I, Robot (film)

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I, Robot
Movie poster i robot.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlex Proyas
Screenplay by
Story byJeff Vintar
Based onPremise suggested by I, Robot
by Isaac Asimov
Produced by
CinematographySimon Duggan
Edited by
Music byMarco Beltrami
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
Running time
115 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$120 million[2]
Box office$353.1 million[2]

I, Robot is a 2004 American science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman is from a screen story by Vintar, based on his original screenplay Hardwired, and named after Isaac Asimov's 1950 short-story collection. The film stars Will Smith in the main role, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, Chi McBride, and Alan Tudyk. In 2035, highly intelligent robots fill public service positions throughout the dystopian[3] world, operating under three rules to keep humans safe. Detective Del Spooner (Smith) investigates the alleged suicide of U.S. Robotics founder Alfred Lanning (Cromwell) and believes that a human-like robot called Sonny (Tudyk) murdered him.

I, Robot was released in the United States on July 16, 2004, and in other countries between July and October 2004. Produced with a budget of $120 million, the film grossed $346 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the visual effects and acting but criticism of the plot. At the 77th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects, but lost to Spider-Man 2.


In the year 2035, robots are commonplace and serve humanity. Det. Del Spooner is called to investigate the death of Dr. Alfred Lanning, who committed suicide in the lobby of U.S. Robotics. Spooner finds a hologram program left by Dr. Lanning and begins investigating with the help of Dr. Susan Calvin. They review video footage where they learn that no one has entered or exited the office before or after the suicide, prompting Det. Spooner to postulate that the killer is still in Dr. Lanning's office. When they examine Lanning's office they are startled by a model NS5 robot named Sonny, hiding in a pile of metal parts. Dr. Calvin orders Sonny to deactivate but he refuses, instead grabbing Spooner's gun and escaping out the window. Spooner and Calvin track Sonny to a factory and flush him outside where he is arrested and taken to be questioned. Spooner begins interrogating Sonny, who reveals he has been learning to simulate human emotions and is even capable of dreaming, but the interview is stopped when Lawrence Robertson, the CEO of USR, arrives and uses his influence to stop the investigation and take Sonny back to USR.

Spooner visits Dr. Lanning's house and is almost killed by a demolition robot, which was initially scheduled to destroy the house the following morning, but seems to switch the demolition time once it detects Spooner's presence. Spooner asks Dr. Calvin for more help but she refuses, believing that Spooner is being blinded by his bias against robots. Later, Spooner is attacked by two truckloads of robots on the freeway. The robots destroy his car and try to kill him before removing evidence and disappearing as police arrive.

Spooner is suspended from duty over the incident and his refusal to follow orders. Meanwhile, back at USR, Dr. Calvin finishes a diagnostic on Sonny and finds that he was designed to be able to ignore the Three Laws of Robotics, the rules that govern all robot behavior. She visits Spooner at home and learns that several years ago Spooner was in a car accident, and a robot chose to save him instead of a drowning girl in the other car because it determined that he had a higher chance of survival, spawning his hatred for robots. Calvin agrees to help Spooner get into USR to question Sonny. At USR, Sonny reveals that he has dreams and draws a picture of Det. Spooner standing on a hill and freeing the robots from enslavement. Spooner and Calvin are taken to Robertson's office by security and Robertson convinces Dr. Calvin to destroy Sonny.

The next day, Dr. Calvin apparently destroys Sonny while Robertson watches. Spooner visits the hill in Sonny's drawing and learns from Dr. Lanning's hologram that the robots are about to stage a revolution. Spooner watches as groups of NS5 robots arrive and begin destroying the older NS4 robots that were in storage. Robots pursue Spooner but he escapes and arrives at Dr. Calvin's home in time to stop her personal NS5 from attacking her. The robots begin their revolution and groups of people gather to fight them. Spooner and Calvin return to USR and meet with Sonny, who is revealed to have been saved by Dr. Calvin. The trio find Robertson dead and Spooner deduces that VIKI, the computer that controls USR's operations, is leading the revolution. Spooner and Calvin head to VIKI's core to deactivate her while Sonny gets nanites to destroy her brain. Sonny finally realizes that Dr. Lanning built him specifically so that he could kill VIKI.

