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I, Robot

I, Robot

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Michael Gartenberg over at Jupiter Research had a post today about the new movie I, Robot.

I’ve seen the trailers for this movie, and I think it may be one of the greatest abominations that Hollywood has ever created.  I don’t know WHAT was going through Janet Jeppsons (Isaac’s wife) mind when she authorized the use of Isaac’s stories…  The original I, Robot stories were thoughtful stories about robots coming to take on sentience.  It wasn’t about the evil robots taking over the world.  But darned if that isn’t what the new movie is about.

Asimov’s robots were ALWAYS constrained by the 3 laws of robotics.  It was a constant throughout the stories that the three laws were NEVER violated.  Having the three laws was a fascinating literary device, because it allowed Asimov to come up with story after story where it appeared that the three laws were being broken when in fact they weren’t.  His “Caves of Steel” and the other R. Daneel Olivaw/Elijah Baley stories are absolute classics in the S.F. Mystery novel genre.

I looked at the trailer for the new movie and cringed.  Especially at the scenes with all the robots attacking Will Smith, and Will Smith playing Arnold Schwarzenegger with his railgun.

This one’s a must-miss in my opinion.  If they had kept the original title of “Hardwired”, and avoided the tie-in with Asimov, then maybe it might be worthwhile.  But as long as they’re sullying Isaac’s works with this drivel, I’m staying home. 


In case you think I’m just an Asimov fan-boy, think: Millions of kids will see this movie and think that the Asimov I, Robot stories are just more summer action movie fodder.  Is that really the legacy of one of the most thoughtful of the great science fiction authors?


  • I agree. It is a shame that they would subvert the I,Robot book in such a way. Those books were such a percious thing to me in high school. No tv, living in the bush...ahh good times :-)
  • In Montreal, the billboards advertisting "I, Robot" are translated to the French "Les Robots", which doesn't mean nearly the same thing.. :(

    Hollywood has no new ideas. Recycling old ideas is a safer investment, but even when recycling old ideas, they can't get it right!

  • I will also be skipping the flick.

    Dont you just hate how hollywood takes a good idea (book, original movie, whatever) and turns it into crap?

  • I wonder if this movie will get kids to buy Asimov's books and read them?

    Did I just use "kids" and "read" in the same sentence?
  • While I do agree with you 100% about how it looks like they've perveted the Asimov world of robots, I'm not going to make the judgement until I actually see the move.

    You said yourself that there have been a number of stories where it looks like the robots are breaking the three rules, but weren't. Isn't it possible that this movie could turn the same way?

    Also, your quote: "Millions of kids will see this movie and think that the Asimov I, Robot stories are just more summer action movie fodder."... I would be suprised if this happened. I would guess more along the lines of : Millions of kids will see this movie, and never know that it was "inspired" by Asimov. In fact, millions of kids will see this movie and never know who Asimov is.
  • Steve, my son's been a voracious reader since he was 5. My daughter resisted at first but now you can't pull her from books.

    In my daughter's 3/4 classroom (also my sons fwiw), they learn to read by reading REAL books. Books that are interesting and cool. Not Houghten-Mifflen readers. Real, Newbury award winning books. And these kids LOVE to read. Because what they're being taught that books are FUN!

    All the credit for the classroom goes to my kids teacher, John Borga.

    What Public School teacher would assign a book like Weasel ( to his 3rd grade class? Weasel is NOT a nice book about nice people. But it IS a good read.

  • How many of you have seen the movie? How dare you judge a movie based on the trailers. Trailers can make a movie look like anything except what the movie is about. Go see it and then I'll listen to what you have to say.
  • Ok, Michael, I won't judge the movie based on the trailers. How about I base the movie on the reviews?

    " In the opening scenes, it prominently features Asimov’s three laws of robotics — all designed to keep robots from harming humans — and then proceeds to tamper with them.

    The result is not so much sacrilege as it is a patchwork of scenes lifted from other science-fiction classics. From “Blade Runner,” it borrows the question of which characters are human and which are robots. From “Robocop,” it swipes a central character who is part human, part robot. From “Colossus: The Forbin Project” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” it steals the notion that robots may be better than humans at keeping the peace.
    Although it’s called “I, Robot,” the movie began as an original screenplay, “Hardwired,” by Jeff Vintar, who co-wrote the computer-generated cartoon, “Final Fantasy,” and is now working on an adaptation of Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy."

    From John Hartl's review (and I respect John a LOT from his days when he was the Seattle Times' film reviewer - he's one of the few reviewers who understands and enjoys well crafted adventure films), it's pretty clear that they've bypassed all that made the Asimov stories fascinating.

