So, I, Robot is a “bad” movie? What Gives?

Picture of Will Smith from I, Robot with handwritten words: THE hat.  (So wait, you’re telling this is bad movie ’cause you don’t like the main character’s HAT?  Really?–Sidney).  Image Source: popbabble
  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2428 (+71)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I managed to add 71 words yesterday, well below my 250 word goal.  In my defense, I only had about 40 minutes in-between assignments, but I probably could have gotten it done, but I had to eat dinner, and eating ribs and typing on a computer keyboard is a recipe for disaster.  I also had time on my breaks, but chose not to work on it.  Instead I skimmed YouTube for most of break time.  Today, I’m going to make a concerted effort to use my break times for writing and save YouTube for the weekend.  We’ll see tomorrow if I make it happen.

I, Robot = “bad”?

So, towards the end of the day at the Writing Center, a discussion emerged about the concept of Artificial Intelligence in video games and movies, and I brought up I, Robot as an example.  Now, I know I, Robot isn’t regarded fondly in the Sci-Fi community, but I was surprised to hear a MA (Master’s level) student pull a “Freshman Fiat.”  This is my term for when a freshman (or any other beginning level student) pronounces that something is “fact” and then provides no evidence for this pronouncement.  He categorically stated that I, Robot was a “bad” movie, but without giving any shred of evidence (such as characterization, plotting, setting, tone, etc) to back up his statement and I was supposed to just agree because that is the general consensus.

But I don’t agree.

Not only do I not agree, but as a student learning more and more about Afrofuturism, I would argue that the general consensus has less to do with the movie’s quality in terms of story construction than it does with the appearance of the hero and the formation of the hero’s identity.

But Looper = “good”?

As a counterpoint to the I, Robot narrative, I would offer the (as evidence, which the other participant in the debate never gave, I must repeatedly emphasize), the movie Looper.  Looper is a time travel story, one which (minor spoilers–skip down if you want to know nothing about the plot) sets the protagonist against an older version of himself.

Looper was hailed as a “great” movie and was critically acclaimed.  It also made its director Rian Johnson a powerhouse in the Sci-Fi movie community (which ultimately lead to The Last Jedi and the splintering of the Star Wars fandom).  However, I found Looper (and The Last Jedi to a lesser degree) to be one of the least inventive, least original, and a movie so lacking in character motivation that it made the main character seem flat and uninteresting.  And yet, this movie is hailed as what we should aspire to in Science Fiction filmmaking, while I, Robot, which tries to explore the idea what a soul is and where does it reside, and can it reside in a machine created by man (i.e, first explored by “high” literature such as Frankenstein, and explored in many different movies, including the highly successful Terminator films).

What Makes It So?

I would challenge viewers to watch (or rewatch) each film and focus on the protagonists–the main characters.  I would also encourage viewers to take a moment to look at the way each character is defined and acts within the context of his respective movie.  Although one is a darker shade in terms of skin tone and borrows from his cultural heritage, I would argue that it is Looper’s protagonist who acts in a more stereotypical way.  The protagonist in Looper doesn’t emote (characteristic of the “strong, silent” type), his actor has the classic “Hollywood” face (“square-jawed”), and the character acts out of a misplaced sense of “love” (the character himself isn’t faced with any overriding conviction), whereas the protagonist of I, Robot hates the robots in his world as a way of displacing his own “self-hate” at the way his circumstances turned out.

I would argue that I, Robot challenges the stereotypical narrative far more than Looper does, but that the casting of the protagonist in Looper conforms more to the expectations of the viewers and thus, allows Looper benefit from a story that is far less engaging and far less revolutionary than the story that I, Robot tells.

If you happen to disagree, that’s perfectly valid.  I just wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasons why I think that I, Robot gets a bad “rap.”  At least, there’s no “Freshman Fiat” to deal with here–you have points that you can refute if you disagree.

And that was ultimately the point of today’s post: a little more reason and a little less fiat.  Thanks for reading!


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