Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

For "Titanic" Roger Ebert apologized, "You don't choose the most expensive movie ever made to reinvent the wheel." That's the case here: I find myself forgiving this film's obvious lifts from other popular movies and its frequently clich├ęd dialogue, because the studio needed bankability to make this expensive a project, and the good material here is worth the price. I often complain that filmmakers should only alter the source material if they can improve upon it, and the fundamental differences here are not so much an improvement as a necessary evil, whichout which the project could not have been made. As many Asimov fans have griped, a film more closely based on the original writing would have been smarter and more rewarding, but I see no reason to gripe in the event of an Asimov movie being made, since it rarely happens at all.

[Plot spoiler in this paragraph.] Instead of the obnoxious proportions of the chip on Will Smith's shoulder or the distracting plot holes (once in a safe place, why didn't James Cromwell just come out and say what was going on?), what bothered me most about the film was a missed opportunity for some perfect simplicity. The screenplay goes to a lot of trouble to talk about how the robots have evolved into a more perfect form, with spectres of code that were not written by programmers. Part of the reason this sort of spontaneously-existing code bothers me so much in films like this one, "The Matrix," "Ghost in the Shell," and many others, is that I write computer code for a living, and trust me, it could no more write other code than the chair you're sitting in could spontaneously generate another chair. But mainly, it's because this whole "evolution of machines" explanation was unnecessary: Everything the villainous software does in the film can be 100% justified using the first law of robotics; the explanation is right there from the very first frame of the movie, hidden in plain sight. I would have liked this explanation more because it would have been more plausible, and I suppose plausibility is a minor concern in a movie where Will Smith surfs away from an explosion on a fucking door, but the point stands.

I enjoyed this film despite its rough edges. The high-speed battle in the tunnel is just the kind of summer thrill ride that audiences await all year long with justified eagerness. There's no lack of action entertainment here, nor enough intriguing ideas to carry them; there's the strangest sense here that instead of the sci-fi nonsense existing only to support the action scenes like in most blockbusters, the actions scenes are there to bankroll the science fiction.

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