I, Robot – All-Access Collector’s Edition

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Rating: PG-13

Will Smith as Del Spooner
Bridget Moynahan as Susan Calvin
Alan Tudyk as Sonny
James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning
Bruce Greenwood as Lawrence Robertson
Adrian Ricard as Granny
Chi McBride as Lt. John Bergin
Jerry Wasserman as Baldez
Fiona Hogan as V.I.K.I.
Peter Shinkoda as Chin
Terry Chen as Chin
David Haysom as NS4 Robots
Scott Heindl as NS5 Robots
Sharon Wilkins as Woman
Craig March as Detective

Special Features:
Commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman

Commentary by production designer Patrick Tatopolous, editor Richard Learoyd, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, associate producer John Kilkenny, animation supervisor Andrew Jones, and visual effects supervisor Brian Van’t Hul

Commentary by composer Marco Beltrami with isolated score

Comprehensive four-hour interactive tour

“Days Out of Days” production diaries

CGI and design featurettes

“Sentient Machines” (robotic behavior)

“Three Laws Safe”: conversations about sci-fi and robots

“The Filmmakers’ Toolbox” (VFX how-to clues)

Deleted scenes and alternate ending

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
5.1 DTS Surround Sound
Spanish and French Languages
English and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 114 Minutes

The following is from the DVD cover:

“3 Laws Safe

1. A Robot May Not Injure A Human Being…
2. A Robot Must Obey The Orders Given It…
3. A Robot Must Protect Its Own Existence…

Superstar Will Smith rages against the machines in this mind-blowing, sci-fi action thriller! When a scientist (James Cromwell) is found dead, robophobic detective Del Spooner (Smith) suspects an advanced robot committed the murder. According to the Three Laws of Robotics, however, a robot can’t harm a human – but rules were meant to be broken! This suspenseful tale of the future questions whether technology will ultimately lead to mankind’s salvation…or annihilation.”

“I, Robot” is rated PG-13 for intense stylized action and some brief partial nudity.

The Movie:
In 1950, author Isaac Asimov released one of his most famous works, I, Robot. This collection of 9 short stories set forth the Three Laws of Robotics and has been an inspiration to writers of Science Fiction ever since. Writer Jeff Vintar penned a screenplay about robots that followed the basic laws set forth by Asimov. When the rights to I, Robot were picked up by the same company that owned Vintar’s screenplay, they decided to merge the two.

The film I, Robot does not follow any of the stories of Asimov, but the way the robots interact with humans and the philosophies set forth by Asimov are ever-present in the movie. Fans of Asimov do not need to worry that his ideas were just cast aside – they were integrated into an already good plot that drew heavily upon his work.

In this vision of Asimov’s work, Will Smith is police detective Del Spooner, who has a deep distrust of the robot world. Spooner is called to the scene of a suicide by the victim via a holographic recording. He is immediately suspicious of the circumstances and believes that the man was murdered. He also believes that the murder was not done by a human but by one of the robots that the victim was working on. Robotic scientist, and close friend and colleague to the deceased, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) is assigned to assist Spooner in his investigation. Despite her trust in the three laws of robotics, she slowly begins to understand that they might not be fool proof.

The plot and storyline of the movie are first class. It has several twists and reveals itself slowly throughout the film. The pacing is good with plenty of action scenes interspersed between the character development and the background information. The acting is solid. However, Will Smith occasionally seems overly obsessive.

The special effects and CGI are state of the art. It is impossible to tell where the animatronic robots and the CGI robots converge. The city of Chicago has been updated to the year 2035 and looks appropriate. The interactions between the humans and the robots feel natural, as if they have been well integrated into society, and that is a tribute to the visual effects team. Complementing the effects is Marco Beltrami’s score. It is subtle but effective, pulling you deeper into the film.

There are only a couple of parts of the film that did not seem right. A fight at the end of the film between Detective Spooner and the robots seemed overdone and did not give the robots the superhuman capabilities that they seemed to have earlier in the movie. Also the robots that turn against humanity have a glowing red light in the center of their chest. While this is easier on the audience, it is something that gives away their intent. It would be far more sinister if the robots did not change at all when they went bad. Those are just minor problems though, and they did not seriously detract from the overall feel of the film.

