A science fiction blockbuster with brains and brawn, I, Robot stars Will Smith as a technophobic detective investigating an apparent suicide in the not-too-distant future of 2035. He suspects a robot named Sonny (a computer generated creation modelled on actor Alan Tudyk) offed inventor Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), but the authorities insist no robot can commit a crime: their design won't allow it. Unconvinced, our Will sleuths for the truth and a relatively obvious mystery unravels, punctured by spectacular action scenes.
Taking ideas from a book of loosely linked stories by Isaac Asimov, the film stays true to the spirit of the renowned sci-fi writer's acclaimed work, while offering up an audience-friendly detective story. As usual with American movie detectives, Smith spends a lot of his time looking confused while people - well, robots - try to kill him. The plot points are sometimes a little blatant (the Hansel And Gretel reference is a particular howler; just how stupid is Smith?), but the storytelling's sprightly compared to recent techno-fear thrillers such as Terminator 3 and Minority Report. And as an exploration of the ethical issues around artificial intelligence, it's more engaging and unpretentious than A.I.
"SMITH IS LIKEABLE AND SMART-MOUTHED"
Visually it impresses, too. A futuristic Chicago is rendered with virtually seamless CGI, while the NS-5 robots are invested with a malign blandness, their translucent shells and intricate inner workings making them appear like very angry iMacs. A pumped-up Smith struts through a broad performance, likeable and smart-mouthed, always ready with a pithy one-liner. Bridget Moynahan makes for a suitably chilly Dr Susan Calvin, even if her robo-psychiatrist is younger and more photogenic than Asimov intended.
Whether there's anything substantial under the sheen and CGI of Alex Proyas' glistening future vision is debatable, but this enjoyable, engrossing picture is at least intelligently artificial.