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Feature: I, Robot

Robot power

Star Will Smith tells us why his latest Science Fiction blockbuster is unlike anything he’s ever done before.

In I, Robot, 36-year-old actor Will Smith plays Del Spooner, a Chicago police detective trapped in a futuristic world of the haves and have-nots. On one side of the city, the upper class live in a world surrounded by immaculate, pulsing storefronts and pristine glass skyscrapers while Spooner and the rest of society live in a dark grungy wasteland known as the suburbs. It’s 2035 and Chicago, along with the rest of the world, is populated by robots: efficient, perfect, obedient machines. But while Spooner is a ‘technophobe’ who hates robots, and thinks they’re the death of mankind Smith considers himself to be a techno-junkie. “I’m the total opposite of Spooner,” says Smith. “I love all forms of technology and I gobble all of the new technology up. When I agreed to do the film, I did lots of research about the Future and I met with people whose job it is to try and figure out what the future will be like. I think Asimov’s I, Robot stories did a good job of predicting the Future themselves.”

At first appearance, I, Robot seems like your typical big-budget Hollywood Science Fiction epic along the lines of Smith’s other films in the genre like Independence Day and the Men in Black films. Not so, says the actor of his 13th Hollywood movie. “I think Spooner’s the most interesting genre character I’ve played so far and what I liked about the story is that it doesn’t depend on the special effects and how great the robots look,” says Smith. “Spooner’s a real technophobe which, like I said, is the total opposite of myself. He hates the robots, hates machines, and the reasons why he hates them are very interesting. He’s very angry because he lives in a poor part of the city so he doesn’t get a chance to enjoy the renaissance that’s going on in the other part of the city. In the film, I’m trying to solve a murder and I stumble upon a conspiracy that could destroy Mankind, and there’s all kinds of obstacles for my character and I’m very serious in the film. It’s a great part.”

Filmed in British Columbia, Canada in the summer of 2003, I, Robot finds Spooner investigating the murder of a brilliant robot engineer named Dr Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Already hating robots to begin with, Spooner immediately suspects a robot of committing the crime even though the Three Laws of Robotics – the laws that govern society – state that it’s impossible for a robot to cause harm to, much less murder, a human. For Smith, the interesting questions raised by such a premise – and such a fictional society – are what drew him to the project. In fact the Philadelphia-born actor also serves as an executive producer on the film. “The Humans, the rich people at least, think they live in this utopian world where the robots do everything for them,” Smith explains. “The robots are their servants, their slaves. What happens if that’s not the case? What happens if the robots, or other forces, have secretly been taking over society and want to destroy the Humans? What if it’s too late to do anything about it?”

by David Grove

Get the full interview in
Film Review (Aug)

Photo © 20th Century Fox
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Film Review (Aug), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Aug)
#647, August 2004
ships from Jul 15 2004
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