I, Robot

Jay Severin thinks Bush will win the debates just because expectations for him are so low that all he needs to do is show up and speak English for people to think he did well. On the other hand, Kerry needs to pull off a miracle to win this election, so the bar is so high that an excellent yet non-supernatural performance from him will seem like a disappointment.

I, Robot was kind of like that. I’d heard only bad things about it, but Dr. Deb insisted on seeing the robo-action on the big screen. I walked into the matinee expecting Plan 9 from Outer Space and I got a movie that, while almost entirely unrelated to the source material, was still moderately entertaining.

It goes like this: Detective Spooner (Will Smith) of the Chicago Police Department is the only person on Earth who doesn’t like robots. You’d think there would be more of a Luddite movement going on if robots are taking people’s jobs away, but no, it’s just him. Later in the movie we find out why he has this grudge; for an angsty, misunderstood cop, he’s a funny and well-developed character.

One of Det. Spooner’s character quirks is his passion for relics from the year (you guessed it) 2004. While appropriately reactionary, this personality trait led to confusion in the opening scene, where Det. Spooner is in his 2004-style apartment with its turn-of-the-century furniture, wearing his turn-of-the-century clothing, and waking up to the buzz of a turn-of-the-century alarm clock. I’d challenge the reader to decorate her apartment completely and flawlessly in the style of 30 years ago, on a policeman’s salary.

Once he goes outside we see the robots and the self-steering cars, but when he visits other people’s homes (the victim’s, the love interest’s) they don’t have appreciably more tech than Our Luddite Hero. The overall feel is that of 2004 with robots and fast cars.

That’s a minor point beside the tired plot of a conspiracy that only Our Hero knows about, cares about, and is willing to stop. The paranoia is straight out of Minority Report. Some actual Asimov content about the three laws relieves the monotony, and the Scientist Babe has some nice scenes with Our Robot. The sequence of events at the end, however, didn’t make much sense plot-wise, nor did I buy the solution to the murder mystery.

The big offense against Asimov is the Luddism, but it plays well in Poughkeepsie. Imagine the challenge of getting the audience behind Asimov’s pro-robot views. I, Robot was what it had to be, under the laws of Hollywood. Rent, do not buy.

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