There are three laws that robots are programmed with:
1 - They cannot by action, or omission of action, allow a human being to come to harm.
2 - They must always do what humans tell them to do except where the order conflicts with the first law.
3 - They must protect themselves except where that self-interest conflicts with the first two laws.
Hollywood have taken the title and the three laws from the writing of Isaac Asimov and created a surprisingly intelligent sci-fi auctioneer. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to see this one, because I was, I suspect like many people, a bit leery of Hollywood’s proclivity for taking a decent idea, especially from a book, and them dumbing it down. However, the filmmakers in interview have been quite honest in their focus on creating their own story from Asimov’s basic premises, but not necessarily his situations. The result is a fast-moving film with some excellent special effects and a strong central performance from Will Smith, who is proving himself as a solid action hero.
The story follows a robo-phobic cop, Del Spooner, as he begins to pick apart a complex case of apparent suicide of an old friend at the biggest robotics manufacturer in the world. It is the future, and, yes, indeed, we will be riding about in electric, auto-piloted vehicles in a wide, sun-kissed concrete city-scape. There is a remarkable lack of trees and green, living things in this film’s version of the future, but the air appears clean and the streets are swept tidy. This might be because robots mingle in large numbers with the human crowds, running errands, working for their owners and generally getting on with the boring day-to-day work. When his friend falls from his laboratory window, Spooner begins to investigate and discovers a robot with an unusually human ability to think for itself and make decisions. However, the company wishes to cover up any ideas about ‘rogue robots’ and the slimy CEO whisks away the robot for decommissioning, and the case is shut down. Spooner is not content, however, and allied to a robotics doctor he follows his friend’s ‘breadcrumb trail’; to a surprising conclusion. Even for an action film, I didn’t see that coming.
Even being predominantly an action film, complete with the usual witty one-lines for the hero (which he does deliver with some panache), this is also a story about being human, and what it is to be human. The developmental journey of Sonny the robot is comparable to that of Dr Calvin and Spooner’s own grudging admission of robot ‘humanity’. Replete with lingering shots over Smith’s well-developed torso (reasons for which become apparent later), two shower scenes for the main characters to get nice and wet, and the obligatory traumatic events, ‘I, Robot’ is also refreshingly free of an obvious romantic subplot, and is free to present raw action and some very good CGI . An intelligent action film worth a viewing.
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