I, Robot: All Access Collector’s Edition
Fox used to be the most reliable studio when it came to releasing quality
DVDs the first time around. But now, jumping on the bandwagon, we have
the second version of I, Robot in six months.
On the other hand, this is a pretty impressive set, with two new audio
commentaries and a second disc with seemingly endless bonus material.
The audio and video transfers appear to be the same, which is fine, since
both are excellent.
Disc one includes the same Alex Proyas/Akiva Goldsman commentary, plus
a second by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editor Richard Learoyd
and the visual effects team, and a third by composer Marco Beltrami. Commentary
number 2 is probably far too technical for the average Joe, as the group
discusses all the techniques they used to create the world of Chicago
in 2035, and various other topics relating to the look of the film. With
so many participants (we counted 11), it’s sometimes hard to follow
everybody, but at least the gaps of silence are kept to a minimum. The
composer commentary is good enough in its own right, as Beltrami talks
about his approach to scoring the film, his mere 17 days to write and
record it, and his working relationship with Proyas. Disc one also includes
the same 12-minute featurette as the previous release, and a still gallery.
Disc two features about four hours of making-of material, beginning with
“Day out of Days,” an extremely lengthy production diary broken
into nine subsections (each of which are also broken into multiple subsections).
It takes us through the weeks and weeks of the film’s production,
demonstrating just how long and boring it is to make a movie, and features
plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and a bit of dirt.
“CGI and Design” runs about 34 minutes and primarily features
production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The mini-featurettes feature plenty
of sketches and focus on the look of the film. “Sentient Machines”
also runs about 34 minutes and is all about the real-life world of robots.
It features interviews with folks at irobot (the creators of the Roomba),
real-life creators of robots, and film crewmembers as they talk about
Asimov’s laws of robotics and so on and so forth. “Three Laws
Safe” features interviews with writers Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman
(separately) as they discuss writing the film, the similarities to Asimov’s
material, and their interest in robots.
“The Filmmaker’s Toolbox” features deleted scenes and
some visual effects how-to clips. The deleted scenes feature two scenes
and two alternate endings. The first of the two scenes is completely useless
as Spooner’s young buddy plays basketball for a few seconds, while
the second is a lengthy scene with Spooner and Dr. Lanning (in holo form)
that is a great character piece but ultimately unnecessary. The alternate
endings are a bit of a letdown, since one of them is the same ending but
shorter, and the other is the same ending in pre-vis form. The How-Tos
show us the original green screen shots and add the effects elements one
by one until we see the final shot. It makes you stop and realize how
much work actually goes into this stuff.
Finally, there are a bunch of Easter eggs scattered throughout the disc,
most of which are just exercises in silliness (not that there’s
anything wrong with that).
As for the movie itself, okay, so its an action adventure sci fi
movie. That doesnt 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 Asimovs 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 its a bit of a mishmash
and not entirely unpredictable, it works and its a very enjoyable
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 dont kill people. Robots have to obey Asimovs three
laws of robotics (you may remember them from Bicentennial Man as well,
and theyre 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 whats basically a
neat whodunit (or, possibly, whatdunit) with action scenes thrown in to
keep the popcorn crowd interested. And thats fine. Sci fi fans should
love it and Asimov fans will be thrilled that despite the lack
of a truly "Asimovian" plot the Masters 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 dont get in the way.
This movie is really Smiths and Proyas and its a dynamite
looking and feeling flick.
Proyas, who also made The Crow and Dark City,
has crafted a world thats 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, theres 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 were snobs) and it
is also top drawer. Theres 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. Theres also a making of
featurette thats 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: All Access Collector’s Edition, from 20th Century Fox
114 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital
& dts 5.1
Starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell,
Chi McBride and Alan Tudyk
Produced by Laurence Mark, John Davis, Topher Dow, Wyck Godfrey
Screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Alex Proyas
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