Detective Del Spooner and his boss, Lt. John Bergin, investigate the mysterious suicide of a robot designer.
I, Robot is a cinematic adaptation loosely based on the science fiction classic series of stories by Isaac Asimov, one of the great science fiction writers of the twentieth century. Set in a futuristic Chicago in the year 2035, the plot focuses around Del Spooner (Will Smith), a homicide detective of the future, who has a love-hate relationship with modern technology, and a great suspicion of mankind’s latest fascination, the personal robot. In the timeframe of the film, robots are becoming as common as a television set or computer in today’s society, and the largest robotic firm, Robotics, is about to launch the next generation of robots, the vaunted NS5 series. But the launch of the new product line is suddenly marred by the apparent suicide of their inventor, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), who jumped from his office several stories high onto the lobby of the Robotics Corporation. At the time of his death, Dr. Lanning has left a mysterious hologram addressed to Spooner that makes the detective think that there is something more to Lanning’s death than suicide. The Robotics Corporation, under the leadership of its CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), is eager to cover everything up, and have the death listed as a “suicide for unknown reasons”, so that they can move on with the distribution of the NS5 line of robots. Spooner is introduced to Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), Lanning’s assistant, who is directed to assist Spooner in the investigation. Because of the three laws of robotics, which in so many words state that no robot can harm a human, everyone thinks that Spooner is crazy to suspect a robot in the death of Lanning. But Spooner is one of the few cops suspicious of robots, and his opinion is reinforced when he meets Sonny (voice of Alan Tudyk), a robot with unusual personality who seems very guilty by his actions and attempts to escape from Spooner. Eventually Sonny is captured by the Chicago Police Department SWAT team and one of the great sequences in the film is when you see Spooner beg his Lieutenant (Chi McBridge) to let him interrogate Sonny, and you see him enter the interrogation room to talk to the robot guarded by a phalanx of armed policemen.
Spooner shows off his brand new vintage chucks to his mom.
There is more going on in the story line than just the escape of the renegade robot. We soon find out that Dr. Lanning, robots, and Spooner have had a long relationship that came about due to an accident in which Spooner was nearly killed and a robot decided to rescue him instead of a young girl in an adjacent car. Spooner lost his left arm in the accident, and Dr. Lanning replaced it with a robotic prosthetic arm that later proves to be very useful. Nevertheless, this event doesn’t do anything to assuage Spooner’s guilt over being rescued instead of the girl or replace his deep suspicion of robots ability to do the right thing in a life-threatening situation. Dr. Calvin is skeptical of Spooner’s motives, having spent her life working with robots, and is disbelieving at first of Spooner when he reports attacks on his life by robots in the underground freeways and at Dr. Lanning’s house. Calvin begins to come around to Spooner’s side however, when she closely examines Sonny at the lab, after the robot has been returned by the police for decommissioning, and discovers that Sonny has been made very differently from the other NS5 robots that are rapidly being distributed to the public in an extraordinary campaign that encourages the public to turn in their older NS4 models for the new NS5’s at no charge. Eventually both Calvin and Spooner conclude that Sonny’s and Dr. Lanning’s actions were designed to get Spooner involved with the robotics company, because of sinister events that Lanning has been powerless to stop. Without revealing any more, which would spoil the impact of the story on a first time viewer, suffice it to say that the balance of the film involves their efforts to follow through on the investigation and find out why Sonny is apparently able to violate the Three Laws of Robotics.
Det. Spooner and Dr. Calvin go to the robotic lab to investigate Dr. Lanning’s death.
I, Robot is filled with stunning visuals and has to be up there with other classics of modern science fiction cinema in its seamless combination of animation and live actors. The film presents a very stunning and believable view of Chicago in the future, although it could easily be fifty or seventy-five years in the future instead of the year 2035, given all of the changes in society that it presents. This is clearly a first class effort in film technology that should be recognized for that alone, even without the impact of the story. While so far this review has dealt with the science fiction aspect of the film, it is also filled with fantastic chase scenes, and action involving lead actor Will Smith and the robots. For many viewers and fans of Will Smith, this by itself would be worth the price of admission. Will Smith’s performance is has a nice edge to it, much more biting than previous science fiction efforts like Men in Black and Independence Day. Alex Proyas’ direction and vision keep the film moving at a fast pace and you soon find yourself engulfed in the incredible vision of the future he presents to you. Screenwriters Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, while not very faithful to the Isaac Asimov stories, nevertheless play on his ideas in a way that makes for exciting action/adventure. Their writing is thoughtful enough to make you think about the themes that Asimov brought up in his discussion of the relationships between man and robotic machines that take on the characteristics of humans. At times the action borders on the unbelievable, even for science fiction and modern action film, but this film will surely stand out as one of the best 2004 summer films.
Spooner and Dr. Calvin look for the renegade robot.
Spooner opens the box with a pair of brand new black leather high tops, vintage 2004.
In his role as Detective Del Spooner, Will Smith plays Spooner as someone who still believes in the old ways of the past. He still has an old-fashioned stereo that you have to manually turn on instead of telling to play music, likes to listen to classic R & B tracks like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and best of all likes to wear vintage Chuck Taylor shoes. In a clever marketing ploy, Smith talks about his vintage 2004 shoes, which are a leather upper version of the traditional black high top classic shoe touted on this website. Converse issued this model to the public in November of 2004.
Spooner admires the look and craftsmanship of his new chucks.
It’s always great to see action scenes with the hero wearing black high top chucks and I, Robot is no exception as we see Detective Spooner race around Chicago wearing his. Still the best scene has to be at the beginning of the film when Smith gets out a box of brand new chucks, admires their look and feel, and then happily laces them up. Still the best way to start your day!
Spooner laces up his new pair of chucks.
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