholly against tinkering with the source to the point that it no longer fully reflects the original, but I do want either similar themes or a good variation (both achieved by Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg when adapting Brian Aldliss’ story that would later become A.I.: Artificial Intelligence -- the exact story is different, but the meaning remains the same). I, Robot does neither because it’s more than happy to accept the fact that enough special effects and a marquee star will ensure profit (even Wild Wild West made money). The disinterest in Asimov, meanwhile, becomes something of an offense. While the outlandish PATRIOT Act-referencing dénouement has a giddy, mischievous nature, the rest of the film, including its standard but no less pitiful climax, lacks any punchy material to explain this film’s existence.

Even the much ballyhooed special effects are disappointing, as director Alex Proyas sets sequences with CGI robots jumping on CGI walls -- there’s nothing enthralling about watching noticeable artifice collide with artifice. Proyas should know much better than this. While his career has been spotty, he did make the ingenious Dark City six years ago, with its fluid, expressionist special effects (much of which was model work). But here the motivation is just cold hard cash, not entertainment, exhibitionist, nor literary achievement. The “Suggested by” should have been closer to: “Inspired by the fact that witless people will line up like drones to see a movie because we’ve convinced them of its event-like status, regardless of the contempt that we hold for their intellects, and our willingness to piddle away our rights to making a real adaptation of the Asimov anthology, by letting a film computer generated imagery take precedence over its computer generated screenplay.” I fear that even if that were in the ad campaigns, I, Robot will still be a hit. Prove me wrong

©2004, David Perry,, 9 July 2004