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Well, not much to write about really, but I figured I’d just jump in and start blithering about movies (which is a subject that’s been on my mind of late). First of all, just a quickie for all you out there; apparently the Doom movie might not suck as has been feared by me since I first heard about it. Now, I’ll take this article with a pinch of salt until I’ve at least seen the trailer. Even then, I’ve not seen “The Rock” in anything yet that I didn’t feel that he sucked in. He tries too hard to be Vin Diesel on screen, but has neither the looks nor personality to pull it off the way Vin does.
On another subject, I sat down yesterday and watched the recent movie version of I, Robot starring Will Smith and directed by Alex Proyas. Now, I’ll admit up-front to having a soft spot for anything by Proyas; he’s consistently hit his mark on anything he’s tried to create, and both Dark City and The Crow are absolutely two of my favorite movies of all time. So with that in mind, bear in mind my feelings about this movie may be tainted by this fact a little.
Anyway, while watching it in the movie theater in Chicago last year when it was released, I pretty much took my brain out of gear and just sat down to watch the movie as I do many Will Smith movies; as enjoyable entertainment. Now again I have to say that I think there’s very little that Will Smith has done that I don’t enjoy on some level, even as a guilty pleasure that I know I shouldn’t enjoy but just do (like the silly but underrated Wild Wild West). So, what happened last year? Well, I sat down in a theater with probably two hundred other people and just enjoyed what I consider to be a “sleeper hit” of 2004 in that it was pretty darned good, and just good entertainment.
So what’s different this time around? Well, this time I went into it deliberately trying to see it in a slightly different light. I have always been a fan of Isaac Asimov’s writing, and was moved by, but ultimately a little disappointed in Bicentennial Man when it was released in 1999… too much trying to entertain and not enough investigation into who Andrew was. I digress… I decided to sit through the movie again but this time watching it as a “Movie inspired by the short story of I, Robot”.
Now, I will say that two marvellous renditions of the short story exist on the screen; the first episodes of both the “Classic” and “New” Outer Limits series on TV, and honestly you’d be really hard pressed to take a small and charming story such as this and blow it up into a two hour movie. So rather than try to do this, Proyas took the basic premise (death of the creator, robot suspected of crime and so forth) and created a whole new movie out of it.
Is it a good movie? Well, if you were expecting a translation of the story… no. In fact, very little of the original story actually survives, but I have to say that I actually really enjoyed this on my second “alternate” viewing for different reasons, which I’ll get into.
This movie does have cheesy moments… sometimes in the humor… and sometimes the product placement is just too much; for example the placement of the Converse All Star shoes… ick! However, despite these occasional quirks that pull you out of the narrative, it does proceed rather well. The pacing is good, rarely slowing down to the point where you’d get completely bored… and the final reveal of the “bad guy” is actually nicely handled.
Which brings me on to why I actually really enjoyed this. It comes down to a matter of intent. Especially toward the end of his life, Isaac Asimov spent a lot of time in his books talking about how the great “Three laws of Robotics” could be considered fatally flawed and could be warped into something that was not intended. The fact that you would have to apply an almost inhuman logic to really find the flaws in the laws is actually one of the fundamental ironies.
Now, while many in Hollywood like to think of the three laws as immutable and flawless (as exemplified by Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation), even the creator of said laws saw their failures but never managed to gain as much traction with these thoughts as the original three laws managed to gain. Where this movie succeeds is in bringing this up especially toward the end of the movie. This is a wonderful way to remember the legacy of Asimov, even if the rest of the movie isn’t what he himself would have created.
So, the sumary; as an action movie this is actually pretty decent. Certainly better than most of the fluff we get fed every year by Hollywood and should appeal to most. However, there’s also a thoughtful side to the movie that shouldn’t be ignored. While it doesn’t explore the deeper meaning of existence in the same way that many Proyas movies do, it certainly takes a somewhat non-Hollywood approach to creating a Hollywood movie that has something in there for the Asimov fans as well.
If you’re an Asimov fan who hasn’t seen this movie… put it on your list of ones to see. Just don’t expect Shakespeare…