Case Number 13270


Fox // 2004 // 114 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 21st, 2008

The Charge

Three laws safe.

Opening Statement

Fox gets its head in the high-def game with this stellar release. Here's the short of it: I, Robot on Blu-ray is the bee's knees.

Facts of the Case

Detective Spooner (Will Smith, Independence Day) is apparently the only man on the planet who thinks that athletic, nearly indestructible robots running amok could be a potentially dangerous idea. That's where we are as a society in the future time period that I, Robot takes place: a civilization slowly being overrun by robot servants.

Spooner nurtures a vicious prejudice against robotkind because of a squirrelly moment in his past -- and that's precisely why he finds himself involved in the high-profile murder of a well-known researcher (James Cromwell, Babe). Someone dropped him out of his skyscraper office, and Spooner's investigation leads him to one of the new models of human-helper robots, a fella named "Sonny" (Alan Tudyk, Serenity) who's unlike any robot Spooner's come across before.

Soon, the hapless detective -- who is almost constantly besieged by hostile robots -- will team up with Sonny and a firecracker female researcher (Bridget Moynahan, Lord of War) to get to the bottom of the massive killer robot conspiracy and drop the hammer Big Willie Style.

The Evidence

Yes! Now we're talking. Fox, a studio that has earned the dubious honor of being one of the least-impressive supporters of high-definition, asserts itself with verve by unleashing an HD release that excels in all manner of importance as it relates to next-generation home media.

I, Robot is one of the best-looking, best-sounding, most laden-with-extras discs I have ever placed into an optical drive.

But before I lay it on too thick, a word about the film itself. There are more than a few things Alex Proyas's scifi action bonanza has going against it, and most of these shortcomings are well-publicized. First is the humongous disconnect between the film and the source material. Aside from the title and the concept of the Three Laws of Robotics, there is nothing in the movie that resembles Isaac Asimov's story. The two works are so unrelated, the producers make special note in the end credits that the screenplay was "suggested by" the original tale. And though the film flirts with relatively complex themes of freedom and fate and racism(?), at its heart, I, Robot is pretty much a slam-bang Hollywood blockbuster.

Second, there's Will Smith. A more charismatic box-office champion, there's probably none that can match him, and as much as I dig the guy, I'm not a fan of his trademark one-liners and quips and oft-contrived hip-hop 'tude that so permeated films like Independence Day (unwatchable because of this and so many other reasons). Smith has toned down a smidgen for this go-round, but there's still one too many "Awww, hell naw!"s for my taste.

Third, Shia Lebeouf, a cat I've come to enjoy, but before Transformers and Disturbia he was polluting big-budget films like this with his smart-ass kid performances. No thanks. More Bridget Moynahan, please.

Still, I like the flick a whole bunch. The pace rockets ahead with little downtime, the mystery is well-plotted and interesting, and the action sequences are big and boisterous. For what it is -- a Will Smith action blockbuster -- I, Robot delivers.

And in its Blu incarnation, it delivers even larger. You know, sometimes after enduring less-than-impressive, half-assed high-def catalog reissues, I question how much HD media has actually evolved standard DVD. Titles like this, however, make me realize the folly in statements like that. I, Robot is a jaw-dropper -- the picture (2.35:1) and audio (DTS HD 5.1 lossless) are as good as anything I have yet to see in high-def. Boasting amazing clarity from the opening frame on, the film's visual treatment is a noticeable and often profound upgrade from DVD. The color work is rich and robust, and the special effects -- lots of CGI here -- pop from the screen. Wow yourself by spinning through the expansive city shots or the car chase or the robot warehouse scene or the climactic action finale; the visual experience is a total winner. Matching the killer video is the killer audio, pristine, pounding, and dynamic. When the action hits, the score drives loud and long, and the surround work throughout is money.

I've come to expect top-shelf A/V treatments from the Blu-ray camp, but the extras had yet to impress. The supplements here are almost overwhelming in their scope. Utilizing an intuitive in-movie selection system mapped to the red, green, yellow, and blue keys, the disc hits you with a multitude of behind-the-scenes materials that change from scene to scene. You'll instantly be able to call up introductions from Alex Proyas, production diaries, pre-CGI visualizations, on-set footage (red), commentaries from the writer and director and the design crew and the soundtrack-only audio track (green), a pop-up trivia track (yellow), and an alphabetical list of all the on-disc features (blue). It's a great implementation, and I'm pleased as punch to see this kind of progressive extras presentation showing up in the format.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I do wish the extras could have been woven into a picture-in-picture presentation. But that's just me.

Closing Statement

Video, audio, and extras all receive the highest scores for the I, Robot Blu debut. Plus, the movie is fun.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Now fetch me my slippers robot slave!

Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 100
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 92

Special Commendations
* Top 100 Discs: #44

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* Cantonese
* Korean
* Spanish

Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurettes
* Production Diaries
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Commentaries
* Trivia Track
* Music-Only Track

* IMDb

* Original DVD Verdict Review