I, Robot

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By Mark Ramsey | 2004/07/19

According to Isaac Asimov, there are three laws of Robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or allow a human being to come to harm, except for Julie Chen and any member of the Big Brother cast, past or present.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law or precipitate the production of any further Hope & Faith episodes

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law, the Law of Thermodynamics, the Law of the Jungle, or Law and Order: SVU.

I Robot is “suggested by Isaac Asimov’s book,” according to the credits, and the robot design was “suggested by an old iMac.” Will Smith, “suggested by Harrison Ford” stars opposite Bridget Moynahan, “suggested by Sean Young.”

As we begin the movie, elder scientist James Cromwell is dead. From a retirement home in the Valley, Wilford Brimley shouts “Hooray, I’m employable again!”

irobot_halfhumanhalfipod.jpgPity poor Bridget who had a thing for Cromwell. He’s twice her age and half her epidermal elasticity. Between their birthdays, more than a few Wooly Mammoths cried “Help, I’m locked in ice!”

It’s 2035 in Chicago: 2,000-year-old Mike Wallace continues to host 60 Minutes and three beers will set you back $46.50. Humans and robots mingle on the streets but can never marry – in part because “the sacred institution of marriage is the union of a man and woman” but mostly because the robots wouldn’t have us.

Robots, you see, are now doing all the jobs that used to go to starving actors and illegal immigrants. If you’re upset that jobs are being outsourced to India, just wait until your can-opener is walking the dog.

The latest and greatest robot is the NS-5. It’s more intelligent, more sophisticated, and more apt to listen to Car Talk on Public Radio. Unique to this model is a state-of-the-art positronic brain capable of complex and intelligent decision-making, which means two things: It can take over the world and it’s unlikely ever to audition for Blind Date.

The NS-5 has a white torso connected to its hips by a steel spine and a few tubes, thus giving Mary-Kate Olsen something to shoot for. Why do these robots have ivory faces and pretty blue eyes? Is this some Scandinavian technology at work? My PC doesn’t have a face. My phone doesn’t have a face. My watch has a face but, to my horror, hands are sticking out of it! Oh, the humanity!

irobot_directorstar.jpgBut are the robots too smart for our own good? U.S. Robotics is the company behind these mechanical shenanigans. I believe this is the same company that made my broadband router, which I now have under 24-hour surveillance.

Are we so dangerous to ourselves that we need to be controlled to be protected? Must we give up some freedoms in order to ensure our future? Is subjugation the ultimate Patriot Act? When does a bucket of bolts become a sentient being? When does Jessica Simpson become a sentient being? These questions haunt me.

Will is a cop and Chi McBride is Will’s cop-boss in a characteristically hackneyed role. Has there ever been a Police Captain who didn’t ask for the hero’s badge? “Give me your badge!” There’s got to be a fresher way to say this:

* “If you don’t shove that badge up my ass, I’m going to shove it up yours”

* “Let’s swap, you take ‘Hello My Name Is..’ and I’ll take the one with all the Police stuff on it”

* “We’re switching to a sash – all you need is a patch”

* “If I don’t know who you are by now, I never will”

* “It contains radioactive plutonium – this is for your own safety”

I Robot features too many heroic Will Smith slow-motion adventure leaps. You know what I’m talking about. What would an action movie be without clichéd slow motion sequences? “We spent a lot of time setting up and executing this shot,” the filmmaker is saying, “and I want to make damn sure you don’t miss a frame of it.” Anyone who has ever been in the supermarket express line behind someone writing a check knows that motion isn’t better when slow.

All in all, it’s fun to watch humanity nearly get squashed, especially if you like your popcorn with salt and sadomasochism.

Hey Will Smith – one favor: Next time you take a shower use the curtain and save the Herb Ritts moment for Jada.


Photos Copyright ©2004 20th Century Fox

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