“I, Robot” Debacle

Holy mother of god, the movie “I, Robot” scares the b’jeebees out of me!
Seen the trailer for it yet?
Take a look here: http://www.apple.com/trailers/ in the “20th Century Fox” section.

Now, I don’t know how many other people out there have read Issac Asimov, I have a feeling very few. He was one of the greatest sci-fi authors of all time (and a very prolific non-fiction writer too!) Thing is, he was the granddaddy of “hard science fiction,” where while the story and setting may have been far future or interstellar, it was always based and grounded in hard, believable science. And his shortstory collection “I, Robot” is by no means the high-impact action sci-fi thriller the movie appears to be!

First, let me say that by itself the movie “I, Robot”, if it retained its original name of “Hardwired”, might be a very good action movie on its own. I like Will Smith, and I adore Proyes (the director, who did 1st “The Crow” and “Dark City”.) It could be a great flick! But, the fact 20th Century Fox has stollen the name “I, Robot” and applied it to this film that was originally written with having nothing to do with any Asimov story, makes me angry and disgusted. I started watching the new trailer with glee and anticipation, and turned away from it in disgust. And that’s when I started doing to research on the movie. Here’s some interesting links:
Boycott “I, Robot”‘s opening week
A review of a screenplay for “I, Robot” written by an accomplished sci-fi author.
An explanation of how the current “I, Robot” movie came to be.
Another’s op-ed on the movie.

I really hope Alex Proyes has a figurative gun to his head held by 20th Century Fox when he makes statements supporting the tenuous-at-best relationship the movie has with the Asimov fiction. I can’t imagine any fan of Asimov, or sci-fi in general, abusing the image and spirit of Asimov in that way for profit.

My wife made a good comment last night about how no movie can accurately present the scene and setting of a sci-fi or fantasy book because they’re so far removed from what we know, everyone has a different version in their head. True, absolutely. When you’re talking about buildings, clothing, cars, visual images people should be able to give film producers a lot of slack. But if a movie is going to claim to be in any way based on a novel, it should resemble the plot or at least themes of that novel in some fashion. By all accounts (and to be fair, no one will know FOR SURE until the movie’s released) the movie has no resemblance to the book in any shape or form except for the inclusion of the “Three Laws of Robotics” Asimov developed. Although the Laws have become so ubiquitous that they’re found all over contemporary sci-fi.

I have to agree with the writer of the op-ed linked above, that if Proyes thinks that “breaking the Three Laws” is what the Asimov stories is all about, he’s either a moron or the studio has blackmail photos of him. I read Asimov’s “Robots of Dawn” when I was in Jr. High, and it introduced me to the world of hard sci-fi. I followed it up with “I, Robot” and later the “Foundation” chronicles. And I can say with certainty that the themes of Asimov’s robot stories exactly is how “bad things” can still happen BECAUSE of strict adhearance to the Three Laws that were designed to protect humans from robots.

A point was made somewhere on a chat page, that Asimov himself (or his book publisher) actually “stole” the title of “I, Robot” from a earlier film. This is true. And because of this, there is a kernel of forgiveness in my heart for 20th Century Fox. A precedence has been set for capitalizing on the very effective title “I, Robot.” However, I feel that title more accurately represents the collection of stories Asimov wrote which developed an understanding of the underlying “beingness” of robots. The philosophy of robot/human understanding and misunderstanding. I really don’t see how it really applies to rampaging “mad robot” action.

The best thing in the world would be for millions of people to see the film, for some significant number of those people to go read the Asimov stories, and afterward feel “where the hell did they get that movie from THIS?!” Unfortunately most filmgoers will have no interest in reading in general, and much less in hard science fiction. They’ll probably put the book down after 5 pages and forget all about it, and then go buy the DVD to store next to their “Tomb Raider” disc.

I know one thing good from this controversy, it’s prompting me to go back and revisit a wonderful time in my life when Asimov was a new, glorious dicovery for me. I’m going to go back and re-read “I, Robot” and remember those early teen days when I had the time to read just about a novel a day and I wasn’t yet jaded and cynical.