|I, Robot (2004)
Starring: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, Chi McBride, Shia LaBeouf
Director: Alex Proyas
After completely exhausting the entire catalog of sci-fi short story writer Philip K. Dick, studio execs have turned to sci-fi giant Isaac Asimov for a little inspiration and a boatload of stories to reap profit from. Based on the title of an Asimov compilation, “I, Robot” is a sleek and brilliant sci-fi story manufactured to look like a Will Smith summer blockbuster. Fortunately for summer moviegoers, “I, Robot” also is a well-oiled machine full of whodunit suspense and amazing FX-driven action.
The year is 2035 and the planet has managed to technologically evolve much quicker than most of the audience would believe: cars are driven by computers, fans have been reduced to only one fan blade and robots have become an essential aspect of living. When the head engineer (James Cromwell) at the world-renowned US Robotics headquarters commits suicide only a few days before the largest robotic shipment in history, detective Spooner (Smith), a techno-phobic cop who’s just returned to the force, investigates the crime he believes was committed by a robot and will only lead to a larger future threat to humanity.
As Spooner digs deeper for clues within the futuristic metropolis, he tracks down the uniquely engineered Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a C-3P0-like robot with moves deadlier than Jackie Chan’s, and joins forces with US Robotics scientist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan). Calvin doubts Spooner’s theory of an imminent robot revolution because it ignores the heavily advertised “safe,” three robot laws that prohibit machines from participating in violence or disobeying their master’s orders.
“I, Robot” is the perfect film for both Smith and director Alex Proyas (“Dark City,” “The Crow”) to display their respective talents. For once, Smith isn’t annoying or excessively “cool,” and Proyas masterfully races through yet another one of his finely-tuned sci-fi expeditions, though this marks his first summer blockbuster project. The main reason “I, Robot” succeeds as a genre film is because Proyas doesn’t surrender the story’s sci-fi roots in favor of a finished product marketed toward moviegoers who continue to support the brainless, pop culture films that usually show up in the summer season. “I, Robot” shines as the next “Matrix,” but hopefully producers will take note of the latter’s downfall and let this stand alone as a brilliantly constructed work of science fiction, one that will surpass a season of disappointments and become a classic.
The DVD Release for "I, Robot" is a humble offering of the film presented in a widescreen format, a few decent special features and a hip snap case with a translucent cover. Along with its anamorphic 2.35:1 video transfer, the DVD also has a nice Dolby 5.1 surround audio track that will blow you away during some of the film's more action-packed scenes.
The special features included on the disc aren't the greatest of bonus material that is available to DVD technology, but they are a nice supplement to the film itself. The full-length audio commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman is an interesting critical look at the visual and storytelling aesthetics of the film, while the 12-minute "Making of" featurette is a short, but valid walkthrough of the production through a series of cast interviews. The rest of the disc contains a lot of filler material like a still gallery filled with 30 photos from pre-production, an oddly placed "Arrested Development" TV promo and an inside look at three of FOX's upcoming films: "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "Robots" and "Elecktra." Don't expect to be kept busy with this DVD release, but "I, Robot" is still considerably worth owning for any fan of the sci-fi genre.
The two-disc Collector's Edition includes the aforementioned audio commentary, plus an additional disc packed with even more special features. Two more commentary tracks have been added (one by various crew members, and the other by composer Marco Beltrami), along with a comprehensive four-hour interactive tour of production, deleted scenes and an alternate ending. Also included are a handful of interesting production featurettes on CGI and design, robotic behavior, VFX how-to clues, and a sit-down discussion about the sci-fi genre and robots. Ultimately, this is the version of the film you want to own, but if you already picked up the barebones DVD release, spend your money somewhere else.