Monday, July 19, 2004

I-Robot

When I first saw the preview for this film the following statement popped into my mind, "This is not the book!" Those of you who have been here from the beginning know that I was worried and excited about the prospect of this movie. Well, now the film has come out and I went to see it Friday night. Actually, I saw it and Cinderella Story, but that and my Avril Lavigne cd collection will remain hidden from the world at large...D'oh.

Things began normally on a theater visit by my wife and me. We brought our sodas and snacks with us and headed to the center of the aisle containing the second set of speakers (to maximize surround sound). As per usual, our pre-film festivities included encountering one of the numerous citizens of SoCal. On previous occasions we have talked about films with everyone from 10 year-olds to grandparents. In this case we sat next to a woman whose son had just returned from New York where he had acquired a Master's in Acting from NYU.

"Hi, are you going to be using the armrest for your soda?" My wife queried.
"I'm fine..." Awkward pause, why is this stranger talking to me, "Oh, yes I think I will."
"My husband and I are excited about this film, as we were about Spider-Man 2>"
"Oh, well...Spider-Man 2 was fun, it was darker than the first and Edward Molina was good. You could almost sympathize with the Maguire character in this one."
At this point my mind is reeling. "Almost sympathize? With Spider-Man? Okay, so it is a fluff film and maybe she usually watches more sophisticated stuff like...I, Robot?" I was baffled, so I said. "Yes my wife loved Molina in Enchanted April."
The woman looked at me confused..."He wasn't in Pieces of April."
Aha...Recent "Indy" film reference, obviously due to son in Acting school. "No..." I said, "Enchanted April it's a wonderful period piece about women who rent a villa in Italy."
"Oh is that that Diane Lane film?"
"No..That was Under a Tuscan Sun"
"Ahhh..."
So this woman was nuts, especially when she started talking in a hushed voice about "Asian Money" in SoCal. At this point both my film pretenses and my politics had been shocked. Thank heaven the movie started.

So. How was I, Robot? Well, if I hear "It wasn't the book!" or "It isn't the book!" one more time in a review I will puke. I admit that I said that above and that it was my great fear, but they are after all two different media. Besides, as much as I love the book I think the short stories it contains would make a rather dull film, but a great TV series. Anyway, I liked it. It kept the basic tension from the final story of the collection of short stories (for those that don't know what that is I can't tell you because it would be a spoiler) as the center of the mystery. Other than that, it was essentially a fusion of the Eando Binder short story which pre-dated Asimov and the Asimov collection. No logic puzzles ala Asimov in the film, but there is a mystery. Do they violate the 3 laws? Yes. I actually have no problem with this, but it does make it less sophisticated than the books.

Though less sophisticated a logic problem, it does contain scenes from the collection. Including, find the Nestor scene. But this film and Asimov's writings are about two different tensions. Asimov, consistant in all his writings, was a proponent of scientific methods being used in the management of human affairs. Alex Proyas (of The Crow and Dark City) presents us with a film which rejects the cold calculating rationality which would be required in such an order. In one scene, we find out why he hates robots so much. Given a choice between rescuing him (a police officer in his 30's or 40s) who has a 47% chance to live and rescuing a girl (11 or 12) who has an 11% chance to live the robot chose to rescue him. What the robot didn't take into account was that the police officer, like the NS-4, was charged with saving the girl. The line in the film is "Any police officer knows to save the girl." This was a great scene, but one which actually violates the 3 laws as presented in the books (but not as presented in the film).

This is essentially a typical modern cop film, but with robots. Perfect? No. Fun? Yes. Better than Day the Earth Stood Still? Hell no. Better than Battle of the Stars starring Jason Palance? Hell Yes! Given the choice between Spider-Man 2 and this I would see Spider-Man 2 again, but unlike Spider-Man 2 I wouldn't edit 20 minutes out of this film.

I thought Spider-Man 2 was Three and a Half Stars, I give this one Three Stars even. I had a good time. There are better films out there, but for Summer Blockbuster fair this one works.
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