Sunday, July 25, 2004

Hey, Faint Praise is a Lot Better Than No Praise

I just got back from seeing I, Robot. Now, I have to say, my expectations for this movie were about as low as they could possibly be. I'm a big Isaac Asimov fan from way back, and absolutely everything I'd seen or heard about the film led me to believe that it was going to be yet another complete butchering of a science fiction classic. In fact, before leaving for the theater, I told someone I was mainly going out of curiosity as to exactly how many RPMs ol' Isaac was likely to be doing in his grave.

But you know what? I didn't hate it. OK, I wouldn't call it a really good movie. Most of the action sequences aren't all that exciting (and the stupid camera tricks they use in an attempt to make them more exciting just annoy me). The pacing drags a bit in the middle. It suffers from a couple of major cop-movie cliches. And the dialog isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

But it isn't the horrible desecration I was expecting. Yeah, I think the movie does stretch Asimov's conception of how his robots worked a tiny bit, but it does so far less I anticipated, and certainly much less so than the trailers led me to expect. The very idea of casting a fashion model as Dr. Susan Calvin made my blood boil, and seemed like a good enough reason to hate the movie all by itself, but, I have to admit, they actually did get her personality right. The mystery plot, while it bore no resemblance whatsoever to any of the stories in the book, at least felt vaguely like the sort of thing Asimov might write, albeit punched up in a Hollywood-action kind of way. I rather doubt Asimov would have liked the ending (which actually seems to have been lifted from a different science fiction writer altogether), but the honest truth is that it does follow on pretty logically from some of the things Asimov himself explored in his novels. (Actually, there's quite a lot I could say about the Three Laws of Robotics and the end of the movie and some of Asimov's later books, but I don't want to get too spoilery and it's getting towards my bedtime, so I won't go into it now. But it's an interesting topic, and I may ramble a bit about it later on.)

So, yeah. Didn't hate it. Color me surprised.

Of course, I'd still love to see Harlan Ellison's version.

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