There’s a new trailer for the movie I, Robot, based on Isaac Asimov‘s writing. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, but, as with all movie properties based on works that I’m a fan of, there was some definite trepidation.
On the one hand, not only were they adapting the stories of one of my favorite authors, but they also tapped one of my favorite directors, Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City). On the other hand…Will Smith stars. Nothing against Will Smith personally, as I generally enjoy the films I see him in, but I’ve never seen him do much serious work — his strengths seem to have been in comedic and action vehicles. Asimov, on the other hand, while often extremely funny, has more of a cerebral, often punnish sense of humor to his writing, and his works are generally far stronger on dialog and concepts than they are on action.
Now that I’ve seen the new trailer, I have to say, I’m more than a little worried. I was hoping for more strong, “thinking-person’s” science fiction along the lines of A.I., Contact, Gattaca, or Dark City (four of the best sci-fi films in recent years, in my opinion). Instead, what I got was…well, a Will Smith action-comedy, from the looks of it.
Admittedly, I’m basing this solely on a two-minute trailer, but I don’t think I’m entirely unjustified in being worried. Opening with shots of Smith’s Detective Spooner riding his motorcycle through the city streets of Chicago, we follow him into the offices of “the richest man in the world” as a murder investigation starts. The businessman offers Spooner coffee, then asks if there’s anything he can to do help.
“For the coffee.”
“Oh, you thought I was calling you ‘Sugar’? Hey, you’re not that rich.”
From there, we move to quick shots of the investigation, as Spooner interviews the robot suspected of killing a human. Interspersed with the clips are Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics — kind of.
Asimov himself often said that his Three Laws were probably the most famous lines he had ever written, out of his entire body of work, and have served as inspiration for many of today’s top robotics theorizers and designers as our technology progresses to the point where humanoid robotic creations are becoming more and more possible. The laws, as Asimov originally wrote them, are:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The laws as given to us in the I, Robot trailer, are now:
- They cannot hurt us.
- They must do what we say.
- They can protect themselves.
Okay, the essence is still there, and it’s entirely possible (and I’m hoping that) the original laws are quoted and expounded on in the film, and that these are merely the two-second screentime trailer versions. It was still enough to make me cringe.
From there, we move to quick action clips interspersed with dialog. In one, a robot jumps out of a window, flips over a couple times, and falls to the pavement, landing with a pavement-cracking jolt in a pose that could have been lifted straight from either of the trailers for the recent two Matrix movies or from the trailer for Underworld. Okay, it’s a cool shot and a good pose, but do we need to see it in every action movie trailer to hit the screen?
A few more clips later, we’re treated to an apparent robot mob in full attack mode, complete with smashing through doors, Aliens-style scuttling across walls and ceilings, robots backhanding and attacking people, and general mayhem, with all the robots suddenly sporting glowing red eyes and torsos (which gave them an amusingly ET-like look to me).
I will freely admit that the trailer looks good visually, and the effects look like they’ll be quite good. I just wish I wasn’t as worried about what had been done to the work of one of my favorite science-fiction authors.
I guess I’ll be able to form my final opinion July 16th, when the film opens. Until then, I’ll just be keeping my fingers crossed.
iTunes: “Darkness III” by In Absentia from the album Blood and Computers II (1994, 3:25).