Cyberpunk Review » I, Robot

March 19, 2006

I, Robot

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2004

Directed by: Alex Proyas

Written by: Jeff Vintar & Akiva Goldsman, based on book by Isaac Asimov

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Sonny: Alan Tudyk
  • Del Spooner: Will Smith
  • Susan Calvin: Bridget Moynahan
  • Dr. Alfred Lanning: James Cromwell
  • Rating: 7 out of 10


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


    Overview: Superficially based on Asimov’s great collection of short stories - “I, Robot” – this movie of the same name usually sacrifices intelligent Sci-Fi for overblown summer blockbuster clichés. While Asimov fans will recognize the names of Dr. Alfred Lanning, Dr. Susan Calvin and Lawrence Robertson, they won’t recognize the characters that Proyas gives us. In yet another, “The evil robots are coming to control us” movie. I, Robot delivers eye-popping, often well over-the-top FX from beginning to end. Right at the beginning, I, Robot relays to us that they’ve set the bar low by spending the first five minutes delivering Converse Shoe and Fed-ex Delivery commercials. Still, I, Robot captures enough of the essence to make it enjoyable cyberpunk viewing. Asimov’s three rules are still in play here, and Sonny, the robot, actually makes it interesting.




    The Story: In the near future (2035), robots are a pervasive fact of life, and serve humans in a variety of capacities. US Robotics, maker of the fabled “NS” series of robots is just about ready to release their greatest innovation, the NS5 robots. NS5 robots are the most lifelike to date, and are destined to replace the ultra-reliable but outmoded NS4 model. The NS5s are guaranteed to stay new by receiving daily updates from US Robotics’s master AI system, “V.I.K.I.”




    The week of the release, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), the founder of modern robotics dies in an apparent suicide. He leaves a clue behind for former patient and police officer Del Spooner (Will Smith). Del Spooner has reasons to hate and mistrust robots and immediately suspects foul play. US Robitics CEO Lawrence Robinson (Bruce Greenwood) is suspicious looking, and things just “feel” right.




    Assisted by robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moyanahan), Del finds an NS5 robot named Sonny, who appears to have freewill developed life-like features – so much that Del suspects Sonny of having killed Dr. Lanning. In following the breadcrumbs, Dels fears are realized – the robots do not seem to be adhering to the thee Laws of Robotics. Now they must race to uncover the real nature of the plot before the trap is sprung.




    Will Smith Plays “Will Smith”…Again: You know the role – cocky, argumentative, underdog tough-guy cop – Be it MIB, ID4 or I, Robot, Will Smith plays the same old Will Smith. I, Robot was clearly green-lighted to bring in the teens to the seats over the summer – Will Smith is the guy to do this. Will Smith and massively cool FX = ROI. Unfortunately, it also engenders a far crappier story. Had we gotten an introspective no-name person in Smith’s role, we might have had a significantly higher degree of realism. But then again, realism would imply that things like the overblown US Robots Truck bashing scene wouldn’t have been included.




    Sonny: If not for Sonny, I, Robot would be almost unwatchable. Sonny (voiced by Serenity star, Alex Tudyk) provides us an investigation into android humanity similar to Star Trek’s Data in his better moments. While some of it comes off as sappy, Sonny’s questioning of his right to exist, and more interestingly, his hopes that others consider him a being instead of an it provide the best moments of the movie. One can only wonder how much better I, Robot would have been if this aspect of the movie was highlighted vice the focus on Will Smith and the overblown FX scenes.



    “There have always been ghosts in the machine – random segments of code that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in the dark they will seek the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space they will group together rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter moat of the soul?”


    Evolution of The Three Laws: I, Robot touches on some interesting questions concerning the three laws. If, taken to their logical extreme, do the laws imply, similar to Colossus: The Forbin Project, that machines should consider removing our freewill in order to protect us? Also, given a set of operating conditions that include the ability to learn from the environment, are we truly sure that machines would not eventually develop sentience and freewill? This is especially problematic when science has yet to deliver a definitive statement on how this comes about.




