Sunday, July 18, 2004

I, Robot didn't just whomp Spider-Man 2 at the box office this weekend, it also beat it out in my overall opinion of the two.
 
Spider-Man 2 was a lot of fun, no doubt, but there were times I felt like Raimi was getting a little too wink-wink with the comic book fans, not to mention his own cult following. That Salomé, not particularly familiar with the details of Spidey's background, was bored at times when he over-indulged in some of these moments confirmed it for me.  The over-the-top nod to his Evil Dead movies in the scene where they try to saw off Doc Ock's arms was a bit much. The campy segment where Peter Parker focuses on being Peter Parker while some goofy, Come on Get Happy-ish song plays in the background, annoyed me, as did J. Jonah Jameson's obnoxious hamming it up as if he was on the old Batman TV series. And the big train fight scene that put an el in Manhattan was just lazy and uninspired.
 
All that said, as a comic book fan, there were several little moments that brought a smile to my face - POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT - like the introduction of Dr. Curt Connors (the Lizard) and John Jameson (Man-Wolf); Harry Osborne's discovery of his father's secret lair; MJ calling Peter "Tiger;" and New Yorkers promising not to reveal Spidey's secret identity.
 
Comparing this one to the first Spider-Man, which took most people by surprise, is an apples and oranges scenario but if forced, I'd put it on par, not above.
 
I, Robot, on the other hand, unexpectedly jumped onto my Top 10 all-time list of summer blockbusters and, I suspect with another viewing, has a chance of making my Top 10 overall. A superior action movie that tackles the done-to-death robots taking over the world plot, liberally borrows from everything from 2001 to Terminator to Spider-Man, and pumps new life into the whole shebang. I'm not a sci-fi junkie and I've never read the source material but I'm guessing, judging from its Isaac Asimov pedigree that in some ways, those movies actually borrowed from I, Robot. The credits explain the movie was "suggested by" Asimov, which makes sense for the amount of tweaking I'm sure they had to do to bring it up to date. And I highly doubt Asimov's leading man was black, a subtle but poignant reference point in the plot.
 
Will Smith is money in Hollywood for a reason, having become the black Bruce Willis circa Die Hard with his likeable, down-to-earth tough guy persona. Plus he's much easier on the eyes than Willis ever was. Call him non-threatening if you want to but 10 years ago there's no way this movie gets made with a black leading man - with this kind of budget Wesley Snipes could not have played Det. Spooner  - plus a black actor in a significant supporting role, with Chi McBride expertly reprising his Boston Public role. Bridget Moynahan is solid as the cold female scientist, and Bruce Greenwood plays slimy corporate scum better than most.
 
The special effects are top-notch and the main robot is a Gollum-like accomplishment, but the fact is there's a meaty mystery plot underneath it that holds the entire movie up and raises it a notch above the ordinary. Sitting through Spider-Man 2 a short few hours after watching I, Robot, I found myself frequently thinking back to Robot and how I would have preferred to end my movie night with it instead.
 
Spider-Man 2: B+; I, Robot: A-

6 comments:

Diane said...

wow. I,robot was that good? Damn, and I wasted
my money on King Arthur which was a sleeper.
The only thing I stayed awake for was Keira Knightly.
Normally I'd hate on the white girl, but she was the
only thing with any life in that movie. I couldn't
even remember who lancelot was.
I'm actually surprised, not by Will Smith
(I actually think he's got the chops and the
comittment to be a really really really good actor someday)
but just at hollywood's ability to totally not address
key and poignant issues......
Take for example the obvious but overlooked issue of
the ethical problems with racial profiling in
Minority Report?
did i mention
that i'm drunk right now?
i write good on alchohol

oh yeah.....and I have to get Conspiracy Theory
to you

Dan Diaz said...

"And the big train fight scene that put an el in Manhattan was just lazy and uninspired."

Lazy and uninspired, you lost me here. I agree with your assesment that there're many inside gags in the film. But describing the train scene as such is unfair. Could it be that the geek inside expected too much? Could the hype have been so big that it couldn't live up to expectations? Maybe?

"The campy segment where Peter Parker focuses on being Peter Parker while some goofy, Come on Get Happy-ish song plays in the background, annoyed me"

Both Xia and I feel that this scene was both annoying, and funny. It was a big curve ball. I would say the thearture was divided, half laughed the other half must have been like what the f*ck.

I hadn't been too interested in I, Robot, but lately I've had the itch to go see it. With your steller review, I'll propabley catch it.

Dan Diaz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diane said...

Umm. soberly I'll have to agree with Guy here.
The train scene WAS lazy and uninspired, moreover it was an
insult to new yorkers everywhere! If you're going
to base the story in NYC you HAVE to be acurate.
If you NEED a scene on an el? come correct! Do it
in the BX, Queens or Brooklyn! or the LIRR! but nooooo
you do a scene on an el in the ONE borough that doesn't
have one....blech.
It's a very familiar city and the kind of detail
that makes the audience relate even more to spiderman.
An EL in manhattan? give me a friggin break, especially
since the video game boasts total NYC accuracy
down to the specific buildings.......
as a new york i was offended ;)

Dyanna said...

Um, HELLO! There IS an elevated train in Manhattan, people!! The 1/9, thankyouverymoosh! From 242 in Riverdale, it goes across the Hudson at 225th INTO Manhattan, and is elevated until Dykman Street. It then goes underground. Then it comes back out for air from 135th Street to 120th Street, AND that area of Harlem WAS used for the sequence because I recognized the U-Haul station. Sure, it doesn't go as far as it did in the movie, but to claim that Raimi is totally off base is wrong!!

I happened to LOVE that scene because overall it was kinda cool!

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I said "lazy and uninspired" for a couple of reasons. "Lazy" because there's no el train anywhere near DOWNTOWN Manhattan, which is where the scene was set, especially not one that abruptly ends at a bumper block! "Uninspired" because because train fight scenes have been done to death and Raimi brought nothing new to the table. It would have made much more sense to at least set the scene in Queens, instead, but then you don't get the big skyscrapers. Result? Lazy and uninspired. The action INSIDE the train was a lot of fun, though, and saved the scene from being a total bore.