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Wed July 14, 2004
It at least continues the intriguing topic of what it means to be human.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Robots in the arts have always been intriguing. Isaac Asimov promoted them in science fiction to remind us as humans to celebrate our emotions and imperfections, usually coveted by our mechanical creations even with the prospect of death as the ultimate payment due.
Director Alex Proyas' ("The Crow") "I, Robot," based on Asimov's story, packs every robot clich? into a year 2035 morality tale, visually satisfying (The CGI, like good robots, is at the service of the story) and regurgitating the usual robot notions: Frankenstein's monster is there with his conflicted maker; the Maria clone from "Metropolis" with her sleek form; Robbie from "Forbidden Planet" with his warm, human-like solicitation; Hal from "2001" with his dangerous deference only slightly hiding his intentions; and Data, "Star Trek's" almost human techie, coming closest to the ideal.
More robotic than "I, Robot's" robots is Will Smith's ("Ali") Del Spooner, guess what, a wise-ass, rebellious cop who is the only one who intuits the danger of the robotic rumblings. He unsurprisingly enlists the help of the beautiful, coldly calculating scientist, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan, "The Recruit"), who, believe it or not, comes to believe the robots can violate their 3 basic rules of serving humans to their own annihilation if necessary. US Robotics head, Lawrence Robinson (Bruce Greenwood), is, of course, the major suspect in the incipient revolution, ostensibly because of the usual world-domination dreams.
"Sunny" (Alan Trudyk, "Dodgeball") is the new generation robot, not as overtly ambitious as his forebears and more human because of his resignation to decommissioning while exploring human emotions. Spooner, on the other hand, seems to be more of a robot, which, like some contemporary leaders, sees the enemy as a danger to be overcome rather than a work in progress to be gently ushered into peaceful co-existence. Also, the rogue robots talk about dominating humans for their own good, just as neocons offer preemption and occupation rather than debate.
The last line of "I, Robot" addresses the human urge for liberty and the necessity of searching for it. The film adds nothing new to the genre but athletic robots and robotic leads, yet it at least continues the intriguing topic of what it means to be human. The caveat is, as Albert Schweitzer said, that "the advance to fully developed inhumanity is only a question of time."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.