Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Not quite I, Robot

I saw I, Robot by Alex Proyas. I'm not sure what to say about it.

Proyas very disingenuously suggests that his intention was to "sum up" all of the stories in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. Look, I came into this knowing it wasn't going to be a recreation or even a summing up of those stories, so don't fucking lie to me.

Perhaps he was cleverly alluding to one of the most famous stories from the collection. I'm not sure.

For one thing, there would have been no reason to search for a way to pull all of the theads of the collection together. Harlan Ellison already managed that incredible feat with his utterly brilliant screenplay, currently published as I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay. If he'd wanted to really capture that book specifically, he would have found a way to get the rights to use that screenplay. Period.

Hell, I think Ellison's screenplay is a stronger work than Asimov's original collection!

No, this movie, from a screenplay by the least talented human being to ever receive an Oscar, doesn't want to use anything but the most basic skeleton of a couple of characters from Asimov's short story collection.

The first half of this movie, which is almost completely without merit or any internal logic, wants very badly to be Caves Of Steel (although not The Naked Sun or Robots Of Dawn). This segment defies all logic. The destruction of Lanning's house, for example, drives the story forward, but it makes no sense whatsoever. The attempts to draw some kind of parallel with modern race relations seems overly self-conscious and never really click.

The second half is a big improvement. While the climax starts to resemble R.U.R. by Karel Capek, which Asimov's stories were in part a reaction against. The rest is the same kind of mediocre Hollywood sci-fi epic I rented it to see. It succeeds more in comparison with the abysmal first half.

It does, however, reference, likely by accident, Asimov's Robots and Empire and the Zeroth Law posited within that story (and the stories that followed). Its use is ultimately mechanical and unsatifying, however.

Proyas, despite being a fucking liar, is a stunning visual director - as he has shown already - despite an overreliance on CGI. He needs a strong script and great actors to see him through. Lord knows Brandon Lee was an utter powerhouse of charisma, but he doesn't demonstrate anything that even remotely resembles a genuine human emotion in The Crow. Dark City was an enormous leap forward, but rested somewhat on the backs of actors much more gifted than the ones in I, Robot.

Overall, it comes closer to a thumbs up than I imagined it could when I paused for a cigarette around halfway, but it still comes up empty. It's a hollow movie that manages to grab hold before it's quite too late, but doesn't leave you really satisfied.

And did I mention that Alex Proyas is a goddamn liar? Fuck him! I spit in his eye!

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