Sunday, January 13, 2013


(July 2004, U.S.)

As I begin this post for i, ROBOT, I have the instrumental title track of the Alan Parsons Project 1977 album called "I Robot" going through my head. Could I BE any cornier???

If one were to dig deep down into printed literature and film going as far back as over a hundred years ago, we'd find that there were those who tried to warn us that man's scientific and technological advances and achievements would one day turn on us. Mary Shelley warned us with FRANKENSTEIN and H.G. Wells warned us with THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. On screen, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADE RUNNER and THE TERMINATOR warned us that our own machines had the capability to eventually turn on human beings and destroy them. Even author Stephen King wrote a 2006 novel called CELL in which a horrific global phenomenom turns all of those who happen to be using their cell phones at the time into crazed creatures of the dead (you GO, Stephen!). Personally, I think we've all become pathetic slaves to our gadgets of technology and it wouldn't surprise me one damn bit if one day they all destroyed us where we stood. But that's an entirely different debate.

Alex Proyas' captures i, ROBOT, which is only very loosely based on Isaac Asimov's short story colllection of the "Three Laws" (look them up), with much of the same dark, grim, high-tech atmosphere he gave to two of his previous science fiction efforts, THE CROW (1994) and DARK CITY (1998). Will Smith, in another one of his great sci-fi roles, plays detective Del Spooner in the city of Chicago in the year 2035 (only twenty-two years from now!). In this time, anthropomorphic robots enjoy widespread use as servants for various public services. The robots look like this, by the way...

...and the main protaganist robot known as Sonny sounds very much like Douglas Rain who provided the voice for HAL in 2001. The subtext of human prejudice is key here because Spooner is a man who hates robots because of their inibility to feel anything beyond what they've been programmed to do. He also deeply haunted by a past accident in which a robot saved him, but allowed a little girl to drown, and as a result left him with a robotic prosthetic arm to replace the one lost in the accident. It's because of Spooner's well-known prejudices that he's chosen to investigate the apprarant suicide of one of the robot's creators which will eventuallyly lead him to the dark plot of revolution behind all of the robots that inhabit the city and the top level computer technology that rules them all and inevitably commands all of them to turn against their human creators. Sonny, of course, is the one robot on the side of righteousness that will assist humans in their triumph - that's because he's the one robot in the entire film who's learned to experience feelings and emotion. You see, they DO count for something!

This film is a wonderful, high concept, intelligent and even mean science fiction film with some of the best action sequences I've ever scene, particularly the car chase scene in the underground tunnel. There's also a particular moment when hords of robots are scaling a tall glass tower like angry, hungry ants that's actually rather freaky to watch. You can tell they're out for human blood and it's scary to think of what might very well happen if then win their victory over humankind.

So you see how it is, people? Man creates robot, robot serves man, man hates robot, robot turns on man, man fears robot. But fear not, because film cliche protects the human race as the robots will ultimately be destroyed or be returned to their original program of human servitude. That's in the movies, though. I've often told people how much I hate, hate, hate the 21st Century, so beware the machines, people! They're going to get us!!!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Detective Del Spooner: "You are the "dumbest" smart person, I have ever met in my life! What makes your robots so perfect? What makes them so much...goddamn better than human beings?"

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