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I, Robot

I Robot on DVD

Okay, so it’s an action adventure sci fi movie. That doesn’t mean Dr. Asimov needs to spin in his grave at the liberties taken with his short story collection from which the title of this Alex Proyas movie was taken.

In fact, this I, Robot is true to the spirit of Asimov’s robot stories and rather than trying to take those nearly unrelated stories and make a movie out of them they have instead taken that world and created a ripping yarn that blends Asimov with Philip K. Dick (as in “Minority Report”) Tron and many other science fiction classics. And though it’s a bit of a mishmash and not entirely unpredictable, it works and it’s a very enjoyable film.

A bulked up Will Smith stars as police officer Del Spooner. When a leading roboticist dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, only he is suspicious that the dirty deed may have been done by a droid. The only problem is, robots don’t kill people. Robots have to obey Asimov’s three laws of robotics (you may remember them from Bicentennial Man as well, and they’re spelled out a couple of times during I, Robot) and that means they are incapable of such an act.

Spooner gets no support in his theory, because a robot has never even committed a crime let alone a murder. But he pursues his theory doggedly, unwrapping a conspiracy that in the end threatens human society as these people know it.

There are plenty of nifty twists and turns in what’s basically a neat whodunit (or, possibly, whatdunit) with action scenes thrown in to keep the popcorn crowd interested. And that’s fine. Sci fi fans should love it and Asimov fans will be thrilled that – despite the lack of a truly "Asimovian" plot – the Master’s ideas have made it to the big screen and have been treated with respect.

Smith is very good in his role as a man swimming against the current of everything everyone around him knows about robots. The supporting cast are pretty much along for the ride, but they don’t get in the way. This movie is really Smith’s and Proyas’ and it’s a dynamite looking and feeling flick.

Proyas, who also made The Crow and Dark City, has crafted a world that’s believable (except that in the real world not everyone drives an Audi) and richly textured. The film is a feast for the eyes and ears, with stunning special effects, the script is intelligent (witty in places), though with a little more profanity than necessary. And it gives a remarkable insight into how our world may look in a couple of decades, when robots are generally available as more than rudimentary vacuum cleaners and paper towel dispensers. And the robots in I, Robot are extremely well thought out and rendered.

The DVD is first rate as well. Available separately, alas, in widescreen and Pan&Scan versions, we were fortunate to receive the widescreen version (16x9 TV compatible) for review. The video quality is superb, reference material stuff. Blacks are deep and rich, there’s excellent detail and the image displays no artifacts.

Audio is offered in the choice of Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround (we generally prefer the dts, mostly because we’re snobs) and it is also top drawer. There’s excellent fidelity as well as wonderful use of the surround channels.

Extras abound as well. First up is a running commentary from director Proyas and writer Akiva Goldsman. There’s also a “making of” featurette that’s mostly merely promotional, a still photos gallery, a commercial for the TV sitcom Arrested Development and “Inside Look,” which is a series of trailers for upcoming Fox Stuff.

I, Robot, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
114 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround
Starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynihan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell
Produced by Laurence mark, Jon Davis, Topher Dow, Wyck Godfrey
Written by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, directed by Alex Proyas


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