20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 110 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Having a deep understanding of the Asimov short stories and going into I, Robot, you could be mistaken for expecting an adaptation that is true to the originals. In this instance you would certainly have been disappointed and luckily I had no such pre-conceptions alleviating me of any biases and allowing me to thoroughly enjoy one of the most entertaining cinema going experiences I've had in a long while.
Spooner at the Scratch-n-Dent yards
Without a doubt I was pleasantly surprised by this Will Smith vehicle. The initial teaser trailer didn't give much hope for the title with many a shot promoting it as a comedic adventure rather than something more serious and thought provoking. That was short lived as response from the initial trailer triggered the remaining promotional material to focus on the moral and social issues prevalent within the short stories.
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Whilst only really related to the Asimov short stories by name, the film does base its plot on the actual 3 laws of robotics. Detective Spooner (Smith) is not a big fan of the robots, having had an encounter with one that left him shouldering the burden of failure to save a human life. When an apparent suicide by chief robot designer (James Cromwell) and long time friend, forces Spooner into the world of robotics that he despises, the search begins to determine the real chain of events leading up to this point and beyond this point.
Spooners dislike for these robots who have been programmed to obey the 3 laws is the fire that leads him deeper into a world where not everything is as it seems, as the 3 laws are taken to the next level to ensure they are kept. It's not until Spooner meets a prototype NS5 in Sonny (acted and voiced by Alan Tudyk), that the questions begin.
Director Alex Proyas, with two classics to his name in The Crow and Dark City, has stepped out of the darkened shadows of those 2 cult favourites to bring us a very plausible 2035 future. A future where robots co-exist with humans, not as masters, nor as servants, but complementing our rapidly changing lifestyle, allowing us to be on the go whilst they take care of the more mundane day to day tasks. There is never a moment whereby science fiction goes over the top and with the CG being so exemplary and photo-realistic, even on extreme close-ups of Sonny and the horde of NS5s, you can't help but believe the environment portrayed within the movie.
Spooner at the new Apple iRobot launch
You usually attribute direct digital to DVD as the best video transfers available to the market, but this transfer is easily the best I've seen in a very, very long time. It wasn't that long ago I was wondering if I'd ever truly experience feeling of wowness that I did the first time I set my eyes upon a DVD picture. It wasn't until about half an hour into the movie that I actually realised that I was truly mesmerised by the footage on screen and was transfixed from scene to scene from then on.
The detail is absolutely pristine from start to finish. Colours are perfectly saturated with black levels exceptional, not suffering from any low level noise in darker or shadow based scenes with nary a hint of noise or grain anywhere to see. I know artists like to add-in that feeling of celluloid texturing when dealing with high quality special effects-laden movies but here they just present us with straight out jaw dropping imagery that you're sure to come back to again and again.
Sir, your car seems to be unroadworthy.
Included on this release are two 5.1 channel encodings in English Dolby Digital and English dts, so full marks here for providing two high-quality options for the masses to choose from. Whichever option you choose you are surely going to experience a totally submersive soundtrack full of ear whispering quietness to wall rattling, thunderous bass.
Everything you expect from a big budget action spectacle is yours to enjoy and demonstrate right here; sounds panning across the front sound stage, bullets and other objects zooming past you into the rear of the room and bass that kicks in by scaring the air around you when you least expect it. Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.
It's not often that you get an extras laden DVD with actual extras that you really enjoy sitting through and get a whole swag of information out of. I, Robots collection is exactly what should be included in a 2 disc special edition.
Yup, she runs on gasoline.
We begin with disc 1 which has 3 audio commentaries to choose from. The first being by director Alex Proyas himself and writer Akiva Goldsmith, both providing their nutmegs of information relating to everything about creating the movie but as generically as possible. Secondly, is a whole swag of Special Effects folk putting in their 2 cents worth of information with everything related to the technical aspect of the movie: CG and effects specifically. The last being an isolated score commentary by Marco Beltrami who provides his inspiration for the cues he uses throughout the movie; and it's a wonderful score as well.
Rounding out disc 1 is the usual short and sweet Making of which is basically behind the scenes footage interspliced with film footage and snippets of interviews; basically a summary of what is available in the extras on disc 2. The collection of 30 photos from the Still Gallery completes the first disc.
Disc 2 is where the fun really begins with an excellently laid out tour-de-force of extras covering everything about the movie - and we mean everything. If ever you wanted to get a real in-depth look at what makes a movie tick, especially one with so much green screen action, then welcome to Big Budget 101.
Bagging the good guy?
You can choose to play the entire disc as from start to finish or go specifically to each section as you desire, with a hidden feature scattered throughout. First up we come across Day Out Of Days: The I, Robot Production Diaries covering the day to day happenings of filming on the set mainly being the initial opening street scenes, also the shorter of the features on this disc. For those of you wondering how the various CG effects were accomplished, CGI & Design will take you through the processes used, focusing on select scenes throughout the movie. Everyone knows how green screen works so their is less focus on the technology and more focus on the actual raw shots here. You'll be impressed by the scale of the green sets here. Who said George Lucas had a monopoly on green canvas?
The next 2 features focus more on the concepts of robots, robotics and thee laws put forth by Asimov in Sentient Machines: Robotic Behavior and Three Laws Safe: Conversations About Science Fiction & Robots. If you've read the short stories then you'll find the discussions here interesting and informative in how they were adapted to the film itself. There is also a history here of how robotics began, where they evolved into over generations and what scientists expect they will revolutionise in our future.
The Filmmakers Toolbox looks at 2 further aspects of the film making process. A collection of 4 Deleted Scenes are provided in the Filmmakers Toolbox section. These are more 'extended' scenes with a alternate, originally conceived ending that thankfully was scrapped for the one we have now. But the cooler is the Compositing Breakdowns where we get a Visual Effects 'How To' for converting the green screen expanses into the final visual form. With the help of 3 production houses working together to produce this movie (WETA digital of Lord of the Rings fame, James Camerons Digital Domain effects company and Rainmaker) we see how they composited the most amazing aspects of the movie where you would otherwise not have known how they did that. Compositing is both a highly detailed, highly effective yet highly under-rated aspect of visual effects movie making. This section alone will help you appreciate the skill involved to place layers and layers upon layers and layers of shot footage, background plates, CG layers, haze, lighting effects, filters and such to make a complete frame of a movie. Mind boggling at times.
Hey Kids, it's Audi Doody time.
The more I think about it, the more I see this DVD set as the next evolution of where DVD needs to head to. Not just a disc that contains a movie and a menu that links to a random collection of extras the Producers found relating to the movie, but the movie in it's best visual format offered with both Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 audio soundtracks and extras that just crave to be viewed.
Couple all that with a movie that sure does surprise in terms of story and visual effects and you've got yourself a complete package here that is easily one of the best DVDs of 2004 in all areas.