I, Robot-Its All About the Script
I, Robot, is slick and sexy for most of its nearly two hour running time. The futuristic story about detective Del Spooner investigating a robot implicated in a murder of a human, which is suppose to be an impossibility, is entertaining but does feel a little bland at times. The story essentially flows through one leaving only a minimal lasting impression. Movies like this are a bit of a puzzle, as I can understand the logic behind making them and why stars sign on the dotted line, but somehow something is just off.
One problem, I suspect is in the writing. Both Jeff Vinter and Akiva Goldsman worked on I, Robot which does not exactly instill much confidence to say the least. I believe Vinter’s only previous writing credit was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which I have reviewed at length. This was kind of a cocky and arrogant script that ignored what the fan base of the loyal Final Fantasy series wanted, instead opting for a half-baked and mostly recycled plot, which forgoes the lore of the Final Fantasy universe. Yes, you want the script to have as broad of an appeal as possible but commodities such as Final Fantasy are selected precisely for their high name recognition and pre-existing fan base. I saw no evidence in the Final Fantasy-The Spirits Within that these factors were examined with enough fervor and care. I know, this isn’t about Final Fantasy-The Spirits Within, well, not exactly anyway.
Few major Hollywood releases actually managed to lose money. Between domestic, foreign, DVD rental, cable rights and so forth, it is pretty rare that a film loses money or a fair amount of money. The studios have basically stacked the game so they know they are going to win most of the time. Final Fantasy might have actually lost a significant amount of money. As for Goldman, not the greatest track record in the world. Feel free to read my review of Lost in Space, which Goldman also penned. This was a very problematic script that really fell apart at the end and Goldman’s other credits are even scarier, Batman and Robin. Oh, if you’ve seen this movie, you know bad, and if you’re a comic book fan, you know pain. So, guess what, I was rather surprised that I, Robot was actually a decent movie and even more surprised that it made money. How did this happen? There were 4 major reasons.
The financial success of I, Robot, which grossed over $300 million dollars, is largely due to the global box office appeal of Will Smith. Truthfully, without that box office pull Vinter and Goldman would have had another fatality under their collective belts.
Another reason for the unlikely success of I, Robot was due to Alex Proyas, director of the borderline masterpiece Dark City. Proyas took that same style and to a certain extent applied it to I, Robot giving the film a edgy look that it might of not had with another director.
A third reason for the success of I, Robot was the menacing robotic creations of I, Robot. This was a really good example of getting the human mannerisms right enough to really creep the audience out a bit. Moreover, the robots move with a grace and elegance that almost does make them seem like real creations, thus immensely adding to the suspension of disbelief.
No doubt the familiarity of the I, Robot and Isaac Asimov name helped tremendously. Without the Asimov and Will Smith names attached this movie I suspect there would have had serious problems.
Now, this is not to say that there were not other reasons for while the film was able to overcome what I see as a fairly bland script. Its not a bad script, its just bland, it desperately needed a infusion of style and sophisticated that I have yet seen displayed by either Goldman or Vinter. It’s the kind of bland you get often when people have not had enough life experiences. With so much attention placed upon stars and directors, it is easy to forget that it all begins and ends with the script. The film was successful, but a script by Vinter and Goldman would not have made it all the way through production in the $110-$120 million dollar range if the process for selecting scripts to move into pre-production was not overly politicized and flawed. Together, they had already had their fair amount of mistakes. Both should have needed to truly prove themselves on smaller projects.
If you had read many of my reviews I often rip, quite harshly, on the MBA’s and lawyers that run Hollywood, only the uninitiated believe that the creatives run the show, but this is one occasion where the “suits” needed to be more involved and found others to pen this script. They were lucky this time as for some complex reasons, I, Robot works. Whether or not a previous script was profittable (and in Vinter’s case I believe money was lost) as the main or only criteria for choosing a script or greenlighting a project seems like very risky business for a Hollywood executive. But as I always say, what do I know I’m just some guy on the internet...
Acting A (Really solid performances from Smith, Bruce Greenwood and James Cromwell help save the day and move the otherwise bland script forward.)
Visuals B+ (There are some innovative and slick visuals in the movie.)
Enjoyability Grade B
Home Theater/HD Factor B+(Well shot with lots of nice effects I, Robot will show what your HD set or projector can do nicely.)
Overall Grade B