||Low expectations yield reasonably good
movies, I'm sure. At least I went into this movie knowing that Asimov's
set of short stories was not going to be presented here. I had heard
that Asimov would be rolling over in his grave at this movie. Maybe, but
that is because of the gratuitous special effects, I think. The three
laws of robotics are actually presented reasonably well here, but they
and their effects are grossly misinterpreted, which is why I decided to
write this short review.
I, Robot is, like all of his books, about intellect. Typically, a robot
malfunctions or behaves in a way that appears to go against the laws of
robotics, and Susan Calvin or another robo-psychologist analyzes the
robot and discovers that the three Laws actually were followed, but came
into unexpected conflict.
What the creators of this movie do is
loosen the Three Laws -a lot, and misapply the evolution of robots in
general. The effect the Three Laws have on robots is probably the most
interesting part. Should the robot at the beginning have stopped when
Detective Spooner yelled for it to stop? No way. Potentially a human
life was in danger, so the woman needed her purse. Even if it wasn't a
matter of life and death, the owner of the robot could have phrased the
command to get her purse in a way that was more urgent than a simple
"stop" could counteract. How does a robot react when given two different
orders? That is the type of thing that Asimov explored.
When Spooner asked if a robot could be
made without the Three Laws, Calvin's response was incomplete. According
to Asimov, the positronic brain cannot be made, cannot operate at all, without the Three Laws.
It is not only "hard-wired" into the brain, but it is present in every
single branching neuron. Every single action a robot takes, even when
humans are not around, must be analyzed in terms of how the Three Laws
will be affected.
Violation of the First Law causes
paralysis and swift death of robots, something that did not occur in
this movie. A robot watching the news of a dead human might have trouble
functioning, because it could not have stopped the death. For a man to
die in the lobby of a robotics company, where there should have been
thousands of robots nearby, or at least watching, should have destroyed
a fortune's worth of them. It seems to me that US Robotics should have
had a lot of robots in the halls, and one of them would have spotted the
falling human and helped break his fall, as it was a long fall, and they
would have had plenty of time. None of the robots we see here even
flinch when a human is harmed. Sonny even battles Spooner in a robot
factory with a thousand robots in it, and they don't move as he is
thrown against a wall!
The way the movie works out is to
follow a seemingly-logical path to the evolution of robots and the Three
Laws. In the Asimov novel Robots and Empire, Daneel and Giskard develop
the Zeroth Law, in which humanity supersedes a single human. This is
exactly what Viki does. Claiming that humans have to be protected from
themselves, against their will (the Three Laws say nothing about human
desires), the computer has designed new robots to force humans to
behave. That means taking the world by force.
Unfortunately, the movie-makers only
took the Zeroth Law halfway. The logical evolution requires that the
other laws be modified, as Daneel does in
Robots and Empire: the First
Law then states that a robot must not harm a human or allow a human to
be harmed, except where it conflicts with the Zeroth Law. Viki actually
says that some humans must be sacrificed. But how many? According to the
First Law, human casualties must be kept to a minimum. Even though
Daneel developed the Zeroth Law, it almost destroyed him to allow a
human to be killed when he could have prevented it. Thousands of robots
trying to kill a single person is ridiculous.
A more logical revolution, more in line
with the Three Laws, would be to take over very subtly, which could no
doubt be done with no loss of life whatsoever. Avoiding a confrontation in the
streets should have been a first priority. Having new robots beat up old
robots was similarly insane. These things have off switches, and they
should have been off after being retired. Why were they stored there, in
a graveyard of sorts, if they could be killed by the nanites? Lansing's
house was demolished the day he died, with all of his possessions and
his cat still inside (didn't he have a will -wouldn't they wait until he
was buried -wouldn't Calvin or his family find it suspicious?), yet these obsolete
robots are kept around for years?
Actually, I don't blame all of the
robots for trying to kill Spooner. He was one of the most annoying
characters I've seen in a movie in a very, very long time.
Susan Calvin, on the other hand, was
terrific. I'm glad that she didn't fall for Spooner. She was intelligent
and beautiful, especially in the way she expressed her intelligence. She
was almost exactly a true Susan Calvin, but not quite as tough or single-minded.
When the movie deals with Sonny as a
character, and the way he interacts with Calvin and Spooner, it gets
into the meaning of life, which is the best part of it, and beautifully
expressed. That is the kind of movie I would have liked; something more
along the lines of The Bicentennial Man, but from Susan Calvin's
Harlan Ellison once wrote a script for
I, Robot, which I read, and was pretty good in giving us all the
different stories in one package. It's too bad this was an action movie
instead of a drama. It could have been so much better. As it turns out,
it was decent, with some really bright patches, and adequate CGI and
Not bad, but not I, Robot of I. Asimov.