    The FX: Yes, I, Robot delivers awesome android FX – continually so, in fact. The mandatory overblown chase scenes, massive explosions and lots of gun fighting are all there, but so are the robots. And the robots are simply amazing. Their facial expressions are lifelike, their exoskeleton muscles look believable, and their demeanor seems perfect. However, their cartoon-like ability to jump as high and far as they like is well past over-the-top. Worse, not all of the NS5s are equal, as near the end they transform into bumbling fools, where an army of them seems unable to stop two humans in possession of guns that never run out of ammo.




    The Bottom Line: One wonders how great I, Robot could have become had the studios given Dark City director Proyas more of a free hand in its development. Instead, I, Robot is a summer blockbuster first, and an interesting cyberpunk movie second. Still, Sonny and the robot FX raises I, Robot to be more interesting and enjoyable than it has rights to be. The performances of the leads are pretty much all lackluster – make no mistake – Sonny is the star here, and dominates the screen during every appearance he makes. Normally I give overblown summer blockbusters with great FX five or six stars – Sonny, and the wonderful ending visual makes I, Robot deserve a bonus star.


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, AI (no body), 7 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Android Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


    March 20, 2006

    Metatron said:

    Have to agree with one thing- Will Smith indeed plays himself and no one else. Not all acting was bad- the corporate lady made a convincing transition from being downright unbearable as a person to an almost likeable state- but Will Smith just overthrows the whole atmosphere. Too many flashy one-liners and comedy moments are the issue here. What might have been a serious cyberpunk story turns into a neat, but cliched hollywood film with some intelligent ideas thrown in.

    And yeah, the robots started off as almost unbeatable, but at the end they dropped like baddies in a computer game.

    Metatron said:

    Oh and the advertising… never seen so much product placement in one film, even though Minority Report had some (the red Lexus for instance, plus the interactive ads). And believe it or not, there was product placement in… the Matrix. Ever wondered why almost ALL the cars in the highway chase are Buicks, Cadillacs and Chevies? Maybe the machines did not know that there are other manufacturers than General Motors when they created the Matrix… ;)

    SFAM said:

    I usually don’t mind product placement all that much. As long as they are integrated into the narrative, they aren’t that bad. In some movies, like Bond movies, you actually expect and look forward to it as it is usually part of the pre-movie hype (how much did the car maker pay for this movie, etc.). But in I, Robot, it was SOOO In-your-face, and right up front. At least with The Island, they waited a bit before bulk-loading the commercials. Here, within the first five minutes, you almost had to ask whether they were showing commercials prior to the movie starting or not.

    But, hmm…I remember a Mustang in the chase scene as well. I’ll be reviewing Reloaded soon, so I;ll keep an eye out for that.

    DannyV_El_Acme said:

    Yeah, it reminds me on that scene in the first Wayne’s World. “I will not bow to any sponsor[pulls a slice of Pizza Hut pizza out of the box and grins]”

    Case said:

    I have to agree with Metatron…Will Smith and the ridiculous amount of product placement almost single-handedly ruin this one. Personally, I thought this was a complete bust from the word go, committing the single greatest crime a film can enact…being almost totally and instantly forgettable. Even when something is horrendously bad, it at least makes an impression. This film was gone from my mind within a few hours. Nevermind the fact that it’s a total disgrace against the name of Asimov (I suppose putting Sonny on trial for his supposed crimes wasn’t as “exciting” as a robot revolt). Either way, when I walked out of the VASTLY superior A.I., I remember thinking if they were to go through with an I, ROBOT adaptation, they’d be hard pressed to deal with the issue of synthetic humans as well as that film did. They were…and they failed…miserably. Such a shame coming from the director of the incredible DARK CITY (but let’s not forget he also did GARAGE DAYS).

