4 Stars

To you, a robot is just a robot. But you haven’t worked with them. You don’t know them. They’re a cleaner, better breed than we are.
— Dr. Susan Calvin, character in the book I, Robot

This film uses Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

1. A robot must not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where those orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, except where such protection would conflict with the First or Second Law.

Apart from the Three Laws, the film is a total departure from the collection of short stories that make up Asimov’s I, Robot. In short, this is not a film adaptation of the book, it is just loosely based on some of the stories, a couple of ideas from “Reason” and “Liar!” For example, Dr. Susan Calvin, the “robopsychologist,” is a beautiful young scientist and not a 70-year-old woman, which is a welcome change.

The film revolves around the life of Del Spooner, played by Will Smith, a robot-hating detective that investigates a mysterious death of a top robot scientist and his nightmarish discoveries about what’s going on at the company. The company is named U.S. Robotics, which is a bit nostalgic for me. I remember when a company named U.S. Robotics made the best modems in the world, but I guess I am aging myself.

U.S. Robotics is about to triple the country’s robot population, flooding the market with its latest housekeeping model, the NS-5 Automated Domestic Assistant. Spooner is convinced that a robot named Sonny is responsible for the death of the scientist. While robot-lover Dr. Susan Calvin, played by Bridget Moynahan, is convinced that the Three Laws would make such an event completely impossible.

Sonny, voice played by Alan Tudyk, is the surprise character in the film. He truly brings out the “humanity” of the character and manages to touch lightly on the concepts of humanization that is so prevalent in Asimov’s work. He plays the robot with the naivete of a child trying to find his station and purpose in life and his connection with Dr. Calvin’s character is palpable.

The film has all of the suspense, explosions, and high-tech wizardry that you would expect from a summer blockbuster. It also has the acting performances are what you would expect in an action film. Will Smith, as always, is very charismatic. Apart from the very rushed and nonsensical ending, this film is very entertaining and worthy of a summer afternoon at the movies.

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