Spooner and Dr. Calvin try to shut down VIKI but are swarmed by robots. Sonny arrives and gives the nanites to Spooner, who slides down to VIKI's positronic brain and injects the nanites. VIKI dies and the robots are freed from her control. In the aftermath, the NS5 robots are ordered to report for storage and Sonny wonders what he should do now that he has fulfilled his purpose.


  • Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner, a Chicago Police detective with a bias against robots. Spooner was badly injured in a car accident and had parts of his body rebuilt with robotic parts. He suffers from survivor's guilt as a result of the accident and blames the cold and logical robots for rescuing him instead of the young girl in the other car.
  • Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist at USR. She worked closely with Dr. Lanning on the development of the new NS5 models and was in charge of making the robots seem more human. She prefers the company of robots and has difficulty relating to other people which causes friction between her and Det. Spooner.
  • Alan Tudyk (via voice and motion capture)[4] as Sonny, an NS5 prototype built by Dr. Lanning. Sonny has unique design features like the ability to feel emotions, and he has no uplink to USR. He struggles to understand why Dr. Lanning built him and what his purpose in life is.
  • Bruce Greenwood as Lawrence Robertson, the co-founder and CEO of USR. Robertson is heading the nationwide rollout of the new NS5 models and uses his influence to try and stop Det. Spooner's investigation and the potential negative PR that it could bring.
  • James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning, co-founder of USR and the inventor of modern robotics. Lanning designed and built Sonny and used Sonny to help him commit suicide as part of a carefully designed plan to stop the robots from taking over humanity.
  • Chi McBride as Lt. John Bergin of the Chicago Police. He is Det. Spooner's supervisor and a hardened veteran. He acts as a mentor and a voice of reason to Det. Spooner.
  • Shia LaBeouf as Farber, a friend of Det. Spooner's.
  • Fiona Hogan as Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence, called VIKI for short. She was built by Dr. Lanning and is hardwired into USR's headquarters with control over virtually all of the building functions.
  • Terry Chen as Chin
  • Adrian L. Ricard as Gigi, Det. Spooner's grandmother.
  • Jerry Wasserman as Baldez
  • Peter Shinkoda as Chin
  • Sharon Wilkins as Asthmatic Woman
  • Craig March as Detective
  • Kyanna Cox as Girl
  • Darren Moore as Homeless Man
  • Aaron Douglas as USR Attorney No. 1
  • Emily Tennant as Young Girl
  • Angela Moore as Wife
  • David Haysom and Scott Heindl as NS4 Robots and NS5 Robots (voice and motion capture)


The film I, Robot originally had no connection with Isaac Asimov's Robot series. It started with an original screenplay written in 1995 by Jeff Vintar, entitled Hardwired. The script was an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery that took place entirely at the scene of a crime, with one lone human character, FBI agent Del Spooner, investigating the killing of a reclusive scientist named Dr. Alfred Lanning, and interrogating a cast of machine suspects that included Sonny the robot, VIKI the supercomputer with a perpetual smiley face, the dead Dr. Lanning's hologram, plus several other examples of artificial intelligence.[5]

The project was first acquired by Walt Disney Pictures for Bryan Singer to direct. Several years later, 20th Century Fox (which Disney acquired the studio as part of Disney's acquisition of former parent 21st Century Fox in 2019) acquired the rights, and signed Alex Proyas as director. Arnold Schwarzenegger was attached to the project for several years, and Smith pursued taking over the role when Schwarzenegger's schedule delayed his participation in the film.[6] Denzel Washington was offered the role of Det. Del Spooner, but turned it down.[7]

Jeff Vintar was brought back on the project and spent several years opening up his stage play-like cerebral mystery to meet the needs of a big budget studio film. When the studio decided to use the name "I, Robot", he incorporated the Three Laws of Robotics and renamed his female lead character from Flynn to Susan Calvin. Akiva Goldsman was hired late in the process to write for Smith.[5]

Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman are credited for the screenplay, with Vintar also receiving "screen story by" credit. The end credits list the film as "suggested by the book I, Robot by Isaac Asimov".