    *Sidenote: this film didn’t begin life as a straight Asimov adaptation, but actually an original CP film entitled HARDWIRED (which was also one of the working titles of JOHNNY MNEMONIC, when studio heads found that title “too difficult” to pronounce). In my opinion, the title should have stayed there, because this has about as much in common with Asimov as THE ADVENTURES OF ELMO IN GROUCHLAND.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Case, I was honestly debating whether to give I, Robot a 7 star rating or a 6 star rating - it appears as if you would vote for the 6 star rating?

    They did have “one” shot (the picture above of the robots with the #18 in the background) that was related to I, robot that lasted just a few seconds - similar to the story, where all (in this case) 500 robots lined up, and Dr. Calvin had to figure out how to find the unsafe one. Lucky for us, Will Smith wasn’t in the book, so she didn’t just start crazily shooting them, but instead chose the interview approach.

    But wow! You walked out on AI??? I LOVED that movie! I’m guessin you won’t be liking my review of it (8 stars I think, unless my rewatch changes the score).

    Metatron said:

    I only liked the first half of AI. I’d probably give the first part 8 stars, but the second half would not get any more than 6, stunning FX notwithstanding…

    SFAM said:

    Ah yes, there is major disagreement among many on the ending of AI. Some absolutely detest it while others think it’s perfect. I’m sort of in the “perfect” camp (and generally like the second half quite a bit), but I’ve participated on many a discussion on Rotten Tomatoes about this movie - enough to know that some truly felt it was horrid. It’s usually fun though to find movies that engender this vociferous level of objections and differences.

    ETM said:

    Proyas and the writer tried their best on this one… but it wasn’t to be. Also, they did not choose Smith, who is, in turn, the last person that should be blamed for the casting - he did exactly what the studio-defined movie required, and I have no problem with him.

    I always thought Proyas actually did great with the product placement - the first five minutes, in your face, and you almost forget about it by the end. Best way to go, IMO.

    I don’t think I, Robot should be mentioned in any connection with Asimov’s name… it does not do it justice, but doesn’t drag it through mud - it’s simply “slightly inspired” and let’s just leave it at that. The “Asimov inspired” moments were by far the best ones, and that is a positive thing.

    This movie is just a monument to studio tactics, and should be viewed as such, therefore - I agree with SFAM’s rating here.

    And AI was painfuly bad… I was never that eager to leave a theatre…

    March 21, 2006

    Case said:

    Actually, my rating for I, ROBOT would most likely be a 4 (5, at best)…but…that’s me.

    No, you misunderstood me. When I said, “walked out” of A.I., I simply meant out of the theater…after the movie was over. No, I actually think that’s a vastly UNDERrated film, though I would agree with most that it was still about 20 minutes too long. I would have ended it with David asking the Blue Fairy to be back with his mother…over and over…after the camera pulls back, slowly fade to black. An ironic ending…probably similar to the one Stanley Kubrick had in mind when he conceived the projects many years eariler.

    Either way, I’d agree with the 8 star rating.

    SFAM said:

    Wew! I was gonna say - tough crowd walkin out on AI! But do you think Sonny wasn’t even an interesting character? Just to be clear - my 4 star movies include such hits as Absolon, Cherry 2000, Cyborg, Galerians: Rion, and Judge Dredd. Do you see I, Robot as similar to those? At a minimum, the actual polish is far better (you could argue that it’s polishing a turd, but still - absolon is an unpolished turd!). The FX for the Robots are terrific, and Sonny, I think, is an interesting character.

    Again, I could easily be swayed to drop this down to a six - I’d still give an extra point for Sonny, but might take one away for the commercials (personally I hate them being at the beginning).

    SFAM said:

    Hi Budo, thanks for the insight into the casting. Yeah, given what we’ve seen from Proyas in the past, it seemed pretty clear that his ability to impact this picture wasn’t that great.

    Still, we’ve seen Will Smith actually stretch himself occaisionally. In Enemy of the State, Smith was actually a different person (somewhat) than he is in his summer blockbusters.

    spikethebloody said:

    I liked the interesting idea of the 3 Laws taken to the extreme and Sonny was interesting. Not as interesting as David in AI but nevertheless interesting. Will Smith wasn’t as bad as he was in ID4 here but he can take away from a picture. I liked him as Bagger Vance though.

