This past summer, two big-budget movie staples were brought together: Will Smith and futuristic robots. The resulting film, “I, Robot,” was a financial disappointment for Fox, a studio that now hopes to recoup its losses with a newly released DVD.
Loosely based upon Isaac Asimov’s short stories, “I, Robot” brought viewers to a futuristic Chicago where robots are integrated into society, doing the menial tasks humans hate to do. As a result, all are happy — except for Del Spooner (Smith), a cop wary of the ubiquitous robots. His suspicions are confirmed when a robot is accused of murdering Dr. Lanning (James Cromwell), the head scientist at U.S. Robotics. Since murder is defined as one human killing another human, the robot (created by Alan Tudyk) is released, but Spooner doesn’t give up his search for the truth.
The 2035 version of Chicago presented in the film is not far removed from the present. Much of the landscape has naturally evolved — with some over-the-top exceptions — and is used simply to impress viewers. Although many of these technological advances look good, the crisp DVD picture makes the futuristic landscape seem overly computer generated at points. Otherwise, the action scenes, including an exciting car chase featuring legions of robots, are impressive — considering the abundance of CGI.
The special features, however, are extremely disappointing, as it seems Fox devoted more time to creating an attractive cover and flashy menus than filling the disc with any intriguing content. A “Making Of” featurette focuses on how the filmmakers translated human movements onto the robot’s character. This is only exciting for the few people who didn’t see the process used to create Gollum for “The Lord of the Rings.” In addition, too much time is devoted to plot summary, especially considering viewers generally watch special features after finishing the movie.
The commentary provided by the director and screenwriter of “I, Robot” does provide some insight into the making of the film, but it is otherwise dull. The most egregious error on the disc is the inclusion of the standard special feature cop-out: the still photo gallery. Featuring pictures of Will Smith in a harness and shooting guns, this “feature” essentially adds nothing to the DVD.
The “I, Robot” DVD seems to have been hastily thrown together to capitalize on the Christmas shopping season. Fortunately for those on the receiving end of an “I, Robot” gift, the film proves to be fairly entertaining with impressive special effects.
Movie: 3 out of 5 stars
Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars
Features: 1 out of 5 stars