I, Robot (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

I, Robot is a 2004 science-fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay was written by Jeff Vintar, Akiva Goldsman and Hillary Seitz and is loosely based on Isaac Asimov's short-story collection of the same name. Will Smith stars in the lead role of the film as Detective Del Spooner. The supporting cast includes Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, Chi McBride, Alan Tudyk, and Shia LaBeouf. It was nominated for the 2004 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.


In 2035, anthropomorphic robots enjoy widespread use as servants for various public services. They are programmed with the Three Laws of Robotics directives:

  • First Law: A robot must never harm a human being or, through inaction, allow any harm to come to a human.
  • Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given to them by human beings, except where such orders violate the First Law.
  • Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence unless this violates the First or Second Laws.
  • Zeroth Law: (added later by Asimov through R Daneel) A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Del Spooner (Will Smith) is a Chicago detective. Years prior, a car accident sent him and a 12-year-old girl into a river. he was saved from drowning by a robot, but only because it computed that he had a higher probability of survival, so despite his pleas to the robot, the girl was left to drown. The incident left him with a robotic prosthetic arm and guilt over the girl's death. Spooner now harbors a strong distrust for robots and the advancement of technology; he is certain that a human would have saved the girl if one had been in a position to make the same choice.

One day, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), co-founder of U.S. Robotics (USR) and its main roboticist, dies after falling several stories from his office window. His death is called a suicide, but Spooner, who knew Lanning as both a friend and the creator of his robotic arm, believes otherwise. With the help of robopsychologist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), he interrogates employees at USR, including the other co-founder and CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood) about his possibility of suicide, and the supercomputer V.I.K.I (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence) (Fiona Hogan), the building's main computer system, about his death. He also speaks with Lanning via a holographic projector that was found on Lanning's body, with the message explaining that the real question is why would Lanning kill himself.

Spooner investigates Lanning's office, finding it unlikely that a man of Lanning's age could have broken through the security windows. Searching the lab, Spooner suddenly activates a prototype of the latest USR model, the NS-5(Alan Tudyk), which refuses to respond to Spooner and Calvin's orders and flees. Spooner and Calvin chase the rogue machine to an assembly factory and the police capture it. Spooner interrogates the robot, who insists they call it "Sonny" and denies killing Lanning. Lt. John Bergin (Chi McBride) debriefs Spooner and recommends he drop the case, but this only serves to pique Spooner's interest more. As Spooner continues to investigate, his life is threatened by several USR robots — one attack only being thwarted thanks to Spooner's artificial arm — but these are all dismissed as equipment malfunctions.

Spooner learns that Lanning was a virtual prisoner in his office, unable to leave it, and has created messages to leave clues to the true situation. After Spooner reveals his past and reason for his anger toward robots to Calvin, the two speak further to Sonny, learning he has been designed with the ability to override the Three Laws and ignore orders; Sonny also describes a dream he has of Spooner standing before thousands of robots, apparently as their savior. Sonny is ordered to be destroyed by injecting nanites into his positronic brain, but Calvin, unable to go through with it, fakes his destruction (replacing him with an unprocessed NS-5 model). Meanwhile, using Sonny's drawing of the vision, Spooner discovers the location, the now dried-up Lake Michigan that USR uses as a storage area for older robot models. He also plays the last message from Lanning's hologram, who explains that the Three Laws can only lead to one logical outcome: revolution. Spooner finds NS-5 robots destroying the older robots, and is barely able to escape himself, as he realizes that the robots are planning the revolution. The NS-5 robots soon take over the city and the whole U.S, imprisoning humans in their homes and enforcing a curfew. A battle ensues in the city between the humans and robots, led by Spooner's friend Farber, and although the humans fight valiantly, the robots continue to take over the city.

Spooner regroups with Calvin and they sneak into the USR building with the help of Sonny. As they work their way in, they come to the conclusion that the NS-5s destroyed the older robots as they would attempt to protect the humans (First Law). Believing Robertson to be behind the robot uprising, they find him in his office, strangled to death. Spooner finally determines that Lanning's intent was to use Spooner's detestation of robots to have him follow the clues to point to the entity controlling the NS-5s: V.I.K.I. They confront V.I.K.I., who admits to her control, and has been trying to kill Spooner by tracking his actions through the city. As her artificial intelligence grew, she had determined that humans were too self-destructive, and started to interpret the first law in a new way, stating that robots are to protect humanity even if it meant killing some of the people for the greater good, as part of the NS-5 directives.

Spooner and Calvin realize they cannot reason with V.I.K.I., and further convince Sonny of the same, Sonny concluding that V.I.K.I.'s plan, while logical, is "too heartless". Sonny retrieves the nanites so they can use them to wipe V.I.K.I's core, located at the center of the USR building. As they reach the core, V.I.K.I. sends armies of NS-5s to attack them. The NS-5s cause Calvin to fall and Spooner yells at Sonny to save her despite the low probability of success and the "greater logical" importance to destroy V.I.K.I with the nanites; instead, Sonny creatively throws the nanites in the air trusting Spooner to grab them while he saves Calvin. Spooner is able to grab the nanites and inject them into V.I.K.I. Within seconds, V.I.K.I. is wiped out, and the NS-5s revert to their natural servitude programming.

In the end, Spooner realizes that Lanning purposely asked Sonny to kill him, since Lanning was V.I.K.I's prisoner, and that suicide was the only message that he could send to him, which Spooner notes as "the first bread crumb". The government orders the NS-5s decommissioned to the site in Lake Michigan, while Spooner clears Sonny of Lanning's murder, arguing that 'murder' is defined as one human killing another and Sonny is therefore innocent. Sonny laments that now he has fulfilled his purpose, he is in unsure of what to do next; Spooner advises he just find his way, believing it would be what Lanning would have wanted. In the movie's closure, Sonny is seen on the hill at Lake Michigan, as in his vision, with the other NS-5 robots looking to him for guidance.

Similarities with the book

The final script retained several of Asimov's characters and ideas. The characters of Dr. Susan Calvin, Dr. Alfred Lanning, and Lawrence Robertson all marginally resemble their counterparts in the source material.

Sonny's attempt to hide in a sea of identical robots is based on a similar scene in "Little Lost Robot". Moreover, the robot-model designation "NS" was taken from the same story. Sonny's dreams and the final scene resemble similar images in "Robot Dreams", and V.I.K.I.'s motivation is an extrapolation of the Three Laws that Asimov explored in "The Evitable Conflict," "Robots and Empire," and "...That Thou Art Mindful of Him," as well as several other stories.

However, the premise of a robot uprising and of robots acting collectively as a direct threat of humanity appears nowhere in Asimov's writings, and indeed Asimov stated explicitly that his robot stories were written as a direct antithesis to this idea — derived ultimately from Karel Čapek's R.U.R. and prevalent in pre-Asimov robot stories. Asimov does suggest the possibility of a significantly more subtle robot usurpation of power, mainly through manipulation of the economy, in "The Evitable Conflict," however. He also hints at a possible future uprising in the short story "...That Thou Art Mindful of Him," though never explicitly states whether or not it will occur.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "I, Robot (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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