Sunday, December 26, 2004

Quick DVD review: I, Robot

One of the gifts I got for Christmas was Will Smith's new Sci-Fi movie "I, Robot", which is remotely based on the series of legendary stories by Isaac Asimov.

The basic story is this: in the near future, a Chicago cop (Smith) with something of a grudge against robots is personally called to investigate the apparent suicide of the chief inventor of robots. But he thinks that this wasn't a suicide. Instead, he thinks that one of these brand-new robots killed the man. Which, of course, is impossible, because these robots are governed by the "three laws", and the first one prevents a robot from harming anyone much less kill them. That's just the first of many strange things that happen in this movie.

In terms of science fiction, the movie comes across as somewhat realistic. It's a little hard to believe that in the span of thirty years the automobile would become this automatic wonder that can drive forward, backward, diagonal or sideways, much less one that is automatic enough for people to expect the computers to do the driving for them. It's also a little unrealistic to see crowded busy highways in Chicago being replaced by smooth underground highways. But I like their idea of valet parking!

The development of robots in thirty years time is somewhat realistic given the current development of computers and in artificial limbs. The overall acceptance of robots handling menial jobs, though, is pushing things a bit.

Smith's character as Detective Spooner is questionable. He's not a luddite, although the movie tried to convey that impression. Being paranoid to the point of sleeping with a gun and showering without a curtain is not something that was explained. And wearing "vintage" 2004 Converse high-top sneakers is not being a luddite - that's called deliberate product placement.

All in all, though, it's not too bad for a science fiction video. The extra features are okay, although there wasn't much more on Asimov's classic in the special features other than the continual reference of the "Three Laws". (They'll probably come up with a super-duper "upgraded" version of the DVD in six months with a whole lot more detail.) Still, it's something worth watching.

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