‘What does this action signify?’
Apparently adapted from an Isaac Asimov story, Alex Proyas‘ I, Robot is either an insipid or cliched. It relies on the old sci-fi adage that technological progress doesn’t live up to the second half of that phrase, and that humans’ reliance on technology and reproducing it in mass amounts will lead to their downfall. Especially if this new innovation means that the machines we have invented are capable to decide whether humans are useful or destructive, as decided by, in the case of this movie, a robotic program named VIKI.
There is a new model of robots replacing the clunky, gray ones in the streets of Chicago of 2035. They’re painted white, a mix of shell and wire skeletons (the whole colour palette of the movie is white to black to brown and the occasional green, making the spaces look liked in and it’s at least being devoid of the neon bluish tint that is in most sci-fis). Their joint movements are smother than the old ones but unlike the latter they can actually move their faces. And when they attack either our protagonist Detective Spooner (Will Smith) or the Chicago’s citizens (including Shia Laboeuf) they seem to be crawling instead of being rigid militaristic beings.
Sonny (Alan Tudyk), a name either given by his master (James Cromwell, now known as Jean Dujardin’s elderly butler in The Artist) or by himself, is a robot accused of murdering the latter, his investigation confirming Spooner’s prejudice against robots. He is aware enough of how advanced he is to want to know what he is capable of. This is some strange casting since Tudyk has a pretty distinct face and voice although it’s a successful collaboration of acting, design and directing that these features of his are tuned down. He asks Spooner what a wink signifies, which to Spooner is rude question but this education becomes useful later on. He ends up being a witty bastard too, catching Spooner when the latter’s prejudiced fences go lower.
Either way, the transitions between wide shots and close-ups of Spooner in these scenes aren’t seamless and make the movie look cheap. These battle scenes also aren’t challenging enough for the humans, the creepy way they move makes them seem less solid also means that the leading characters can easily defeat them. Tthe denouement of every other sci-fi ends in some vertigo-inducing circular-shaped chamber, where pathways to the centre are made of narrow steel beams and the robots come in through the glass windows in intimidating numbers but they don’t look tangible enough for a real fight.
Smith is a grating actor to watch, taking any sci-fi project to compensate for turning down the role of Neo in The Matrix trilogy. Although at least he competently handles a character’s prejudice sparked by a traumatic event involving a robot rescuing him instead of doing the same thing to a little girl – the best part of the movie is his soliloquy which, intentionally or otherwise, questions details of this back story. Of course Spooner is representative of the humanity lost within a logical-driven mindset of a fictional futuristic society. His Spooner gets another cliche by quasi-platonic, opposites-attract love interest (Bidget Moynahan) who is cold and culturally ignorant as he is temperamental and streetwise. His badge being taken away from him for pursuing the Sonny case without authority – how is he going to take it back!? Despite of what happens and of Sonny, he still carries a minor strain of that point of view.
HMWY Best Shot: Serenity’s Characters
It’s surprising that a “Buffy” fan like me – I’ve seen and love the movie too – wouldn’t catch “Firefly,” but I had my stupidity to blame. I wanted a “Buffy” 2.0 – so why didn’t I read “Fray?” – and it seemed too much of an outlandish concept for me. But Nathaniel, probably the only person guiding me through my schizophrenic viewing habits, chose “Firefly’s” movie adaptation for his best shot series, keeping in mind that creator/writer/director Whedon’s having a big year this year. So why not? Above is a shot of carnage fitting for the movie’s ‘space western’ genre mash-up and that although Joss Whedon isn’t on top to direct Blood Meridien but he should at least be in consideration.
This experience is making me regret that I didn’t watch the series, the logical reason should be Whedon’s sharp writing and I suppose it’s nice to see futuristic cowboys but it’s really because of the characters and casting, including Alan Tudyk, David Krumholtz and Sarah Paulson. Specifically, of Adam Baldwin of Full Metal Jacket fame. I wouldn’t say that this part of the movie’s premise is ludicrous, and that his character Jayne butts heads with the titular Serenity‘s Captain Malcolm (Nathan Fillion) a lot and wants to kill the mysterious River Tam (Summer Glau). But like come on guys, his tight, short-sleeved shirts makes me think that the show should have given him a love interest. Things would have totally been different if I was on that ‘boat.’ Looking at his iMDb “Firefly” isn’t the only show I should watch for him. Apparently he was in “Angel” too and fuck do I have to watch “Chuck” now too? What kind of fan am I?
The best lines and situations saved for Malcolm, or Mal for short (Why isn’t Fillion, this movie’s star, getting the Jeremy Renner roles? The guys look alike but he’s taller yet yes, more intentionally awkward). And there are some good shots of him being framed by the movie’s well-done mix of multicultural sci-fi punk ethos, contrasting yet perfectly complementing his character as this old school masculine gunslinger. Above is him moving a fan to see what River is up to and below is him being irreverent, mocking Buddha – one of the religions and ideals that he as a character questions – for his love interest Inara’s guilty pleasure. Kudos to the movie’s art director Daniel T. Dorrance and costume designer Ruth Carter for this awesomeness.
But the movie’s most visually compelling character is River, who only gets into and stays in the boat because she’s the younger sister of one of the newer crew members (Sean Maher) and because she’s psychic. She looks like a friend of mine here in Toronto who also blogs about movies, actually. My best shot actually involves the movie’s intricate opening sequence, a series of scenes that would get novices like me confused as to what the movie is about. There are wide shots of different planets followed by a teacher explaining ‘the verse’ in an outdoor elementary school – thank God the future has smaller class sizes, am I right or am I right? – which turns out to be a dream sequence, Matrix style. Her brother helps her escape her almost permanent comatose state, which is actually hologram-recorded by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character, Javert looking at his Valjean and waify Cosette and trying to find out where they could be hiding.
But the fun of watching her doesn’t stop there. She has two kinds of entrances, one where her leg(s) and the seam of her flowing dress come into the shot and one where the camera zooms or shock cuts into her perma-startled face. She also climbs up the ceiling to hide sometimes. And the one below? Bad. Ass.