Will Smith used to be the King of Summer, launching huge blockbusters like Independence Day and Men in Black. After bombing with Wild Wild West, however, Smith has struggled to reach his previous heights. The Legend of Bagger Vance was a noble idea, but the entire cast seemed confused about why they were there. Ali met a mixed reaction from critics and audiences alike, so Will put on training wheels and went back to Bad Boys and Men in Black for sequels. In I, Robot, Smith tries to balance his penchant for wisecracks with a potentially weighty sci-fi thriller. Unfortunately, Smith's presence taints what could have been another successful, mainstream sci-fi blockbuster, much like 2002's Minority Report.
In I, Robot, Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a man who doesn't like how heartless his 2035 society has become due to the presence of robots performing basic societal tasks, like cooking, collecting the trash and walking the dog. The film presents the idea of how class is affected by technological advances, but then abandons it for most of the running time. There's no doubt that potential existed with this screenplay, which is based on Isaac Asimov's book of the same name.
Instead of exploring the setting of the film, director Alex Proyas and screenwriters Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Vintar create a typical summer blockbuster, chock full of well-timed one-liners, chases, and explosions.
To the film's credit, it is well-paced throughout most of its 115 minute running time, but the potential film that is never realized seems much more promising than what winds up on screen.
Also, Proyas' robots not only look good, but they blend into their scenes well, creating interactions that seem as real as one could possibly hope.
As Spider-Man has taught us, however, a good-looking action scene means nothing without a good story to go along with it. Smith's Spooner is indistinguishable from his other joking detectives, like Men in Black's Agent Jay and Bad Boys's Mike Lowrey. Smith is a naturally engaging performer, a man whose energy and exuberance will draw any viewer in for at least a few minutes. And yes, that is the case with I, Robot. Smith's jokes are often funny, and he is a very capable action actor. Still, I, Robot isn't the right project for him. Instead of adapting to the source material and helping to create something memorable, Smith seems to have imposed his formula on an idea that deserved better.