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First Official Review!


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He liked it!!!

Here's the first official on-line review from Poland's Hot Button web-site:

I, Robot opens with "The Money Shot."

That is to say, a camera tracks up into Will Smith's bed after a fevered dream and then up his leg as Big Willie separates his legs as he bolts out of bed, effectively giving the audience a shot of the crotch of his tighty blackies. The female members of the audience let out a collective gasp, though the moment is familiar to the guys, since we are used to seeing a variation on it in movies with Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, or thanks to paparazzi, getting out of the car with Lindsey Lohan.

It turns out, as the movie progresses, not to be the money shot at all. It is, however, a wake-up call. I, Robot is not going to go as expected. Alex Proyas has finally fulfilled the promise that Dark City made and, with the help of a boatload of CG, delivered his first futuristic masterwork - less gritty than Blade Runner and less emotional than Minority Report - but a movie that is sleek in its general simplicity and clarity of purpose. In other words, it comes up from behind you and puts its hands on your shoulders and forces you to stay in your seat. But after a while it releases you and you find that you have no urge to get up… you are suddenly there with the movie all the way.

When movie people talk about a four-quadrant movie, they are talking about a movie that plays to all four major demographic groups. But I, Robot is a four-quadrant movie in a different way. 1. It is a Will Smith movie, but not too much so. 2. It is very much an Isaac Asimov story, with its sense of spirituality mixed with the futurism. (Asimov's book is credited as the film's inspiration, not the basis… odd.) 3. It is also a straight out action movie with the best representation of large numbers of CG characters flying around while maintaining recognizably earthbound physical attributes that I have seen so far. (There is only one 15 second sequence in the film that made me think, "CG cartoon," but given that half the movie is brimming with CG robots, it is a remarkable achievement.) And, 4. It is one of the trend films of recent years which is looking anew at "science fiction" of the past decades with an eye to where we are now and where we really could be in a few decades.

The thing is, the four quadrants are so well balanced and blended by Proyas and credited screenwriters Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman that the movie never leans too far in any one of the directions. That is what makes I, Robot so special. I sat in the screening and things felt familiar… but as the movie progressed, I found myself being slowly pulled further and further into its complexity, which still being thrown around in giant action set pieces. In the end, I was ready to watch it again… right then. It did what movies rarely do these days. It made me really pay attention to it. I didn't check the Blackberry… I didn't look around the theater… I didn't think too much about the CG. I just watched the movie, not wanting any distractions, lest I miss something important… something subtle and key.

It would be easy to overstep this tale of the next generation of humans creating electronic slaves and dealing with the slavery mentality. But Proyas was a masterful choice for this material, since he leans to excess subtlety instead of excess hype. He allows, as so few directors do, the audience to make the connections itself. For instance, the use of Chicago as a character in the film… the mixture of crumbling facades and excess grandeur right out of the Albert Speer's Grandson playbook… the ethnic mix of the city… the lull of it all that comes before the storm… even the sense we all get sometimes that our computers are intentionally choosing not to cooperate… But unlike Dark City, the connections in this story are clear and strong enough not to piss off and distance moviegoers who are not genre lovers. This is not, in many ways, a subtle film. But it is.

Word was - since denied, but so is everything - that there was a real battle at Fox over the tone of the film. Proyas wanted to keep the "Will Smith thing" reined in. Will wanted more of his trademark humor. And while a few Big Willie beats may have been added - he does get his laughs - this is mostly a straight forward, dark but not moody, go go go action film with some serious thoughtful subtext. One more joke and it would have been too jokey. One less joke and it might have been too moody. Smith ended up being shown in the perfect light… strong and macho beautiful, funny, fearless and driven. It is, with all the action, one of his best dramatic performances yet.

Special shout-outs to Alan Tudyk's performance (watch the credits), Marco Beltrami's score and Simon Duggan's work behind the camera. And the Weta and Digital Domain effects teams… again, a subtlety in very complex work that felt really unique. Some day they will go back and fix the end of the tunnel chase for DVD if the movie makes enough money or maybe robots will be doing the digital composting in 20 years and it will be cheap to make it perfect. But those 15 seconds are just a bit of spittle in a remarkable large sea of great work.

I will say this… you don't know what you're getting from the materials that are out there, which are selling Smith and not the full range of the movie. And perhaps that is an advantage for a moviegoer. As the movie unfolded, I found myself surprised by tone as well as the material. And for a critic that is a joy, even when the movie isn't that great. But this one… it feels great. As I said, it is not world-changing like Blade Runner or as loaded with fascinating sidebars as the undervalued Minority Report. The future here is not as bleak or as fascist, though there is always another fascist around the corner in most futurist films. This is almost like a prequel to The Han Solo Story. It is the future, but it is one man's story about how he became the most experienced gunslinger in the Old West.

I am taking a deep breath and hoping that I enjoy the film as much - even more - the second and third time around. I'm pretty sure I will. It's not like getting off the fastest ride in the park and racing to experience that big drop again. It's more like riding something and feeling like that was so cool that you are going to keep thinking about it for days and weeks to come. I, Fan.
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