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I, Robot

DESPITE SOME superb imagination and superlative effort on the part of the creative team this new technological/sci-fiction is fundamentally flawed at odds with itself from the very beginning and from its very first moments.

What could have been a fascinating sci-fiction mystery suffers from some contrived situations that dampen and dilute the premise that has been on the minds of whiz tech people world over. At least ever since Isaac Asimov came up with this technological thought of man versus machine.

In fact the film acknowledges that it has been inspired by Asimov's original novel about machines taking over man as an eventuality but then when you go through the film you realise that it is only the suggestion that has been picked up. The rest of it is a convoluted story that is neither convincing or (even if it illogical or irrational) interesting or even fascinating.

No doubt director Alex Proyas has an eye for visuals which he applies to a future that is only in the mind - the year is 2035 and the city is Chicago... the details very strongly resemble Spielberg's vision of the future. But without the fundamentals of a good story, the special effects and computer generated creatures or robots as the case may be, appear meaningless. ``I Robot" opens in Chicago with a mega corporation US Robotics about to take its newest model to market. Homicide detective, Del Spooner (Will Smith) hates robots. The three laws of robotics — a robot can never harm a human being, a robot cannot refuse a command or order unless it involves hurting or harming a human being, and a robot must preserve itself unless that conflicts with the previous two laws. But then robotics pioneer Dr. Lanning (James Cromwell) is found dead after a fall from his office building. Spooner is called in and he finds a talking robot, which calls itself Sonny, inside Dr. Lanning's locked, unoccupied office. The CEO of the company, Lawrence Richards (Bruce Greenwoods) is nervous and wants to keep out detectives. Spooner is suspicious and with the help of Dr. Lanning's pupil, Dr Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), tries to get at the bottom of things.

The direction is flat and so are the performances. Don't be surprised if you end up liking the robots better than the human beings. A pity that some revered source material has been given such a contrived conclusion! What makes things even more disappointing is that the man versus machine subject has not been exploited.

CHITRA MAHESH

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