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i, Robot (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. Commentary by production designer, editor, visual effects supervisors, associate producer, Digital Domain animation supervisor and CG supervisors. Commentary by composer Marco Beltrami. The Making of I, Robot. Gag reel. Stills gallery; Trailers for Alien Vs Predator, 24 and Electra;
Disc Two: Day Out of Days: The I, Robot Production Diaries. Post production; Sentient Machines: Robotic Behaviour; About Science Fiction and Robots; The Filmmakers' Toolbox and Visual Effects; Extended and deleted scenes; Easter eggs.

THE winning charisma of Will Smith, coupled with the dark vision of director, Alex Proyas, make for a winning combination in I, Robot, an intelligent science fiction thriller that consistently manages to engage the brain, while also delivering everything you would expect from a blockbuster.

Inspired by the classic short story collection, by Isaac Asimov, the film is set in the year 2035, when robots are an everyday part of life, cooking our food, emptying our bins, and looking after our children, to name but a few things.

They are governed by the Three Laws of Robotics, which forbid them from harming people in any way.

But when a brilliant scientist (played by James Cromwell) at the company responsible for building the robots apparently commits suicide, Detective Del Spooner (Smith) begins to suspect foul play and his subsequent investigation leads to the unthinkable.

Spooner is a robot-sceptic, who continually questions the reliability of the Three Laws. But then he has his own, deeply personal reasons for not trusting them.

His suspicions are confirmed, however, when one such humanised robot, named Sonny, attacks him and then tries to escape during the course of his inquiry. For Sonny, it seems, has been programmed to ignore the Three Laws, and is one of a new range of robots that are due to be placed in every home in the next few days.

It is up to Spooner, with the help of Bridget Moynahan’s robot psychologist, to convince the authorities of his beliefs before mankind falls prey to the rise of the machines.

I, Robot may lack a certain originality, given that it feels comprised of several science fiction movies, but it compensates by offering a compelling lead performance from Smith, as well as a visually distinctive style that makes full use of Proyas’ much-heralded visionary prowess (he also directed The Crow and Dark City).

As such, the film works on many levels, providing viewers with an intelligent thriller, an intriguing ‘what if’ scenario, a Summer blockbuster and an emotional human drama to boot.

Smith is much more low-key than usual, displaying more of the pent-up frustration of his Enemy of the State persona than his Bad Boys bravado, and his interaction both with his fellow actors, and the machines, provide several of the movie’s highlights, as opposed to the action.

When Spooner begins to rely on Sonny for help in solving the investigation, the bond that is formed between them becomes surprisingly touching, recalling other man-versus-machine relationships in movies such as Blade Runner and Minority Report.

And Sonny, himself, is a mind-boggling creation, a CGI-effect (voiced by Alan Tudyk) that has to rate on a par with Gollum for technical brilliance - so much so that audiences will believe he/it is real.

Indeed, the only time that I, Robot is really found wanting is during some of the more extravagant set pieces, which occasionally feel too computer-generated and threaten to reduce the actors to also-rans, or robots themselves.

But even then, Proyas manages to reign things in, refusing to lose sight of the central conceit and staying true to the core values that he spent the first third of the movie so meticulously constructing.

All of which makes I, Robot the surprise package of the Summer so far; a film that surpasses its potential, to deliver an unexpectedly intelligent joyride, as well as a worthy entry into the sci-fi genre.

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