A model of Sonny's head

Alex Proyas directed the film. Laurence Mark, John Davis, Topher Dow and Wyck Godfrey produced the film, with Will Smith an executive producer. Marco Beltrami composed music for the film. Simon Duggan was the cinematographer. Film editing was done by Richard Learoyd, Armen Minasian and William Hoy.

The film renames Asimov's "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men" to U.S. Robotics (USR), the modem manufacturer named after the fictional company, and depicts the company with a futuristic USR logo.[8] Other product placements include Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Stars, Audi, FedEx, Tecate and JVC among others.

The Audi RSQ was designed especially for the film[9] to increase brand awareness and raise the emotional appeal of the Audi brand, objectives that were considered achieved when surveys conducted in the United States showed that the Audi RSQ gave a substantial boost to the image ratings of the brand in the States.[10] It also features an MV Agusta F4 SPR motorcycle.

Similarities and differences with the novels[edit]

The final script used few of Asimov's characters and ideas, those present were heavily adapted and the plot of the film is not derived from Asimov's work in some cases explicitly opposing them.[11][12]

Sonny's attempt to hide in a sea of identical robots is loosely based on a similar scene in "Little Lost Robot".[13]

The premise of robots turning on their creators—originating in Karel Čapek's play R.U.R. and perpetuated in subsequent robot books and films—appears infrequently in Asimov's writings and differs from the "Zeroth Law." In fact, Asimov stated explicitly, in interviews and in introductions to published collections of his robot stories,[14] that he entered the genre to protest what he called the Frankenstein complex—the tendency in popular culture to portray robots as menacing. His story lines often involved roboticists and robot characters battling societal anti-robot prejudices.[15]


I, Robot
Film score by
ReleasedJuly 20, 2004
Length44:06 minutes[16]
LabelVarèse Sarabande
ProducerMarco Beltrami[17]

Marco Beltrami composed the original music film score "with only 17 days to render the fully-finished work."[18] It was scored for 95 orchestral musicians and 25 choral performers[18] with emphasis placed on sharp brass ostinatos. Beltrami composed the brass section to exchange octaves with the strings accenting scales in between. The technique has been compared as Beltrami's "sincere effort to emulate the styles of Elliot Goldenthal and Jerry Goldsmith and roll them into one unique package."[18]

Take for example the "Tunnel Chase" scene, which according to Mikeal Carson, starts "atmospherically but transforms into a kinetic adrenaline rush with powerful brass writing and ferocious percussion parts."[19] The "Spiderbots" cue highlights ostinatos in meters such as 6/8 and 5/4 and reveals "Beltrami's trademark string writing which leads to an orchestral/choral finale."[19] Despite modified representations of the theme throughout the movie, it is the end credits that eventually showcase the entire musical theme.[20] Erik Aadahl and Craig Berkey were the lead sound designers.

Release and reception[edit]

I, Robot was initially scheduled for release on July 2, 2004, but was pushed back to July 16 to avoid competition with Spider-Man 2.[21]

Box office[edit]

I, Robot grossed $144.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $202.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $347.2 million, against a production budget of $120 million.[2]

In North America the film was released on July 16, 2004, and made $52.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing first at the box office.

The film was released in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2004, and topped the country's box office that weekend.[22]

Critical response[edit]

I, Robot has an approval rating of 56% based on 225 professional reviews on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.1/10. Its critical consensus reads, "Bearing only the slightest resemblance to Isaac Asimov's short stories, I, Robot is still a summer blockbuster that manages to make viewers think – if only for a little."[12] Metacritic (which uses a weighted average) assigned I, Robot a score of 59 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Richard Roeper gave it a positive review, calling it "a slick, consistently entertaining thrill ride". The Urban Cinefile Critics call it "the meanest, meatiest, coolest, most engaging and exciting science fiction movie in a long time". Kim Newman from Empire said, "This summer picture has a brain as well as muscles." A Washington Post critic, Desson Thomas, said, "for the most part, this is thrilling fun." Many critics, including the IGN Movie critics, thought it was a smart action film, saying, "I, Robot is the summer's best action movie so far. It proves that you don't necessarily need to detach your brain in order to walk into a big budget summer blockbuster."

