Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Digital man meets digital film

Isaac Asimov's `I, Robot' takes an FX-laden look at the problematic relationship of man and machine

By A. O. SCOTT  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , New York

A straightforward genre exercise, directed with more competence than inspiration, I, Robot lacks both the intellectual rigor and the soulful sublimity of A.I., but it nonetheless allows some genuine ideas and emotions to pop up amid the noise and clutter. The overwrought ending tries to bring these into some kind of coherence, and the filmmakers deserve some credit for the effort, even though I, Robot makes less sense the more you think about it.

Which, I suppose, is just as silly as taking the film seriously as a cautionary tale. Still, this kind of movie presents a troubling paradox, since it is an example of the very phenomenon it purports to warn against. Dramatizing the threat of runaway technology seems to demand ever greater technological innovation, as digitized special effects increasingly push human beings off screen.

Sonny, with his mournful blue eyes and his smooth features, nearly upstages Smith and Moynahan, and it is possible to foresee a day when his kind will tire of being pushed around by flesh-and-blood actors and directors. They will organize their own guilds, take creative control over their own movies and, eventually, turn their mechanical minds to film criticism. Now I'm scared. I hope it's not too late.

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