Saturday, 2 January 2016

I, Robot (2004)

"Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?"

"Can you?"

This is the only film, as far as I know, that's been adapted from an Isaac Asimov story. And, Ironically, it's based on one of the few pieces of Asimov's SF writing that I've never read. I've read all the Foundation stuff, the Elijah Baley stuff, The Stars, Like Dust and sequels, and all of Asimov's work after 1980 that reads like very good Isaac Asimov fanfic. But I've never read any of the Susan Calvin robot stories. Oops. I suppose I'm not overly qualified to blog this film. Oh well.

While there's a low of fascinating philosophical stuff on both the Three Laws and the prospect of robots nicking people's jobs (very topical), this is fundamentally about the question of what if a robot was to exhibit sentience- what these days we call the Singularity. The theme is essentially the same as Short Circuit, but done with some intelligence.

The script is superb. I've no idea how faithful it is to the source material but it's certainly faithful in spirit to Asimov. Will Smith is excellent casting, charismatic and likeable as the technophobic, irreverent yet philosophical Spoon, while Bridget Moynahan is also excellent as the icy Susan Calvin, in personality almost a robot herself. Sonny the robot, incidentally, is voices by Joss Whedon favourite Alan Tudyk.

The design is also a triumph- the robots look great, and the world of 2035 is just futuristic enough to convince without being futuristic enough to alienate. It's a very contemporary view of the future, with none of the gleaming silver corridors of yore; instead we get a post-Cyberpunk, post-Blade Runner, lived-in future.

There are big action sequences, yes, but this film dares to be, at its heart, intimate and philosophical, and is all the better for that.

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