March 22, 2005

I, Suckbot

What do you get when you combine the sociopathic robots and speciesist cops from "Blade Runner," the awkward writing, product-placement-infested future, and bad buddy-movie chemistry from "Demolition Man," the anthropormorphic, possibly dangerous robots from "A.I.," the smarter-than-you computers from "2001," and the really strange interior design and sudden recognition of a hero's bionic limbs from the throne room of "The Return of the Jedi?"

Well, undoubtedly you'd get something better than "I, Robot." Because this movie stinks on ice.

Ok, there's a program called "Ractor" that was designed many years ago, and it was supposed to imitate a person's writing style. It worked by looking at a bunch of your writings and keeping track of simple patterns: it would then start with a random word (from your writings) and start picking other words from your writings, but with the same probability that you would use them. So you'd end up with something that sounded eerily like you, because it had your vocabulary, but the words would be put together in nonsense order.

Thus it is with "I, Robot"; the writers thought they could make an entire movie with ideas randomly stolen from other movies, like the bad guy in "Silence of the Lambs" who wants to make a suit from female skin so he can become a woman. And with as much success.

It's sad, because in this movie there's the grains of some really fascinating questions — what is the nature of the soul, can an artificial entity have one, and how does being perfectly logical conflict with being human?

But instead of taking these concepts and making something interesting, the stuido decided to make a Will Smith movie. Now, I liked Will Smith in "Six Degrees of Separation." He's a good actor. I even liked him in "ID4." He kicked ass and took names in a stupid movie.

Unfortunately, ever since "ID4," Hollywood has been producing "Will Smith movies" made-to-order for him: chock-full of witty sayings and him slouching and punching and dressing fly. Even he seems tired of it. His one-liners in this movie are about as played-out as Arnold's from the governor's mansion ("I vill tierminade da deficit!"), and the first hour of the movie could have been written by any 10-year-old. Might have, even.

Seriously, here's a movie that features such time-honored clichés as:

a) The bald, overweight chief of police who rides Will's ass and tells him he's crazy. "You're crazy! I'm taking your badge! Go see a shrink! Give me a cigar! Feed me that scenery! CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP!"

b) The young jive-talking whitebread wannabe guy who appears for four seconds at the beginning of the movie FOR NO REASON, and then appears for another four during the climax for the sole purpose of being rescued. I'm like, "Who the heck is this kid and why is he... Oh! He's gone."

c) The motorcycle ride of DOOM! Hey guys, I liked it better in "Matrix 2," when it was cool and had a point. Seriously, blink and you miss the motorcycle.

d) That evil corporate chief guy ripped straight from that movie about the computer company that's all evil and the good hackers that infiltrate it. You know the one? No? How about ALL EIGHT ZILLION OF THEM?

e) Will Smith saying, "Aw hell no." Man, that never gets old.

f) The girl who looks just like Sandra Bullock in "Demolition Man" playing the same ambiguously asexual love-interest as she did in "Demolition Man."

g) The cat in jeapordy! Oh, no! Who will save it! Will our hero save it? OH THANK GOD, HE DID.

h) The kindly old grandmama who bakes pies for our gruff detective. But, OH NO, she won the lottery and got one of the bad robots! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE STROKE OF LUCK, THAT WILL'S GRANDMA HAPPENED TO WIN THE LOTTERY AND THE PRIZE HAPPENED TO BE A ROBOT! OH, THE IRONY! Seriously, people, didn't ANYONE at the studio read this?

i) The lovable anthropomorphic robot from "A.I.", except with the voice of the HAL in "2001," using almost the same words as in 2001: "Will it hurt?"

k) The scene where our hero takes a STRANGELY FAMILIAR drawing that was given to him and then reviews a video clip we'd seen earlier in the movie that looks like the drawing, and then freeze-frames, then ZOOMs in, then HOLDS THE DRAWING UP TO THE SCREEN. Oh! I GET IT! Because the DRAWING is LIKE the VIDEO! The one we saw 10 minutes ago! In this movie! I'd forgotten! Good thing they spelled it out for me!

