Three Simple Rules

Formulaic and serviceable, 'I, Robot' is a film you should see if you want to make Rupert Murdoch richer

For those interested in only one thing, let me give you the answer you're looking for right off the bat: in I, Robot, 48 seconds elapse between the start of the film and the first time you get to see Will Smith's naked butt.

Now, on to the movie review: I, Robot is entirely passable. There is nothing terribly wrong with this film, nor will it lead you to moan in despair or become irregular or require stitches or therapy. It's a perfectly serviceable action film. I'm pretty sure it was actually written by the ActionFilm2000 script-writing program, and it shows: it's professional, unoriginal and reasonably well paced, with just the right amount of computer-generated expository dialogue that does nothing to advance the plot.

So if you're just interested in seeing a summer blockbuster, and you think one hour and 55 minutes is a good amount of time to remove yourself from your life and dedicate yourself to making Rupert Murdoch just a little richer, then by all means, head down to your local multiplex and enjoy the show.

Or perhaps you just want to see Will Smith's naked butt and ridiculously inflated muscles. Good for you! If so, then you've picked the right film. Apparently, in the future, Will Smith will rarely wear a shirt.

Or maybe it's the robots you're after. Well, I, Robot--true to its title--offers robots galore. More robots than you'd find at a combined Moonie/Scientology meeting. More robots than Madonna keeps in her sex-toy closet.

Set in the year 2035, it features robot servants, robot soldiers, even robot garbagemen. For some reason, there are still human police officers, and Will Smith, as Detective Del Spooner, is one of them. And He. Hates. Robots.

He hates them for no good reason, except that the plot is dependent on there being one guy who hates robots. You can tell he hates robots, because he's very mean to them and calls them names like "canner" and won't even say "hi" to them when they come to see him on a social visit.

Anyway, Detective Spooner is called in to investigate what may well be the first case of a robot murdering a human being. And boy, is he the man for the job. Because--as he's spent the first 20 minutes of the movie making clear--he thinks of robots in the way that Klansmen think of non-white persons. (I.E., he thinks poorly of them.)

This causes him to come into conflict with his boss, and the head of the robotics company, and the mayor, and also beautiful research scientist and set-piece Dr. Susan Calvin, who is played by Bridget Moynahan, who is so pretty that she could only be a supermodel or an expert in three-dimensional modal interfacing for artificial intelligences.

As the latter, she doesn't believe robots can kill, because they obey Isaac Asimov's Three Rules of Robotness:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. Some other rule.

3. A third rule.

Anyway, the big robotics company that supermodel/scientist Dr. Calvin works for, USR, is rolling out its latest line of robots, and they're all equipped to wirelessly connect to the company's main computer, creating a world-wide supercomputer with lots of arms and legs and stuff.

Now, everyone knows that this is a bad idea, because as soon as you create such a network, it will immediately try to kill Sarah Connor. Either that, or it'll put us all into little pods and make Keanu Reeves a superstar. No one wants either of these things to happen.

So, Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan and the Bowery Boys all team up to fight the evil computer overlords, and much special effects are had by all.

The big problem with this movie was that I was really rooting for the robots. Will Smith's character is just a mean-spirited anti-robot racist, or machinist, or whatever you call a jerk who is mean to robots. Why would I be on his side? Just because he's human? Please: I know lots of humans whom I'd like to see replaced by robots.

Plus--and this is what we in the business call a " minor spoiler," so if you're uptight about that sort of thing, stop reading here and go back to your Star Trek newsgroup for a few minutes--the robots aren't taking over to be mean. Rather, they want to protect humanity from itself. They just figure, hell, if our first rule is to keep humans out of harm's way, we really shouldn't let them govern themselves.

Is this not a perfect embodiment of U.S. foreign policy raised to a higher order? Just as we know we can't trust the childlike peoples of the world to rule themselves, and must, like a stern but loving father, step in and set them right, shouldn't we be more than willing to bow to our robot masters? I mean, how many people were rightly surprised when, for example, the Iraqis didn't welcome us with open arms and throw flowers at our feet?

So, shouldn't we be a little more mature than that, and hold a party for our coming robot masters? It seems the least we could do! Instead, every time the robots take over in the movies, a bunch of "heroic" humans start shooting at them.

Hello! Are the insurgents in Fallujah heroic? I think not! They're standing in the way of progress and democracy and freedom and stuff! Therefore, and I think this follows by a logical absolute, anyone resisting the robot occupation is a terrorist.

And that's why you should be careful about supporting Rupert Murdoch's Fox corporation in this anti-American film: Which is to say, this is a movie that hates our freedom. And by "our freedom," I mean the freedom to be ruled by robots.