Robot Crime Watch
Having never read the works of Isaac Asimov's of which 2004's big blockbuster movie "I Robot" gains much of its ideas from I can't say how much of the movie comes from Asimov but I can say it is a glorious action thriller which ticks most of the boxes. Most significantly it stars Will Smith as wise cracking cop Del Spooner in the year 2035 where his anti technology views cause him to be suspicious of the ever growing popularity of helper robots. But even without Will Smith's entertaining performance the concepts such as the Audi concept car, the stunning visuals and most importantly the thrilling storyline all work to make "I Robot" an enjoyable fast paced thriller with just the right amount of action.
In the year 2035 robots have become a way of life with 1 in 5 households owning a robot assistant. When U.S. Robotics scientist and creator of the 3 laws, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell - Space Cowboys) is found dead Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith - Bad Boys II) is called in to investigate his apparent suicide. Assisted by robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan - The Recruit), Spooner discovers that Lanning may have been murdered and the prime suspect is a Robot called Sonny, the implications of which would be devastating for U.S. Robotics and their plans for a major role out of new and improved robots. But things get complex when Spooner's own life is threatened as he gets deeper into the case.
The thing about "I Robot" is that beneath all the impressive visual gloss it is actually quite a formulaic action thriller. The basis of the storyline is simple as in a cop investigating a suicide/murder is nothing special and the various action sequences are no more than you would expect. But because "I Robot" is a sci-fi movie which focuses on the idea that a robot could possibly be a murderer makes it a little more interesting and at times clever. It's the sort of movie which taps in to people's thoughts and fears as well as themes about advancements in technology which have been ruminating for years.
It's the technology aspects which actually makes "I Robot" a much more interesting movie and although at times is completely far fetched is still remarkably enjoyable. It introduces Asimov's three laws concept and works with it, questioning its effectiveness and whether or not the laws are in fact as tight as everyone believes. It works well making "I Robot" techie enough not to feel weak but not too techie that it alienates the audience.
Although pretty unoriginal the fact that Del Spooner is a bit of a Luddite and revels in his retro style rather than engaging modern technology makes for a strong character. I say it's unoriginal and you only need to go back to Sylvester Stallone in "Demolition Man" to see a similar theme being explored. But it doesn't matter as watching Spooner anti technology hero shun technology is entertaining. Simple things like wearing Converse trainers or wanting to manually drive his car, an impressive Audi concept car, rather than using the auto drive option makes his character stronger. It's the fact that it's easy to appreciate Spooner's point of view that you can empathise with him and not just think of him as a relic holding on to the past.
Add to this is that "I Robot" is visually stunning and it's pretty obvious that a lot of work has gone into making "I Robot" futuristic but as it's only a few decades in the future still in touch with the now. Whilst the head office and clothing of the scientists have that futuristic sterilised look about them you have the contrast of the inner cities which still have apartment blocks which look no different to know. Plus of course you have the futuristic vehicles, which in this case is the previously mentioned Audi concept car. The whole thing works because it makes it feel realistic in how much development there has been in the years between now and 2035 when the movie is set.
Performance wise well Will Smith is on fine form delivering action, humour as well as a little drama to make his character Del Spooner entertaining. It's exactly the sort of character which Will Smith delivers perfectly mean, moody, a little bit charismatic and full of wise cracks. But what really works is his anti technology stance, especially that on the robot assistants. It really works well adding mystery to the actual storyline as to why he is so anti technology, but also why he has been chosen to investigate a robot crime.
As for the supporting cast well it's a little disappointing because James Cromwell is relegated to a minimal role as the scientist, Dr. Alfred Lanning, behind the creation of the robots and Bridget Moynahan is adequate but seriously underused as the scientist who ends up becoming Spooner's sidekick. This gives "I Robot" a feel of being a Will Smith movie and a little too one sided unless you include Sonny the CGI robot.
What this all boils down to is that "I Robot" is a very good action movie, with a simplistic but engaging storyline that thanks to being futuristic and technology based poses some interesting questions. With many stunning action sequences which mix CGI with real footage and Will Smiths anti technology wise cracking detective who is the main focus of the movie it certainly has that big budget, big action feel about it.