Who should see this movie? Isaac Asimov fans will be happy to see an intelligent adaptation of his Robot series to the big screen. Fans of Will Smith will enjoy watching him in another strong leading role. There is action throughout the film and it is brought to life with excellent CGI. If you are looking for humor or a love story you will not find that here. This is a Hollywood summer blockbuster movie and those elements are not included here, although Detective Spooner does get a few humorous lines. The film does ask some serious questions about man and his relationships to the machines that he creates, which will leave you with something to think about long after the credits finish. Overall a very fun action movie that will also engage your brain.

The Extras:
When I, Robot was first released on DVD, they were extremely stingy on the bonus features. Now we see why. They were holding them back for this “All-Access Collector’s Edition”. There’s some great stuff here, but it’s questionable whether or not you’d want to buy the movie again if you already own the previous DVD. I have to say that the menus to access these features are quite convoluted and at times confusing. It takes a while to get the hang of navigating it. Here’s what you’ll find among the new material:

Commentary by production designer Patrick Tatopolous, editor Richard Learoyd, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, associate producer John Kilkenny, animation supervisor Andrew Jones, and visual effects supervisor Brian Van’t Hul – A number of these commentaries were recorded separately, then put together for this DVD. It’s good in one respect because it seems to keep the discussion much more focused. You get a lot of info about the production design and technical aspects of the making of the movie.

Commentary by composer Marco Beltrami with isolated score –This commentary is unique in that the music plays by itself without the film dialogue or sound effects. In the parts without music, Beltrami comes on and talks about scoring for this movie and for movies in general. If you like film music, then you’ll enjoy this.

“Days Out of Days” production diaries – This is a very in-depth look at the making of the movie. A documentary crew was there for every minute of the production filming everything from mundane things like a snack break all the way up to the biggest action scenes of the film. You see the cast and crew all clowning around, candid stories about getting in trouble while making noise late at night in downtown Vancouver, and more. Everyone from the stuntmen to the main stars is shown in the footage. It looks like everyone had a great time filming the movie.

CGI and design featurettes – These are some detailed looks at the making of the big effects shots in the film. They talk about the robot designs, the digital backgrounds, and all sorts of visual effects goodness.

“Sentient Machines” (robotic behavior) – This is a documentary detailing the history of real life robots and where robotic research is currently going. You see research on swarm-like behavior in basic robots, robot-human interaction, and more. It’s some interesting stuff.

“Three Laws Safe”: conversations about sci-fi and robots – This is a more philosophical look at robots, life, and programming. Various experts talk about robots in fiction through the years and how the perceptions of them have changed over time. They also talk to futurists about what robots will eventually be like. Isaac Asimov’s daughter and editor are also interviewed and they provide unique insight into the life and ideas of the author (as well as discussion about what the author would think of this adaptation).

“The Filmmakers’ Toolbox” (VFX how-to clues) – These are mainly a series of brief clips showing how the layers of computer effects all work together to make photorealistic images of robots attacking, futuristic cityscapes, and more.

Deleted scenes and alternate ending – One notable deleted scene shows more of Will Smith’s character talking with the hologram of Dr. Alfred Lanning. You learn a little more about their relationship in this cut scene. There’s also the alternate ending, but it’s really just a reorganization of some of the existing scenes in the film.

Here’s what you will find that was also on the previous DVD:

Commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman – While Proyas and Goldsman deliver an interesting and informative commentary, it would have been more fun if Will Smith had been included in the action. Still, Proyas and Goldsman explain a lot of the choices they made in the film, the things they dropped, and other stuff.

The Making of I, Robot – This is your standard “making of” video with behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew, and other such material. The highlight is definitely seeing Alan Tudyk and the other actors who portrayed robots in green outfits. All sorts of jokes are made about the outfits and they explain the technology behind them.

The Bottom Line:
I, Robot is a fun popcorn flick that is well worth checking out if you’re a fan of Will Smith, sci-fi, action movies, or thrillers. This “All-Access Collector’s Edition” has some great bonus features, but I’m not sure you’ll want to buy the movie again if you already own it.