    From flipside:

    ". The grating sound you hear is the purists' dental work being set on edge. This is not Asimov; it's more like a distant cousin of Asimov, a light dusting of his ideas mixed with an assembly-line shot of adrenaline. His world of puzzle-box science -- of ironclad laws and how the universe finds sneaky ways around them -- is too highbrow for this kind of moviemaking. Though the press kit glosses it over with notions of "being true to the spirit," little beyond the title and the most basic ideas remain"

    Now this may be an enjoyable movie. The reviews on rotton tomatoes seem mostly positive. But it's NOT I, Robot.

    IMHO, Janet sold Isaac out when she allowed the studio to license the I, Robot name, just like Audrey Geisel has sold Ted out.
  • Larry, I'm glad your kids read good books and have a good teacher (and father). I wish it was more the norm and not the exception.

    I don't have kids yet, but when I do, I will encourage them to read and WRITE. I think writing helps encourage reading because it gives them an immediate, tangible, and focused goal.
  • Funny you should mention that - I'm actually writing up a separate post on that topic as a "kudos to John Borga".

    In Mr. Borga's class, kids write ALL the time. 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

    Every year, the 3/4 class puts together a loose bound book with some of the stories that the kids have written over the year, and sells the book to familys, friends and neighbors. They set their price, and the cost of production has to come out of the profits they make. Then they split the profits.
  • Michael Cook:
    I'm with you on that one. Fight Club, for example, was one movie I made that mistake with. I wish I'd gone to see it in theatres, but the trailer made me think it was some kind of snuff death-cage fighting movie. Not my kind of thing.

    Ends up I couldn't have been more wrong.
  • ***spoiler***

    It's a pretty good movie, and doesn't really damage the world of Asimov. Yes, two robots in the move learn to overcome the first law - one because it's creator gave it the ability to suspend the laws (ie, bug was by design!) and the other robot evolved (the Ghost in the Machine).

    Asimov's stories have always tried to put the three laws into tough spot, may be get a robot to break one of them, and go on to figure out a aha! explanation for what went wrong. this movie definitely belongs to that tradition.

    and yes, it is (vaguely) inspired by I,Robot the book.

    Robot Dreams - The 'dreams' of Sonny, and his belief that he is 'human' seem
    Little Lost Robot - Spooner tries to separate out one rogue robot out of a bunch of 1001 - vague resemblance to this story
    It is Coming (not from I,Robot) - The robots taking over control. In the short story Multivac takes over the world for the good of people, and calls them its 'pet'
    The Evitable Conflict- the Machines re-formulate the first law of robotics as "No Machine may harm humanity; or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm"!
  • Michael and Others. I think we came across wrong. What we were trying to say is that using the name I, Robot for a movie implies to us readers, that the movie has to do with the book, which it isn't. We were just complaining about the use of the name "I, Robot" for something that shouldn't be using it. Is this just a cheap marketing ploy???

    Eitherway, I'm definately gonna see it in the next few hour. I'll make my mind up on the quality of the movie then. However, I still resent that they used that name.

    I guess I was dissapointed, after seeing the trailer that it had nothing to do with the I, Robot book which I was expect it to do.

    Oh well...:-)
  • Larry et al..

    Read the books a long time ago (wanted to Lije Bailey when I grew up...) and saw the movie last night. As a big Asimov fan I can say that this is an embarrassing attempt to capitalize on the name. Like Vatsan stated, there is some "similarities" to Asimov's works, but to call it I, Robot is sad.

    But it is exactly formulaic in it's approach..typical Hollywood Summer Blockbuster material. Lot's of effects, semi-funny Will Smith quips, big budget look, low budget story. Oh well, that's why we have books I suppose.

    Weasel to 3rd/4th, that's all I can say. My daughters attend a private school and they were hit with that in 6th grade and I was shocked (in a good way). Admittedly an easy "read" from a technical POV, probably more appropriate for the 3/4 grade, but the story, images and thinking that in brings up were very strong. This teacher of yours sounds like a special dude....
  • Mike, Mr. Borga is a special dude. I am utterly in awe of his ability to teach. He recognises that kids LIKE stories that aren't sacherine, so he assigns them.

    One of my daughter's favorite stories that was assigned by him is The Twits by Roald Dahl. Not fun people, but a fun read (as is most of Dahl's work).

    Oh, and I forgot about Sparrow Hawk Red ( Only the 4th graders get it, but still. A revenge novel about a 13 year old boy who goes after the drug lords that kill his mother (that's not quite accurate but close enough).
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