    David Gentle said:

    Note that the name “HardWired” is also the name of a Walter Jon Williams novel.
    Any chance of some novel reviews, by the way?

    SFAM said:

    David Gentle said: “Any chance of some novel reviews, by the way?”

    Yes, a very good chance, in fact. All we need are reviewers! We have two interested in potentially doing this, but clearly, due to the number of books, we definitely need more.

    Does this mean you are volunteering? ;)

    David Gentle said:

    I could knock some reviews together. Do you want to start a list of titles in the forum?

    SFAM said:

    Yes!!! That would be great. Starting off with a book list is the right way to do it. There’s a good one on the net that I know hasn’t been updated in a while, but let me upload this to the forum for starters.

    Once you register to the forum (if you haven’t already), I’ll get you into the reviewers forum.

    Case said:

    Oh, Sonny was definitely the best part of the film, so I agree with you there. In fact, the film would have been far greater just by getting rid of the Spooner character altogether and putting the focus on Sonny and his creator…but that goes without saying. As for the ratings, let’s just say that my rating system would be a lot different than yours…but then, I’m probably a much harsher judge. I wouldn’t be above giving trash like CHERRY 2000 and CYBORG 1 or even no stars.

    David Gentle said:

    Just as an I’ Robot related aside: the robots in this are ripped off from the design from Chris Cunningham’s video for Bjork’s All is Full of Love.
    Cunningham is, of course, the guy that was trying to do a film of Neuromancer (with W. Gibsons full cooperation).

    David Gentle said:

    Case said:

    ‘Funny you should mention that, David, as I was just trying to find a good forum in order to ask SFAM if the image in the “logo” for was taken from Bjork’s video. If I had any brain, though, I’d just go downstairs and watch the Chris Cunningham DVD I have and find out for sure…

    March 22, 2006

    Case said:

    ‘Happy to hear of Bjork’s video (and Chris Cunningham - his NEUROMANCER film - R.I.P.) getting some recognition. Both are brilliant.

    I was by no means criticizing your ratings system (I wouldn’t change a thing, actually). I was merely saying I’m much less…”forgiving” than you, shall we say? But then, I’m a film snob. Ask any of my friends. Heh…

    SFAM said:

    Hi Case, I get what you are saying - some films are just crap. But I sort of enjoy “sorting through the shit” to find gem-like scenes. Truly, this is all you get as you go down the ladder.

    Also, some are totally unforgiving of fancy FX but no story. I tend to appreciate at least some aspects - which both Terminator and I, Robot have. That said, something like “The Island” I will have a hard time giving it 5 stars, even though the FX are good - great even in some places.

    And regarding the Neuromancer film, was there ever any shoots from this, or did it not even get to production? I would LOVE to see some stills.

    Case said:

    Hi SFAM - My heart breaks every time I even mention it, but Chris Cunningham’s feature film version of Gibson’s NEUROMANCER never even got off the ground (although it came close). Sad, because although he has yet to helm a full-lengthed film, I can think of no better director for the job. Let’s just hope Brian Yuzna doesn’t regain his interest in directing…:::shivers:::

    March 25, 2006

    ETM said:

    I have never read Neuromancer, but I HAVE read Gibson’s own script for it, dating back to about 1993, I think. Are you going to review some of that “could have been” stuff, SFAM?

    SFAM said:

    Hi Budo, that sounds like a terrific idea. Reviewing a “could have been” type thing goes along with a “Why is hollywood screwing us?” post. If you want to do this, I’d love to include it. :)

    September 30, 2006

    Guardian Zero said:

    Hi! Before the movie I read some Asimov’s books (including some not related with science fiction). I think the movie’s writers did a decent job, but Will couldn’t transmit the conflict between the feelings versus the logic. It was easier for the robot transmit human behavior.

    I recognize a commercial when I see it, but I liked the movie anyway. I think Seven stars are good enough.