Seriously, has anyone in real life ever held a drawing up to a screen? It happens so much in the movies, you'd think it was really commonplace. "Hey Bob, come over here and check this out... this Mazda website has the same car I have here in my Mazda brochure! Look, if I hold them up side-by-side, you can see it's the same! No doubt about it, they're both Mazdas! Case closed!"

l) Hey, our hero in 2034 wears old-school Converse high tops, from exactly the year 2004. What are the chances? I mean, they're not the 2006 version, nor that crappy 2002 version. No, they're EXACTLY the shoe that was on the market when the movie was released. THAT IS SOME EERIE SHIT! I wonder if, in the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell?

In summary: I love science fiction. I like Will Smith. I like Isaac Asimov. I like cats. I like movies. I like robots. I even like cops. Yet, strangely, I did NOT like Will Smith as a cat-saving cop in a science fiction movie about robots, inspired by a book by Isaac Asimov.

"It puts the clichés in its movie or it gets the hose again."



Blogger Mike Matas said...

Yeah, that movie could have been so good. It is really too bad.

March 22, 2005 10:52 AM

Anonymous John Moltz said...

Well, I had heard it was so bad that I was pleasantly surprised by it when I finally saw it (for free, on an airplane - I was fully prepared to go to my grave having never seen it), although I think you certainly nailed all the clichés in it.

But let's not hold ID4 up on a pedestal. I loved that when it first came out and now every time I watch it it gets worse and worse.

Even with the PowerBook thing.

Actually, maybe even because of the PowerBook thing. If it had been OS X, yes, but OS 9?

March 23, 2005 9:42 PM

Blogger thomas Aylott said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 24, 2005 6:24 PM

Blogger thomas Aylott said...

It's almost as if they were trying to make it as clichéd as possible.

All in all, I really enjoyed your 2am drunken rant. :D

Keep it up.

March 24, 2005 6:25 PM

Blogger Zemlet said...

Oh lord I totally loved Racter. It seriously shaped who I am today.

March 29, 2005 1:06 PM

Anonymous Denis said...

It was alright, I don't mind about the whole "morceau de merde" plot but rather enjoyed the technology being used in I,Robot. It's somewhat inspiring in a wierd way.

April 02, 2005 12:53 PM

Anonymous Liz said...

Oh reading that just made my funny, and so true. :)

April 26, 2005 10:14 AM

Anonymous Joe said...

i agree with every word! the only thing i really liked was the audi

April 27, 2005 2:15 AM

Anonymous W. Ian Blanton said...

You missed the fact that they had the Robot Army troop transports from "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace".

I liked it, but my brain was shut off for most of it. The only thing I liked was his (Smith's Character) _reason_ for mistrust of Robots. As you said, it had a really nice potential for a discussion of the issues concerning moralit...Wait! More stuff is blowing up! Shiny! Shiny!

Also to the commenter complaining about Mac OS 9 in ID4...maybe if Mac OS X had been out at the time, they would have used it. *hint*

April 27, 2005 3:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post reminded me that i used to totally read every day.

God, the site is frozen in 2000; must be a testiment to the Boom.


June 26, 2005 11:54 AM

Blogger Steve G said...

Good call on the cliches, etc. But what I liked was the way the bad robot hid himself among all those other robots and we had Will walking slowly down the lines, walking into danger and leaving us gasping in the audience...

Now I have no problem with this as a movie cliche but for it to work among so many perfectly spaced, identical robots there would have to be a gap that our baddie slotted into. Question, who arranged the robots with one open space - and why?

Maybe bad robot shifted them all over one place but where did the hapless last robot end up? Squashed against the far wall?

July 02, 2005 5:53 AM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

I can't believe I'm just discovering your blog today. Ah well, better late than never.

Speaking of which, Maddox did the definitive slag-off of this one last July:


July 04, 2005 6:02 AM

Blogger Steven said...

Oh GOD I hated that movie. To make it even worse, a fair number of my friends keep saying they liked it.

Liked WHAT about it? The only thing I can come up with is that Will Smith had his shirt off, and that doesn't cover it for my guy friends.
Oh, and that ceiling fan. That was pretty cool.
Aside from that, though, the storyline is lame. Character growth? Nil. SFX? Decent, nothing more.

Maybe all the product placements worked subliminally on them. And by "worked subliminally", I mean "turned their brains to mush like jello in a high-speed blender".

April 24, 2007 12:48 PM


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