Film I-Robot is an extraordinarily kinetic film. During many of the action sequences the camera weaves and bends around the scenes to the degree that it necessarily disorientates the viewer but without, and this is its strength, diluting the clarity of the narrative. It's an expensive looking film, a well realised coherent futuristic vision. A lesser film would have made the robots a feature from the off -- here they're just another part of the city, weaving through the sidewalks accompanying and serving their human masters. On the surface this is what can by classed as a typical summer Hollywood action film; there are car chases, fight scenes and a race against time.

It is also a perfect example of what director Martin Scorsese describes as 'smuggling' -- wrapping a much deeper message in the trappings of something else. Like Minority Report before it, this is a film which entertains while saying something about ourselves, themes piling up on top of one another. There is the increasing reliance on technology; there is the naivity many of us have about the honesty of big business and it's ongoing quest to convince us that it only wants to help; there is predjudice against others and our reactions to our own predjudices; there is the expectation that things will always be better in the future.

It is a wierdly literate script. It was a brave move to present the essence of Asimov's work rather than produce a straight adaptation. We've seen that before -- it's appeared on television a couple of time (with Leonard Nimoy). A good comparison is the work Robert Altman did with Raymond Carver's work in Short Cuts. Taking the stories and weaving bits and pieces of them in and around each other to create a new vision. In places it's own technobabble is undercut as is it's po-facedness. It's also impeccably structured, opening up the story and the possibilites of this world at a pace slow enough for the audience to catch up, but fast enough that we aren't bored. That it was written by Jeff (Final Fantasy) Vinter and Akiva (A Beautiful Mind) Goldsman is a shock -- but a welcome one.

It is no surprise to me that Smith's performance as Spooner is actually quiet excellent -- as is always the case when he is given good material to work with. For all the giant leaps and superhuman punch-ups, jokes and quipes, he manages to give a quite touching layered performance. Equally, Bridget Moynahan's work as Calvin shouldn't be underestimated. Within the running time she has to develop from being a walking computer into a woman with real feelings and she definitely pulls it off. But the real tour-de-force is Alan Tudyk's Sonny. Like Andy Serkis's Gollum, the actor played the role before being replaced by computer animation and like Gollum the process gives the illusion of a real character within the space. Sonny has weight the audience has few difficulties suspending their disbelief. The real success is if the audience forgets they are watching something animated. Well I did.

It is a shame that the film was released now because I don't feel like it's being enjoyed or applauded as much as it should. The viewer has become quite blaze about the action film genre of late as we've lucky enough to have been able to see a series of film which do mix action with ideas. The viewer wants more and now it's getting it, they forget what it was like in the bad old days of theatrical releases for Under Seige 2. In previous years this would be getting five star reviews and be appearing on top ten lists. Instead critics are giving it average reviews, three stars and making flip statements about Will Smith's acting ability. It's annoying and unfair, especially to Alex Proyas who has managed to take all the brilliance of his previous film Dark City and apply it to a Hollywood aesthetic.

It is a soon to be undervalued near-classic. Go see.


  1. Really? I blanked this film after reading the books decades ago and seeing the appalling trailer last month. I love Dark City and didn't know he is the director, so you've changed my mind.


  2. Good. I mean it's not exactly a forgotten classic -- the box office demonstrates that, it has a wider demographic draw than anyone is giving it credit for.