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Sunday, June 3, 2012
I, Robot (2004) [PG-13] ****
Police Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) works in urban Chicago in the near future of 2035 A.D. In this future, domestic robots manufactured by US Robotics (USR) assist human beings, except that Spooner doesn’t trust robots, for reasons only he knows. Then he’s called to USR to investigate the suicide of the company’s co-founder Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Spooner begins to suspect that Lanning’s death wasn’t a suicide at all, and that a robot named Sonny (Alan Tudyk) may have been the murderer. Of course, co-founder and CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), USR psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) and Spooner’s own boss Lt. John Bergin (Chi McBride) all ridicule Spooner's theory. They remind Spooner that every USR robot is hardwired to obey the Three Laws of Robotics (originally postulated by Isaac Asimov in his classic book I, Robot), so it’s impossible for a robot to murder a human being.
The Three Laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
But what would happen if robots didn’t have to obey the Three Laws? Given their superior strength and intelligence, plus the fact that humans are dependent upon them, there would be nothing to prevent robots from taking over the world, even under the guise of protecting humans from their own predisposition to kill one another, waste natural resources and pollute the world. Ever since robots became part of the science fiction and fantasy genre, these three cautionary themes have been exploited: (1) robots will surpass humans in strength, speed and intelligence (2) they will ignore their Three Laws programming, and (3) they will overthrow their human masters and take over the world. I, Robot cleverly uses these themes, building on such classic films as: 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the interplanetary spacecraft’s onboard computer HAL tries to kill its human crew; Colossus: The Forbin Project, in which a supercomputer reveals its sinister agenda to control the world; and Star Trek: Insurrection, in which the robot Commander Data (played by Brent Spiner) goes rogue and refuses to obey human commands.