2004 - PG-13 - 115 Mins.
|Director: Alex Proyas|
|Producer: Will Smith, Topher Dow, John Davis|
|Written By: Jeff Vintar, Akiva Goldsmith, Isaac Asimov|
|Starring: Will Smith, Chi McBride, Shia Lebeouf, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, Alan Tudyk |
|Review by: Joe Rickey
A sporadically fun amalgam of science fiction, action, and comedy, ‘I, Robot’ is a mild success; the first decent film of the summer that has even a tinge of science fiction in it after the disappointments that were ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ and ‘The Stepford Wives.’ The film once again proves that when it comes to big budget summer spectacle, Will Smith is on a plateau of his own; continuing to appear in mostly respectable summer action extravaganzas. ‘I, Robot’ also marks Alex Proyas as a director to watch once again after fading into relative obscurity after ‘The Crow’ (‘Dark City’ doesn’t count because it bombed at the box office).
It's all about the shades.
Detective Del Spooner (Smith) has enough problems adjusting to life in Chicago during the year 2035 that he doesn’t need robots around. You see, something happened in his past that has made him wary of technology; more specifically, robots. Robots must follow a set of three rules that basically state that they cannot, under any circumstances, harm a human being. So when a well-known scientist who happened to be the inventor of said robots is found to have committed suicide by jumping out of a window, Spooner suspects otherwise. He suspects that a robot might have killed the man. As he hunts for the truth, a conspiracy unravels that could topple humankind as he knows it.
When ‘I, Robot’ works, it is mostly because of the charisma of star Will Smith, the solid acting by a few members of the supporting cast, and director Proyas’ steady hand when it comes to helming thrilling action sequences. First off, Will Smith inhibits the emotionally conflicted hubris of Del Spooner with both the necessary amount of sincerity and just enough humor to make people know that they are, in fact, watching a gifted comedian who happens to be an action star. He garners numerous chuckles from offhand remarks that might not have worked had another actor played the part. He is simultaneously believable as a man of daring-do; a man that can save those in need because he has both the strength and determination to do so. Frankly, had anyone but Will Smith played this part the film would have suffered greatly.
There are some fine supporting performances. As Spooner’s skeptical boss, Chi McBride, who dazzled earlier this summer in ‘The Terminal’, once again brings gravity and authority to his role. He is a skilled performer in such roles and I only hope he continues to get solid work in films. Heck, I’d like to see him get a starring role sometime in the future because he could sure handle it with aplomb.
Shia LaBeouf, as Spooner's friend, also gives a notable performance. He handles his mostly humor-centered lines with a self-deprecating style that is imminently likable.
‘I, Robot’ is mainly action-oriented and when it comes to such sequences Alex Proyas is successful. He brings a signature look and feel to the many high-speed chase scenes; one, in particular, a car chase in a freeway tunnel, is visually stunning and thrilling.
Unfortunately, not all is well in the universe of ‘I, Robot.’ When it comes to the plot twists and such, director Proyas is not nearly as adept at handling the material as he is scripting action sequences. The plot twists come across as half-hearted and altogether weak; with a particular twist near the end causing the film to end with a whimper instead of a bang.
Bruce Greenwood, an actor who was so good in such films as 'Thirteen Days', gives a one-note performance as the typical power-hungry villain. Faring even worse is Bridget Moynahan as an assistant scientist appointed to aid Spooner in his investigation. She gives such a monotone and bland performance that at times it is difficult for one to separate her from the similarly characteristic robots that leap across the screen at times through the use of good special effects work.
‘I, Robot’ ends up as a slightly above- average film; one that is blessed with a great lead performance but, at the same time, is cursed by half-hearted plotting.