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Volume 69, Issue 154, Thursday, July 15, 2004

Arts & Entertainment

'I, Robot' offers sci-fi spin for summer

By Amy Perez
The Daily Cougar

Continuning what seems like an endless flow of summer blockbusters based on their respective novels (and a well-known comic book series), I, Robot, a movie "suggested by Isaac Asimov's book," proves entertaining enough to draw in even the most critical Houston moviegoer.

Set in the year 2035, the movie opens with the death of United States Robotics' founder and robot creator Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is called to the crime scene by the dead scientist's final holographic message.

Spooner, a man who refuses to trust robots immediately suggests Lanning's death to be the result of robotic wrongdoing. But Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), a stiff, machinelike scientist assigned to assist Spooner with his investigation of the USR facility, explains that no robot has the ability to break the three laws set forth by human designers. The laws, which appear just before the opening credits, ensure that robots are not allowed to harm humans.

As Spooner's investigation continues, a few usual scenarios unfold. His boss, the Chicago police chief, refuses to believe in Spooner's killer-robot theory and, after Spooner reports being assaulted by several robots while driving his car, the chief confiscates his badge for fear that the detective is mentally unstable. But aside from the typical characters' disbelief in what the audience knows really happened, I, Robot is filled with red herrings that allow the movie to unfold at its own pace without viewers predicting upcoming events. Unlike most action movies today, Smith's lead character is not force-fed to the audience before the action starts. Instead, audience members gradually learn about a personal experience of his that made him hate robots. And thankfully, the issue of robots dominating mankind is not clouded by sexual interactions between Calvin and Spooner. 

Several scenes are reminiscent of the Wachowski brothers' The Animatrix, a collection of animated vignettes that explore ideas similar to those in The Matrix trilogy, one being the concept of the robot and its effects on mankind. These scenes may cause viewers to empathize with the robots, especially the scene in which large trucks filled with the latest models slowly drive through streets, hastily trading the confused-looking old robots in for new ones.

Although I, Robot won't take you through a perfect suburban community of seemingly brainwashed housewives and doesn't continue the saga of your favorite comic book hero, the ideas of science-fiction author Asimov provide all the necessary components for a fast-paced, worthwhile action movie starring one of today's finest actors.

I, Robot

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan

20th Century Fox

The verdict: An intelligent take on a typical summer action flick.

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