Film Review: I, Robot

There are times when you just need to accept that you aren’t in the mood for high drama, thought provoking debate or overly long stories. There are just times when you need to stick your feet up, let nonsensical special effects take over and lose yourself in a story far removed from modern life, or normally, human existence.

There are just those evenings when you need to let the unimaginable take you away. And usually that means letting Will Smith into your life. Originally I had planned to watch Independence Day, but it’s rather impressive running time and the culmination of a long week meant that alien invasion was sidestepped for robot intelligence. And so, Friday night’s film was: I, Robot.

C3-PO (Star Wars) - I, Robot

It’s been a very, very long time since I last saw it. So long in fact that I cannot actually remember when it was. And this meant I was essentially coming in cold. I vaguely remembered the characters and rough outline, but the twists, turns and surprises, once again felt fresh and new. Sadly though, that distance and unknown wasn’t enough to really save the film.

The first thing that struck me was just how cringingly bad the special effects are. There were times when you can also see the green screen. The disconnection between the characters and the world they are meant to inhabit so strong that it truly became off putting. It also doesn’t help that the objects used to smooth this divide, are so poorly designed that everything just adds together to create a visual mess that feels wrong and fake. If that’s the architectural direction design is heading, I’m not sure it’s a future to look forward to.

I, Robot also seems to want to try and give a kicking to the whole “robots in film” construct and yet, once again fails to convince you. It almost felt like they were wanting to go “look at what Computers can now do” in comparison to the “man in a suit” creations we had to live with for so long but the way they’ve done it, the obviousness, meant it felt like a cheap shot. The older, discontinued robots all resemble C3-PO in appearance and mannerism: heavy, metallic and camp while the supersedes are all fluid, skeletal and luminescence.

Will Smith (Bad Boys) - I, Robot

And even Will Smith isn’t enough to really save the day. He somehow manages to bring the visual beef and street grit of his Bad Boys character and then attempt to lighten the mood, to bring a little humility to the world of robotics by introducing a mistrusting jovial side. And while you accept him as a character, he does in part feel real, the overriding sense I took was one of obsoletion. Which, annoyingly is what you’re meant to feel. He’s meant to be the antagonist, the outdated human in a computerised world, but this premature ageing, so to speak, means that you never connect to him and when the film tries to force him onto you, through humour, it somehow feels wrong. Even if at times Smith’s comic ability does mean the odd joke finds a raised smile or laugh.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, because while the production of the film may feel suspect, and Smith’s performance good but ill fitting, there were actually times in the film when I truly felt it get to me. They are fleeting and not overly strong but they are definitely there. It’s just that there aren’t enough and the rest of the film is too weak in cohesion, and explanation to really benefit from them. And, the weak positives keep going because the pacing of the film feels good. It never feels like it’s dragging and always steps forward with motion and speed. The starting tempo a constant action from which to build, rather than a static break forced into life.

Ex Machina - I, Robot

Sadly though, the few good points are still destroyed by the major flaw with I, Robot, it’s fundamental idea. What it is really trying to say. It wants to make lots of big points but it’s confused it’s argument and ended up with a story and an idea which just fail to really convince. It’s easy to follow but at the same time impossible to understand. The motives on screen never explained because the plot is merely papering over an attempt at a deeper discussion. I wanted a story that entertained me, and instead I got a film that felt confused and muted. It’s not bad a film, I enjoyed it in parts and wasn’t bored, but with offerings now like Ex Machina prepared to argue, debate and question with strength in their convictions the whole robot genre, it just highlights how muddled I, Robot now sadly is.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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