When I was growing up, one of my favourite authors was Isaac Asimov. I loved his books and his ideas about robots. The man was a genius in the way he wrote, he invented the three laws of Robotics, as the very beginning of the movie tells us, they are: 1) A robot can never harm a human. 2) A robot must obey all human orders unless it conflicts with the first law. 3) A robot must protect itself unless it conflicts with the first two laws.
Because of this and because of the fact that I knew Will Smith was the leading actor in this movie I went into this movie with lowered expectations. I expected to see a corny movie full of explosions and killer robots.
I did get that, or at least the explosions part, but imagine my surprise when the movie ended up exceeding my expectations and more. Even though during the ending credits it says that the movie was suggested by the books by Isaac Asimov most of the movie seemed to play quite well with Isaac Asimov's ideas about robots. The movie played with concepts that Isaac Asimov played with, if the three laws can be made, they can be broken. And it was an Asimov-ish "whodunit" as well.
Will Smith managed to pull off a stunning performance as "Del Spooner", a Chicago detective that is suspicious of robots and is against technology. His acting is much more like his acting in "Enemy of the State" than his performances in his other two Science Fiction flicks, "Independence Day" and "Men in Black". He is a believable character, one that you end up sympathising with as you learn why, exactly, he hates robots so much.
A highly critiqued point usually comes from the fans of the book in that Bridget Moynahan plays Susan Calvin. It is true that Moynahan as Calvin is much younger than the Isaac Asimov version, but beyond that I found her to be a pleasant surprise as well. She plays her persona very well, delivering a wooden, robot-like performance. She is obvious in the fact that she likes robots much more than humans, and her dislike of Spooner is amusing. Over the course of the movie she thaws a little, but not an incredible lot. I find her to be a believable character.
The pure stroke of genius in this movie is the robot, Sonny, who at first reminds one of Data from Star Trek. His character evolves over the course of the story, and Alex Proyas does a good job at keeping us guessing at whether the emotional robot is a "good guy" or not.
This movie, which I've now seen twice, has been raked over the coals so to speak in the realm of artistic licence, but I felt that Isaac Asimov, if he were here, would have been rather pleased with this movie. The only two points of conflict, perhaps, would be the amount of violence against actual robots in the story (he was never that violent in his short stories/books) and the very typical Hollywood blow'emup climax, which, yes, smacked heavily of Terminator for a while there. The ending, I felt, repaired and wrapped up nicely, making up for whatever excessive action went on before it.
Two notes about the cinematography in this movie, first of all, the Matrix scene was not necessary. A character was being chased and did a Trinity pause in mid-air pose, which pulled me out of the movie for a couple seconds. Luckily it wasn't too hard to get back into the movie. Second note was something that I felt was very innovative on the part of Alex Proyas, which was the "camera moving with moving object" shots. I noticed at least three of them in the movie. Very nice film work there. I'm sure it will get horribly overdone in the next few years, but for now it is nice. The CGI also gets honourable mention for making the robots meld so well with their surroundings. Finally CGI has reached a point where they don't seem fake, even for a moment.
In regards to nudity in the movie... I've read a couple of reviews which notice the Moynahan nude in fogged up shower scene, and forget to notice the Will Smith completely nude with no fog shower scene. I must say, as a female viewer it is nice to get the generous end of the stick when it comes to seeing something as, dare I say appealing? as Will Smith's very nicely developed body.
Lastly and in a point that has nothing to do with the movie and more to do with questions brought up by it-- It took until a day later and thinking about the movie some more that I realized that "I, Robot" was also very socially different. As in two of the main characters, including the hero are black males, one woman, and one (male) robot. I didn't find this odd at all in watching it, perhaps because Will Smith is such a recognisable character, but after thinking about it, I felt that this is a very positive sign. It shows, to me, that society is changing. I feel that I wouldn't have been able to see that, even 10-15 years ago and thought nothing of it. I've noticed this before though... that the most gender/social equal views seem to come from science fiction in our media... it is interesting.
Now, of course the movie does bring up some ethical questions like if it's all right to make a servant/slave class out of robots, etc., but all in all I really liked this movie. Any movie that makes you think is a good movie, any movie that gives you fun, drama, action, mystery, and makes you think is a great movie. Thank goodness I, Robot is all of the above.