I saw the new Will Smith sci-fi movie "I, Robot" yesterday, and I left the theater happy with the film, but also really finding a lot of it to be cop-movie cliché. The film is about how a society can be changed by robots and the unexpected consequences of Asimov's three laws of robotics. It's also about the danger of centralized power. These are all fine "big ideas", but the problem with this film is that some of the consequences are so obvious that it's totally unrealistic that a world would be created without people openly dealing with them years before the events of the film happen.
In Asimov's stories, after a few early years of robots on Earth, they were banned from the planet and limited to working in outer space. Here, robots are completely integrated into the society, performing almost any menial task. The film starts with US Robotics on the verge on the introduction of their new NS-5 series robots; the big new feature is a radio uplink to USR to allow their programming to be updated. Will Smith plays Will Smith, a homicide cop who doesn't trust robots, but somehow knows the chief scientist of USR, Dr. Lanning, and gets called to the scene of his death. Death by falling.
The film is "suggested by the Issac Asimov book 'I, Robot'", but having recently reread it, there's really nothing taken other than a few characters, the company name, and the three laws. I'd argue that the story takes much more from the Asimov short "Robot Dreams", which is part of his Robot series, but published in 1986, over thirty years after "I, Robot" came out.
Visually, the story looks nice. The robots are well conceptualized, with a clear distinction between the different lines. Buildings and dress resemble today, but with more technology. Cars are mostly automated and seem to work on some sort of gyroscope/hover technology. Parking seems to be a lot better in the future, at least at the fancy office buildings. There's plenty of product placement: Converse All-Stars, JVC, Audi, and FedEx are all proudly displayed. The action scenes are pretty effective, and the director does a good job of misdirecting the viewer while still dropping hints about the true history. I liked Sonny, the robot that's being investigated, and I though Alan Tudyk did a good job with the voice and mannerisms.
The worst part of the film was the characterization of Dr. Susan Calvin. I'd complained about her persona from the book in a previous LJ entry. Well, the film takes the negative parts of that character but then merges it with a "woman who has to be saved" standard part. She also has some of the flattest lines in the film. This film should have been about her and the active role she takes in solving the problems with the robots, but instead she becomes the sidekick, saying cute science stuff and tagging along to make things work.
I give the film a slight recommendation. It's fun to watch, and there are some really neat concepts. I think it worked OK as a summer sci-fi film, but I think it could have been a whole lot better with some major rework.