cave canem

Cave Canem- Beware the Dog

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Adaptation Failure Quickie: I, Robot

I've been stressed out lately and needed some sort of cathartic distraction. Let's do this.

(A brief aside: I have not, in point of fact, actually seen the movie I, Robot. I only needed to read the Wikipedia summary in order to write this. It is that bad.)

I, Robot was a collection of some of Isaac Asimov's stories on robotics, a set of largely unconnected stories ostensibly told by Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist retiring her position as head of U.S. Robotics, to a reporter who is interviewing her about her work. Robots are programmed to obey three laws: 1. A robot cannot harm a human or through inaction allow a human to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey all orders given to it by a human unless doing so would contradict the first law. 3. A robot cannot harm itself unless not doing so would contradict the first or second laws. Most of the stories were a sort of mystery format; the robots would malfunction and the human protagonists, either Dr. Calvin or whatever other roboticists the story focused on, would have to think of clever ways to use the Three Laws to find and fix the problem. They were clever and suspenseful, but at the same time there were some genuinely emotional moments; the first story, for example, is about a little girl whose parents want to force her to get rid of her (adorable) robotic nursemaid.

The movie is...not that.

The movie is about Will Smith some cop who doesn't like robots. Then he uncovers some robot conspiracy. The laws of robotics are there, and some idiot claiming to be Dr. Calvin is there, but it really has nothing to do with I, Robot. In fact, the screenplay the movie is based on originally had nothing to do with I, Robot at all, and then apparently the studio decided to call it I, Robot anyway and the writers sprinkled a bit of Asimov-esque glitter glue on top in order to compensate. Why the hell would they even name it after a book that it has so little to do with in the first place? It was disappointing to some of us who would like to see a more faithful adaptation; at the very least, a lot of the stories could potentially make some damn cool short films. In fact, it could probably be stretched into a full-length movie while still being pretty faithful to Asimov. Maybe we could start by having it... Oh, I don't know... Actually star characters from the goddamn book? Dr. Calvin would make a great movie protagonist. Plus there's those two guys whose names I don't remember; they had pretty big roles in the book. They were cynical and jaded, and always had bad luck, but they were very clever, and they always managed to get themselves out of tight spots. I would just like to see, you know, a little bit of effort to at least attempt to tell the story that the movie is supposed to be an adaptation of. Just a thought.

I know I said this would be a quickie, but there's one more thing I have to yell about before I end this. Here's a quote from the movie's Wikipedia article:

"Spooner and Calvin speak further to Sonny, learning it has the ability to override the Three Laws; Sonny also describes a vision of itself standing before thousands of robots apparently as their savior. Sonny is ordered destroyed by injecting nanites into his memory, but Calvin is unable to go through with it."

So, let me get this straight. Dr. Calvin learns that there is a robot who can not just bend but completely override the Three Laws. She has a chance to stop it. She completely fails to do so because fuck fuck fuck....

Ahem. Sorry. I lost my temper there for a moment.

In the book, Susan Calvin is a self-admitted misanthrope who states frequently and bluntly that she greatly prefers robots to humans.
However, in the book, when there are robots, completely sentient robots, whose First Law is just slightly tampered with, making them unstable- she advocates for their complete destruction, arguing with her colleagues who think that she is overreacting. She knows that they have to be destroyed, because they are a danger to humanity. After all, the trait she loves most about robots is that they can truly do no harm. What was her quote? "A robot is indistinguishable from a very good man." If a robot went rouge, Dr. Susan Calvin would not hesitate to find it and have it destroyed so that it could not harm people or corrupt other robots.
The woman in the movie is not Dr. Susan Calvin.
The woman in the movie is a generic female protagonist.
I hate you, Hollywood.

1 comment:

  1. If I remember correctly, the movie -- from what I've heard, plus about ten minutes of viewing before I decided to shut it off -- is riddled with product placement.

    Aaaaaand according to a quick Google search, you can find advertisements for Converse shoes, Audi, JVC CD players, and FedEx.

    Movies, yeah!