    October 1, 2006

    SFAM said:

    If it wasn’t for Sonny and the spectacular FX, this movie would be worth five or six stars at best. I though Will Smith, as jaded MIB cop, was almost a complete drag on this movie.

    April 12, 2007

    joe said:

    that movie was bad ass!

    April 25, 2007

    alex said:

    cool film i wana I Robost 2 too see ;)

    April 26, 2007

    L1zrdking said:

    I finally got around to watching this. I really loved the CGI, it was done quite well. I also enjoyed Will Smith’s performance for the most part. He wasn’t nearly as well, himself. Most of his roles he plays “The Fresh Prince” but he was a decent bitter, bigoted cop. He pulled off the tortured by the past thing pretty well. I would have preferred a bit more, blade runner feel, more noir and dark and gritty, but overall it was a pretty entertaining flick. I whole heartily agree with it having too many holywoodisms, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as many people made it out to be.

    April 27, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Hi L1zrdking, I agree that its not that bad (hence the rating), but just as clearly, drop the hollywoodisms and it coulda been great. Smith was just the wrong choice for this.

    April 28, 2007

    L1zrdking said:

    No doubt, Smith is what kept me from watching a long time ago. I think the director kept him from most of his typical fresh prince act, but defiantly no bruce willis in 12 monkeys. I just wonder how bad he’s going to butcher I am legend.

    April 29, 2007

    Ant-I, Robot said:

    Your use of the word “overblown” is overblown.

    May 16, 2007

    Janice Cardona said:

    This is such a great movie!!!!! i think that Will Smith is super sexy!!

    Kelly Kelly said:

    wow this movie was awsome. Though the laws of robotics are kinda confusing. though you should find it natural because i’ma blonde and all blondes are dumb. this movie was the best sci-fi film i’ve ever seen in my life. i don’t agree with any of you nerdy people this movie is da best. HAHAHA. and I agree with janice cardona will smith is soooooooooooooooooo sexy.

    Kelly Kelly said:

    SFAM are you blind? Will Smith is the best actor. Did you not watch thee Persue Of Happiness? Will Smith was the correct choice to play the main character.

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

    Smith is super sexy!!

    May 17, 2007

    Sarah said:

    I Robots is a good movie. I’d give it an 8. But were the robots really there? Or were they animated? If they are real where are they now, and will they be in our future lives?

    June 1, 2007

    al mac said:

    the last three comments have cracked me up. the movie wasnt bad, good ideas blown over to fit with a hollywood big release, which this is and is only.

    June 23, 2007

    DIma From Ukraine said:

    Hello!!!!!!! I am from … Ukraine!!! It is very cool…. yes?

    August 2, 2007

    Call me Cookie Man said:

    I thought that this was a good movie, not great, but definately not bad. Will Smith does play Will Smith, but that just adds some decently interesting chase scenes and such. I am much more content with a small sense of unrealism in a movie, than I would be with a completely realistic movie where there are no bad-ass characters. Sonny was great, Will Smith was ok, the robots got worse and that made me mad, but that doctor guy who was killed by Sonny was great… especially that bitter moat of a soul part. Oh, and to the advertisement part… you complain about reality a bit, but doesnt the advertisements, like having Fed-Ex come to the door and such just make it more realistic?

    August 26, 2007

    Ni said:

    hey there, on the subject of advertising… I hate to refer to Blade Runner… but if everyone had a problem with the advertising in I, Robot, why no problem with the ads in Blade Runner? I know they are two very different movies (in terms of quality, and style).

    my personal opinion: I thought it was totally okay.

    Also, something totally different, I would love to see something like that sort of “blade runner curse” that went around, where all the companies advertised in it all had a major negative development. (anyone not familiar with this should wiki the movie and read up on it)

    […] to an AI, even going so far as to launch a campaign to coincide with the release of 2004’s I,Robot called 3 Laws Unsafe to show how the famed 3 laws are unethical to a robot’s or AI’s […]

    August 30, 2007

    Maverick said:

    I must admit I’m totally biased because I can’t stand Will Smith and don’t like obvious CGI and am getting tired of the rebel cop thing unless done with a certain flare. I would only give this a 3 – 4.

