One of the pioneer writers of Science Fiction, Issac Asimov, presents a dystopian society in the Age of Robotics, an eon for machines, with life ceasing to become one solitary adventure into the pangs of uncertainty rather a merry marriage between humans and machines in this journey from here to nowhere—in his much celebrated book, I, Robot. Sci-Fi/Fantasy expert, of sorts, Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) adapts the classic book (suggested by, as in the ending credits) taking us to 2035—a land of dreams where convenience meets efficiency and intelligence matches productivity.
The distinguishing factors between the book and the movie are plenty: the book, by Asimov, is a series of episodic short stories connected to one another—mostly revealing the trials tribulations of scientists and robots along their evolution from mere mechanical devices to state-of-the-art AI-induced semi-human creatures. The movie borrows several plot points, characters, and story elements from various episodes of the book. Taking inspirations from the robot with reason in Reason, the psychological strains of a robot in Catch that Rabbit; the hide-n-seek from Little Lost Robot, and ultimately the premise of the movie, the inevitable face-off between humans and machines from The Evitable Conflict, I, Robot—the movie—comes to life.
With that, Detective Spooner (Will Smith) finds himself investigating the mysterious suicidal case of a genius Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). During the investigative procedures, Spooner stumbles upon clues, intelligently and only humanly understood, left over by Dr. Lanning. Ace AI Robo-Psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) injects herself in this peculiar predicament with a technophobe of a cop and an enigmatic Robot-cum-Feeler, Sonny (Alan Tudyk) heralding an outbreak into hazy territories for Dr. Calvin who had only ever known the world of the Three Laws of Robotics.
The film answers various questions to robotic creativity, intelligence, evolution, revolution, the human quality of conscience, and the crux of the story: the liberty of freewill. Consequently, I, Robot has quite some factors working in its favor. Being a heavy dose of CGI-induced feat and containing some thrilling special effects for 2004 standards, I, Robot is more than a visual spectacle, with its fine storytelling, treatment, and execution—a sort of blending of the philosophy of robots and the grandeur of cinema. Comprising of a stark theme, the flow is smooth with emotional hooks of freewill and humanity scattered across moral leitmotifs of robotic evolution and the power of choice. Much of the philosophy of the movie bores out from the original book by Asimov, but the screenwriters (Jeff Vintar and Alex Goldsman) and the director pull off an able task in executing a grand-looking movie featuring run-of-the-mill action for Hollywood standards, yet a touching story of a dystopian society. The prize of the play, of course, lies in the vision of the Special Effects Team for creating a model world, and actualizing the visions of the filmamker and the great Asimov in this futuristic version of the world and the technological capital called United State Robotics (USR), USRMM Inc. in the book. Strange similarities to USSR?
In terms of storytelling, Proyas deviates from the configurations of Issac Asimov and morphs the light-hearted romance between machines and humans into an effective Hollywood Summer Blockbuster flick featuring the prodigal son of Hollywood Blockbusters, Will Smith. Vintar and Goldsman, together, develop an archetypical smash-mouth story filled with whacky actions, predictable at times, but with a fine emotional share aiding viewers to appreciate it—not just as a cinematic treat, but an enjoyable movie. The primary difference (between the book and the movie) would be the outlook on the subject of robots; whilst, Asimov has a positive, pro-robotic viewpoint in the book and encourages humans to be open-minded critiquing various such apprehensions and fear on the subject, the movie tackles the topic in a traditional Hollywood styled, Man vs. Machine perspective—only to give it a philosophical bent; thereby, separating it from similar movies of the past. In many ways, the movie is far from being original; thus, isn’t groundbreaking by any means. That doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining though…
As such, the movie amalgamates a fairly tried concept with some of the finest VFX of the time, whilst adding a dash of insurgency in the presentation and genre otherwise completely bereft of soul and prone to mishandling; that’s not the case with I, Robot. Well-spaced peaks, engaging sequences, structured format, and constant emotional punches make the viewers root for the characters in the climax and ingest the essence of the story amidst some lethal doses of titanium graphics. I, Robot stands firm as a prototype Hollywood flick, but it’s also an indication that not every clichéd Hollywood Blockbuster has to be, “all style, no substance.” I, Robot is stylish when it wants, and thanks to the striking philosophy from the great Issac Asimov, the presence of quantifiable substances in such a movie makes it a refreshing ride—a very entertaining film. Not every Sci-Fi Action movie warrants a watch, but I, Robot simply does for its cool visuals, engaging story, and the merrymaking of science and art, of Nature and Nurture!