I, Robot


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?

 

Comments (26)

  1. Sushant Bhatia says:

    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 :-)

  2. runtime says:

    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!

  3. Rob Chartier says:

    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?

  4. Steve K. says:

    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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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 (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0380713586/qid=1090000151/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-0821912-8439009?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) to his 3rd grade class? Weasel is NOT a nice book about nice people. But it IS a good read.

    Admittedly

  7. Michael Cook says:

    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.

  8. Ok, Michael, I won’t judge the movie based on the trailers. How about I base the movie on the reviews?

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5437106/

    " 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: http://www.flipsidemovies.com/irobot.html

    ". 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.

  9. Steve K. says:

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Vatsan says:

    ***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"!

  13. Sushant Bhatia says:

    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…:-)

  14. Mike Shaffer says:

    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 graders…wow, 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….

  15. 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 (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0786810025/qid=1090009637/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-0821912-8439009?v=glance&s=books&n=507846). 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).

  16. Eric Newton says:

    TO ALL THE WOULD BE SISKEL AND EBERTS:

    RENDER YOUR REVIEW OF A MOVIE **AFTER** YOU SEE IT

    Great movie. Just got back from it.

    Another note, I looked around the theatre to see about 80% 14-20 yr old black kids. What a fantastic way to encourage people who might otherwise not even consider such a topic to get them thinking about something other than booze, sex, or rap music. Sure, they probably were there to see Wil Smith, but hey… they WERE there

  17. Eric,

    Would you be happy if someone had made a movie titled "The Lord of the Rings" and left out the whole bit about the Ring?

    How about if someone made Robin Hood and didn’t bother to include the "Steal from the Rich and Give to the Poor" part.

    I’m not commenting on the worth of the movie. I’m commenting on the abuse of the name "I, Robot" in the movie. Unless the movie is REASONABLY true to Asimov (and having a character named Susan Calvin isn’t being reasonably true) it shouldn’t be called "I, Robot". And based on Mr. Cranky’s review (http://www.mrcranky.com/movies/irobot.html) it’s not.

  18. domovoi says:

    "and is now working on an adaptation of Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy."

    O… M… G….

    Say it’s not so… pleaseeee… ;_;

  19. TristanK says:

    I literally blurted "but that’s bull(word)" to my girlfriend in the cinema when we first saw the trailer, and the movie descended from "Ooh! Look! An Asimov movie! About time…" through "er – Will Smith? Well, I guess he’d be cool…", before the hordes of ninja robots started doing ninja robot things, hence the uncomfortably loud blurt.

    I’ll still see the movie when it comes out in Australia, but tagging it with "I, Robot" wasn’t really necessary or appropriate.

  20. Actually, I just saw the movie a couple of hours ago, and I found that it _did not_ do an injustice to Asimov. "I, Robot" the book is a group of very good short stories to illustrate a point about robots: even when it seems as though they are breaking one of the laws, typically there is greater logic behind it. They are actually following all of the laws, but it a much more complex sense.

    The movie is worth seeing. The trailers made it look like another horrible action flict. It really wasn’t.

    As for the MSN Slate review, that’s bullshit. The entire point of the movie was to tamper with the laws of Robots to prove to the audience that they may be interpreted in much more complex ways, despite their simplicity.

    Please, go see the movie. You might actually enjoy it.

  21. Edward says:

    Why doesn’t someone start up a Microsoft school just for employees children? Get all the best teachers from the area, equip it with the latest technology, and use the kids for usability testing at the same time.

    http://www.snpp.com/episodes/BABF07

    http://www.angelfire.com/tv2/simptv/misc_funzo.gif

    Start teaching .Net at age 7 and produce the next generation of employees inhouse.

  22. Atilla Ozgur says:

    I have read a lot of book written by Asimov. Most of them was a action low but thought provoking books. I have not seen movie yet but I believe that using I,Robot name with a action movie is mistake and it is a marketing ploy only.

  23. joecast says:

    Larry, if you’re interested Harlan Ellison, working directly with Asimov, wrote a screen adaptation of I, Robot. It’s been out of print for several years but with the release of the movie they’ve republished it. I know the current movie didn’t start with any Asimov tie-ins, but the screenplay is amazing if you want to see what could have been.