A sci-fi crime drama enveloped in the web of a mystery story gets the 3D conversion treatment in Alex Proyas’ I, Robot. With the film’s creative visuals, it’s fairly easy to understand why Fox studio executives chose this movie for a 3D conversion, but, truth to tell, the film doesn’t gain appreciably in its journey from 2D to 3D. The film is still a bit too long to sustain its story, and a robot creation still ends up being the most sympathetic and agreeable character in the movie.
I, Robot 3D (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Alex Proyas
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 115 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 49.99
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Review Date: October 31, 2012
It’s Chicago of 2035, and police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) who carries with him a complete mistrust of the masses of robots who have now assumed all of the hard labor and servant duties in the world is called to investigate what appears to be the suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) at the U.S. Robotics headquarters. Lanning was the inventor of the next generation of robots: the NS-5 series, and Spooner suspects that it might possibly have been a murder by robot rather than a suicide. The CEO of the company Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood) and chief psychologist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) both scoff at the notion that a robot might have committed murder especially since their programming prevents them from ever injuring a human. But during his investigation, a seemingly rogue robot nicknamed “Sonny” (Alan Tudyk) bolts from the office whereupon Del finds himself the target of masses of NS-5 units who seem determined to stop his investigation even if that means killing him.
Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman’s screenplay takes a rather surprising amount of time to explain Spooner’s distaste for robots, and it seems very odd that in a huge city like Chicago, no one but Spooner seems to be witnessing these masses of NS-5 units who are on the rampage until it's too late. The script also makes Spooner a rather unlikable character, an odd choice for the lead in the movie where none of the humans are particularly admirable or trustworthy. To the writers' credit, the mystery of the identity behind the robot revolution is rather deftly handled, and director Alex Proyas stages the film’s three major action sequences with some flair (despite the sameness of masses of robots being shot and clubbed into submission) and keeps the camera constantly moving, especially up and over the scenes as the action becomes more heated late in the film. Despite the CGI robots and space-aged automobiles that can move in any direction, there isn’t much to the film’s production design that fully dictates this as a future time period. Clothes, hairstyles, and conversational idioms (as witnessed by Spooner’s boss played by Chi McBride and a wiseacre street kid played by the young Shia LaBeouf) remain inextricably mired in the early 21st century.
Will Smith has less personality here than in some of his previous sci-fi and action-oriented films (though he's certainly in superb physical shape as he displays in several vanity shots), and he and Bridget Moynahan don’t really strike many sparks at all in their scenes together. Bruce Greenwood makes a credible man of mystery as the chief suspect behind the robot rebellion. James Cromwell’s contributions to the film are unfortunately limited to a brief scene or two and as a holographic image that can only answer questions in a frustratingly cryptic way. Alan Tudyk gives a superb motion capture/voice performance as the rogue robot Sonny, the most sympathetic and amusing character in the film.
3D implementation – 3/5
Shot in Super 35 and presented theatrically (and on the first Blu-ray release) at 2.35:1, this new 3D conversion (along with a 2D transfer on the same disc) has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Some of the remarkable CGI robotic effects seem a bit less overwhelmingly impressive in this new encode though sharpness, color values and flesh tones, contrast, and black levels have not been compromised at all in this still-reference quality video release. The film has been divided into 39 chapters.
3D does not add a notable amount of depth to the image except for possibly in a shot or two where huge landscapes are being pictured. The 3D does make object placement on separate planes remarkably distinct now and gives the converted imagery a striking visual sensibility that the previous 2D version didn’t always have. There are no forward projections even though there is plenty of broken glass sprayed at the lens at various times during the movie. Crosstalk is never a problem with the 3D imagery.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix retains its reference quality attention to detail in the surrounds with superb use of the soundfield for many discreet sound effects and for Marco Beltrami’s dynamically driving music score. The LFE channel gets an excellent workout with the use of much deep bass in the mix. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
The Blu-ray disc in the set contains both the 3D and 2D (in 1.78:1) versions of the movie along with promo trailers in 3D for Prometheus and Immortals.
The extensive array of interactive bonus features on the previous Blu-ray release of I, Robot are completely missing from the Blu-ray disc in the set. However, the included DVD version of the movie (in its theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio) contains an audio commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, a 12 ½-minute “making of” featurette, thirty drawings in an art gallery, and a promo trailer for Fox’s Arrested Development since the disc was produced in 2004.
3/5 (not an average)
With the 3D not adding any appreciable value to the film of I, Robot and with the loss of the bonus features from the previous Blu-ray edition, there doesn’t seem to be much to recommend about this new release of I, Robot. Completists may require it, but all others will likely be more than satisfied with the high definition disc they already own.