In Mexico, it will be called "Mi, Roboto."
In Germany, it will be called "Ich, Roboten."
In Israel, it will be called "Oy, Robot."
And in the US of A, it will be called...a blockbuster summer hit with
Will Smith! But, will it actually be any good?
The term "robot" (for those of you who don't know) comes from a Czech
term meaning "drudgery" -- how appropriate. In Czechoslovakia, it
will be called...well...the Masked Reviewer doesn't know what it will be
called there, but for those of you who are Czech, look for the posters
with Will Smith and a robot.
I, Robot is all about robots. It's based on the book by
Isaac Asimov, although to say that it's "loosely" based on that book
would be to do a disservice to the term "loosely". It's looser
than a high school cheerleader on Ecstasy on prom night. The title
is there, and the Three Laws of Robotics are there, but other than that,
this is a straight-up action movie.
For those of you who don't know, here are the three laws: 1) Let your
robot's battery drain completely before recharging, 2) Don't let your
robot swim for at LEAST a half hour after it eats, and 3) Don't set your
robot to "kill humanity" mode -- ever.
Will Smith plays an edgy, fast-talking cop who is entirely
unflappable. Wow. It's nice to see him branching out.
This is the kind of movie that Will Smith says he loves: it's got a lot
of action and a lot of cool creatures. It worked well for him in
Independence Day and Men in Black and Men in Black II.
It didn't work nearly as well in Wild Wild West, but robots are
much more interesting than Kenneth Brannaugh, aren't they?
Co-starring with Will Smith are a bazillion robots. But, there
are a few human actors, the only noteworthy one is Bridget Moynahan (who
you may remember from Coyote Ugly or The Sum of All Fears).
She is only noteworthy in her lack of noteworthiness, though.
She's beautiful, but doesn't add much to the story. And that's
pretty impressive, given that it seems like anything could add to
the story. Alan Tudyk (who you may remember from such films as
Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball or as a few of the voices from
Ice Age) provides the voice of the main robot.
In case you didn't know, the robots are nothing more than computer
animations. There are a lot of 'em. A whole lot of 'em.
They look okay, but for a blockbuster sci-fi action flick, many
theater-goers will be let down. They look about as convincing as
the droids in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which is
to say...they look like they're computer generated. These robots
do a lot of flipping and running up walls, like Spider-Man, but
they don't look as good as the effects in Spider-Man 2. The
robots also do a fair amount of slow-motion acrobatic fighting, but it
doesn't look quite as good as Matrix Reloaded. The faces of
the robots are kind of cool; you can see the gears moving beneath their
translucent "skin", but that's small potatoes...the effects are a let
The characters, as previously mentioned, aren't much of anything.
Everyone is a stereotype, and not particularly interesting
stereotypes, either. Troubled cop, evil business dude, hot
scientist chick...and robot searching for humanity.
The plot is mildly interesting, but the problem is that Asimov has
been a huge influence on so many sci-fi writers over the years that all
of his concepts have been ripped-off countless times. As a result,
this movie feels very tired. We've seen the struggles of
the robot in everything from "Star Trek" to Star Wars to
the abysmal A.I., not to mention 2001, Aliens,
Robocop, Bladerunner, and, oh, you name it.
Now for some other nitpicking. It takes place in 2035.
The art direction is completely uninspired. It looks like the same
future cities we've seen everywhere in sci-fi. They do a
lot of weird product placement (for example, Will Smith's future
hover-car is made by Audi). Why? The movie also feels
somewhat anti-technology, though it's kind of misplaced and the Masked
Reviewer doesn't remember Asimov's work being anti-technology.
There is an honest-to-goodness cat-scare,
by the way, so be warned!
The evil corporation in this film is called U.S. Robotics...which is
the name of a real company. They make (or, at least, used to make)
computer modems. Is that really a good marketing decision?
Especially if this movie bombs.
The pithy one liners are pith-poor in thith one. They aren't
even up to the level of Terminator 3. It's like the writer
figured whatever Will Smith said would be taken as a pithy one-liner and
get a big laugh, so the writer didn't even try. "I've got
to tie my shoes." "Whoa, is today laundry day?" "Hey,
you so gotta die!" These aren't actual lines, but...come to
think of it...they're all better. They should've hired the Masked
Reviewer to write pithy one-liners. "I got your off button right
here!" "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!" "Bite me!" The
Masked Reviewer's got a million of 'em.
Just so you know, you can tell the robots apart by the color of their
eyes. Also, when robots are in "evil mode", their chests glow red.
All in all, this is a by-the-book action movie with a lot more money
behind it than most perfectly average action movies. There's
nothing memorable or particularly good about it. It's only got one
or two laughs, and they aren't very big. None of the action is
actually exciting; it's hard to tell if it was in slow-motion, or
whether it was just so dull that it seemed to be going in slow
motion. No interesting issues, no great effects (in fact,
sub-par). Still, Will Smith is as good as he usually is; the sad
fact is that you can see how he's able to bring the same energy to
absolutely dull material. It's too bad.
If you love Will Smith, you may want to see this, although there's
really no reason for anyone not to wait for this to come out on DVD or
cable. Asimov fans will be let down. Robot fans won't find
anything new or different in here. It's really, totally,
completely average. It should be the baseline from which all robot
films are judged.
Expectation from the Title: That new movie about automated
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Robots, in general, seem very well-behaved.
The Pros: Will Smith brings his charm, but the charm is wasted
on poor material. The robots have good posture.
The Cons: The lacks creativity to a great degree. The
characters are boring, the story is predictable (and not terribly
compelling). The effects have all been done before, and have all
been done better elsewhere. No good lines, no good fights, no good
nothing. But, nothing is really bad...it's all very average.