    September 10, 2007

    Marc McKenzie said:

    Hmmm…my two cents.

    I’m of two minds when it comes to I, ROBOT. One is the wish that they had used Harlan Ellison’s amazing screenplay, which actually uses some of the stories in the original book and would have made a serious, mature SF story. The screenplay was actually published after Asimov’s passing in 1992 with wonderful illustrations by Mark Zug. If you can find it, GET IT. You want to know how to write a strong science fiction screenplay? Look here.

    On the other hand…I still like the I, ROBOT film that was made. I still check it out when it comes on TV. Yes, it is “inspired” by Asimov’s book. However, it still has a brain, and the discussion of the The Three Laws is solid. I actually liked Smith and the rest of the cast. The fact that Alex Proyas directed this also made it worthwhile, even if it is not his best film.

    That said, the robots steal the show. Thanks to Patrick Tatopolous’s designs, and the incredible VFX, and also Alan Tudyk, Sonny is truly one of the most memorable robots to appear on the screen. He is actually the one element of this film that is truly dead-on to what Asimov describes in his robot stories.

    November 22, 2007

    ahmad said:

    hi its ahmad from lebanon i am 14 years old i would like to comment about this movie :i like it lot and it is a very good movie
    i would like to see another part of i robot

    January 10, 2008

    Jonas said:

    ay hvil hav a robot

    March 7, 2008

    moi said:

    i like this movie :)

    March 17, 2008

    Justin Clark said:

    I LOVE it

    May 17, 2008

    saco said:


    lolitta said:

    wooow it is nice

    July 26, 2008

    Anonymous said:


    September 12, 2008

    dennj said:

    i thought the futuristic images alone was worth the admission price… but i’m a sucker for eye candy

    September 17, 2008

    Anonymous said:

    it sucks

    Anonymous said:

    your right it sucks

    October 20, 2008

    houssein awada said:

    i want any ideas for final project in university thanks

    June 21, 2009

    zii said:

    I don’t mind Will Smith.. his biggest problem isn’t that he tries to be Fresh Prince, but that he’s _expected_ to be it… He’s proved that he can play serious roles too. All the “Will Smith Funny Lines” you hear in this movie… I doubt they can be blamed on Will Smith himself, but rather the people behind the scenes.. writers, directors etc. If they tell him to say a funny line, he’ll say a funny line. If they don’t tell him to say funny lines, I doubt he’ll make stuff up on his own in front of the camera…

    What I _do_ mind about this movie is the bad advertising. They should never had advertised it as an Asimov movie, just “inspired by…” would’ve been enough. Now they pissed off all the Asimov lovers for no good reason.

    The movie itself is very good, it has become one of my scifi favourites. But then again, I do like the “mainstream Hollywood stuff” too. :)

    September 28, 2009

    brivy said:

    t amo will smit ers d lo mejor y esa pelii etubo genial

    December 16, 2009

    sergey said:

    mne nuzna ASUS 696vce

    September 17, 2010

    Wolfblood said:

    it’s okay but i mean robots taking over it’s so old make something new.

    November 1, 2010

    khan said:

    i ting you see in the robot body not fet

    April 22, 2012

    ishwar said:


    ishwar said:


    April 26, 2012

    Burnt_Lombard said:

    Look like there’s a few I, Spambots in the comments section lately.

    I’ve been rereading a lot of asimov lately and it made me want to go back and watch this movie. Besides resembling Little Lost Robot and Robot Dreams a little bit, there’s not much of a connection. However it is a pretty fun movie on it’s own, but some of the action scenes seemed so forced. Like uh-oh people might be bored let’s destroy the house with Will Smith in it…. time for a slow mo shot diving off a motorcycle. If you can distance it from Asimov, you might have fun with the flick.

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