I, Robot

Watched I, Robot last night with the Lady, courtesy of shadowandlight, and kamakazetom. It was enjoyable, but not a movie to think too hard about. Approached on a Demolition-Man/Robocop intellectual level it’s pretty entertaining. And while any serious fan of Asimov would probably see it as a travesty, there is at least a shallow exploration of the implications of the Three Laws, in the spirit of the original robot stories. And Susan Calvin is not entirely genericized into a Generic Supporting Actress. Her trademark coldness and disconnection from the human world is there, albeit still in a formative state.

Some of it’s a bit too goofy for the suspension of disbelief to hold. Mary Ann Johanson nails it when she says:

Now, forget the fact that Spooner has his doubts that Lanning killed himself, suspects murder, and that the dead man’s house could be full of possible clues to his killer. When somebody dies in 2035, his house and all his belongings, no matter how valuable either sentimentally or monetarily, and even his pets are demolished almost instantly as a matter of course, and everyone is fine with that?

Also, the movie can’t seem to decide whether Spooner is just an average cop on the job, or a badass gymnastic superhero. And Proyas’ vision of 30 years in the future, while cool-looking, is neither as original nor as seamless and compelling as that seen in Minority Report. Finally, there’s one role in the movie that makes no sense at all: The Kid, a cardboard character who appears to have originally been intended to serve as The Funny Loser Sidekick, appears exactly twice in the entire movie and serves zero purpose in the plot. We are left wondering who is he? Why does he know Spooner? Why does Spooner care so much about him? But we don’t wonder for very long, because he’s so two-dimensional that we don’t really care.

Ultimately the robot “Sonny” steals the show. He takes the stereotype of the cool, collected action-hero to a new level, maintaining perfect mechanical equanimity and poise while executing Spider Man-like feats of gymnastic martial arts.

The most notable impression I took away from the movie was about people’s perceptions. The plot is an old chestnut: robots, charged with serving and protecting humans from harm, realize that the only way to keep humans safe is to prevent them from hurting themselves – by force, if necessary. And if a few people are killed toward this greater good, well, the sacrifice is worth it on balance. The thing that struck me is this: when put in that form, people respond instinctively to the story, siding with the humans and rooting for the robot’s defeat. Yet when put in human terms, the narative of an oppressed underclass rising up and taking over for the good of all mankind has time and time again found substantial sympathy, regardless of how uniformly negative our actual experience of such revolutions has been.

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  1. It is all about “being human”…

    Sure, an underclass of humans rising up against their tyrannical inhuman masters garners sympathy. But humans being enslaved by inhuman masters; even if said inhumans were once our slaves…..then of course….we side with our own DNA!

    That which makes ‘Sunny’ so likeable (besides being the lead singer of P.O.D. in 2035) is that he goes against that mode. He chooses ‘us’ over his own DNA/positronics. But that only occurred because we chose him over our own DNA when we kept him alive.

    I actually really enjoyed this….

    (As for the house demo, I don’t think that was normal opporations. I think it was a setup.)

    1. Of course it was a setup. But in any sane world, Calvin wouldn’t have dismissed the fact that her mentor’s mansion was being demolished immediately following his death without a second thought. And Spooner’s boss would have have authorized an expansion of the investigation following such an obvious attempt to get rid of evidence.

  2. It’s funny, but when I read how the robots were planning on “protecting” humans by killing a few for the greater good, I immediately started rooting for the robots. Call me crazy, but that’s kind of what I believe, too. I don’t admit that to many people because I’m afraid I’m going to be called a “terrorist” or something. It’s not as though I plan on killing people (no, not at all!), but it just makes sense to me.

    Especially after reading “Ishmael,” I have realized that people do not understand how to live in harmony with the rest of the world and so must be taught. *shrug*

    1. In the first sentence, I meant realized instead of “read.” Whoops.

    2. *nod* I figured that was your point of view. Which is why you and I should probably steer clear of politics in our discussions 🙂

      Which is not to say I think you’re a terrorist or evil. I can be diametrically opposed to your point of view without denying the good intent behind it.

  3. Blah.
    The whole thing sounds kind of shallow and somewhat depressing.
    Maybe it is good that I did not see this one.
    I think I sit this one out.

  4. Blah.
    The whole thing sounds kind of shallow and somewhat depressing.
    Maybe it is good that I did not see this one.
    I think I sit this one out.

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