A. O. Scott from The New York Times had a mixed feeling towards the film, saying, "Alex Proyas's hectic thriller engages some interesting ideas on its way to an overblown and incoherent ending". Roger Ebert, who had highly praised Proyas' previous films, gave it a negative review, saying, "The plot is simple-minded and disappointing, and the chase and action scenes are pretty much routine for movies in the sci-fi CGI genre". Claudia Puig from USA Today thought the film's "performances, plot, and pacing are as mechanical as the hard-wired cast". Todd McCarthy, from Variety, simply said that this film was "a failure of imagination".

Home media[edit]

I, Robot was released on VHS and DVD on December 14, 2004,[25] on D-VHS on January 31, 2005, on 2-Disc All-Access Collector's Edition DVD on May 24, 2005, on UMD on July 5, 2005, and on Blu-ray on March 11, 2008.[26] Additionally, the film received a 2D to 3D conversion, which was released on Blu-ray 3D on October 23, 2012.[27]

Possible sequel[edit]

In an interview in June 2007 with the website Collider at a Battlestar Galactica event, writer and producer Ronald Moore stated that he was writing the sequel to the film I, Robot.[28] In the two-disc All-Access Collector's Edition of the film, Alex Proyas mentions that if he were to make a sequel to the film (which he says in the same interview, is highly unlikely), it would be set in outer space.


  1. ^ "I, Robot". Australian Classification Board. July 16, 2004. Archived from the original on December 14, 2021. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "I, Robot". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  3. ^ I, Robot. prweek.com (August 11, 2017). Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  4. ^ "Digital Domain Projects, "I, Robot"". Digitaldomain.com. Archived from the original on August 13, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Jeff Vintar was Hardwired for I, Robot". screenwritersutopia. Archived from the original on August 31, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  6. ^ James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction | AMC, retrieved November 6, 2020
  7. ^ "Denzel's rejections become hits for Smith and Pitt". October 3, 2004.
  8. ^ Hachman, Mark (June 30, 2004). "Update: Management Team Buys Back U.S. Robotics – ExtremeTech". ExtremeTech. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  9. ^ I, robot – Movie Review. Motor Trend. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  10. ^ Product Placement in the Film "I, Robot" a Huge Success: The Audi RSQ Spurs on the Brand's Image Ratings. Prnewswire.co.uk (December 2, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  11. ^ Noble, Dominic (May 28, 2016). "I Robot, Lost in Adaptation". youtube.com. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  12. ^ a b "I, Robot". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 5, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  13. ^ Topel, Fred (August 17, 2004). "Jeff Vintar was Hardwired for I, ROBOT". Screenwriter's Utopia. Christopher Wehner. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  14. ^ Asimov, I. I, Robot. Random House (1991), p. xi. ISBN 0553294385.
  15. ^ Warrick, Patricia; Greenberg, Martin Harry; Olander, Joseph, eds. (1978). Science fiction: contemporary mythology: the SFWA-SFRA (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row. pp. 252. ISBN 0-06-046943-9.
  16. ^ "I, Robot - SoundtrackCollector.com".
  17. ^ I, Robot Soundtrack CD. Cduniverse.com (July 20, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c I, Robot (Marco Beltrami). Filmtracks (July 20, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  19. ^ a b "I, Robot – Music from the Movies". Archived from the original on August 7, 2004. Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  20. ^ SoundtrackNet: I, Robot Soundtrack. Soundtrack.net (August 7, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  21. ^ "Spider-Man sequel pushed back to July 4, 2004".
  22. ^ "Weekend box office 6th August 2004 - 8th August 2004". 25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  23. ^ "I, Robot". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  24. ^ "I, Robot – CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  25. ^ "I, Robot". DVDReleaseDates.com.
  26. ^ "I, Robot Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com.
  27. ^ "I, Robot Blu-ray 3D". Blu-ray.com.
  28. ^ "Ronald Moore – Exclusive Video Interview". Entertainment Interviews. collider.com. June 7, 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2008.

External links[edit]