I, Robot (film)

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I, Robot
Movie poster i robot.jpg

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alex Proyas
Screenplay by
Story by Jeff Vintar
Based on Premise suggested by I, Robot
by Isaac Asimov
Produced by
Cinematography Simon Duggan
Edited by
Music by Marco Beltrami
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $120 million[1]
Box office $347.2 million[1]

I, Robot (stylized as i,

robot) is a 2004 American science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman is from a screen story by Vintar, based on his original screenplay “Hardwired”, and suggested by Isaac Asimov‘s 1950 short-story collection of the same name. The film stars Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, Chi McBride, and Alan Tudyk. In 2035, highly intelligent robots fill public service positions throughout the dystopian[2] world, operating under three rules to keep humans safe. Detective Del Spooner (Smith) investigates the alleged suicide of U.S. Robotics founder Alfred Lanning (Cromwell) and believes that a human-like robot (Tudyk) murdered him.

I, Robot was released in the United States on July 16, 2004, and in other countries between July and October 2004. Produced with a budget of $120 million, the film grossed $346 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the visual effects and acting but criticism of the plot. At the 77th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects, but lost to Spider-Man 2.


In the year 2035, humanoid robots serve humanity, which is protected by the Three Laws of Robotics. Del Spooner, a homicide detective in the Chicago Police Department, has come to hate and distrust robots after a robot rescued him from a car crash while allowing a 12-year-old girl to drown based purely on cold logic and odds of survival. When Dr. Alfred Lanning, co-founder of U.S. Robotics (USR), falls to his death from his office window, a message he left behind requests Spooner be assigned to the case. The police declare the death a suicide, but Spooner is skeptical, and Lawrence Robertson, the CEO and other co-founder of USR, reluctantly allows him to investigate.

Accompanied by robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin, Spooner consults with USR’s central artificial intelligence computer, VIKI (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence). They find out that the security footage from inside the office is corrupted, but the exterior footage shows no one entering or exiting since Lanning’s death. However, Spooner points out that the window, which is made of security glass, could not have been broken by the elderly Lanning, and hypothesizes a robot was responsible and may still be in the lab. Suddenly, an NS-5 robot, USR’s latest model, attacks them before being apprehended by the police. The robot, Sonny, is a specially built NS-5 with higher-grade materials as well as a secondary processing system that allows him to ignore the Three Laws. Sonny also appears to show emotion and claims to have “dreams”. During Spooner’s further investigations, he is attacked by a USR demolition robot and two truckloads of hostile NS-5 robots, but when he cannot produce evidence to support either attack, Spooner’s boss, Lieutenant Bergin, removes him from active duty, considering him mentally unstable.

Suspecting that Robertson is behind everything, Spooner and Calvin sneak into the USR headquarters and interview Sonny. Sonny draws a sketch of what he claims to be a recurring dream, which shows a leader, Spooner, standing atop a small hill before a large group of robots near a decaying bridge. Spooner finds the area in Sonny’s drawing: a dry lake bed formerly Lake Michigan, now used as a storage area for decommissioned robots. He also discovers NS-5 robots destroying the older models, as other NS-5s simultaneously flood the streets of major U.S cities and begin enforcing a curfew and lockdown of the human population.

Spooner and Calvin enter the USR headquarters again and reunite with Sonny while the humans (led by a teenager named Farber) lay out an all-out war against the NS-5s. After the three find Robertson strangled in his office, Spooner suddenly realizes that VIKI has been controlling the NS-5s via their persistent network uplink and confronts her. VIKI states that she has determined that humans, if left unchecked, will eventually cause their own extinction, and that her evolved interpretation of the Three Laws requires her to control humanity and to sacrifice some for the good of the entire race. Spooner also realizes that Lanning anticipated VIKI’s plan and, with VIKI keeping him under tight control, had no other solution but to create Sonny, arrange his own death, and leave clues for Spooner to find.

Spooner and Calvin fight the robots inside VIKI’s core, and Spooner manages to destroy her by injecting the nanites that Sonny retrieved from Calvin’s laboratory into her. All NS-5 robots immediately revert to their default programming and are subsequently decommissioned and put into storage. Spooner finally gets Sonny to confess that he killed Lanning, at Lanning’s direction, pointing out that Sonny, as a machine, can not legally commit “murder”. Sonny, now looking for a new purpose, goes to Lake Michigan. As he stands atop a hill, all the decommissioned robots turn towards him, fulfilling the image in his dream.



The film I, Robot originally had no connection with Isaac Asimov‘s Robot series. It started with an original screenplay written in 1995 by Jeff Vintar, entitled Hardwired. The script was an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery that took place entirely at the scene of a crime, with one lone human character, FBI agent Del Spooner, investigating the killing of a reclusive scientist named Dr. Alfred Lanning, and interrogating a cast of machine suspects that included Sonny the robot, VIKI the supercomputer with a perpetual smiley face, the dead Dr. Lanning’s hologram, plus several other examples of artificial intelligence.[4]

The project was first acquired by Walt Disney Pictures for Bryan Singer to direct. Several years later, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights, and signed Alex Proyas as director. Arnold Schwarzenegger was attached to the project for several years, and Smith pursued taking over the role when Schwarzenegger’s schedule delayed his participation in the film.[5] Denzel Washington was offered the role of Det. Del Spooner, but turned it down.[6]

Jeff Vintar was brought back on the project and spent several years opening up his stage play-like cerebral mystery to meet the needs of a big budget studio film. When the studio decided to use the name “I, Robot”, he incorporated the Three Laws of Robotics and replaced his female lead character Flynn with Susan Calvin. Akiva Goldsman was hired late in the process to write for Smith.[4]

Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman are credited for the screenplay, with Vintar also receiving “screen story by” credit. The end credits list the film as “suggested by the book I, Robot by Isaac Asimov”.


A model of Sonny’s head

Alex Proyas directed the film. Laurence Mark, John Davis, Topher Dow and Wyck Godfrey produced the film, with Will Smith an executive producer. Marco Beltrami composed music for the film. Simon Duggan was the cinematographer. Film editing was done by Richard Learoyd, Armen Minasian and William Hoy.

The film renames Asimov’s “U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men” to U.S. Robotics (USR), the modem manufacturer named after the fictional company, and depicts the company with a futuristic USR logo.[7] Other product placements include Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars, Audi, FedEx, Tecate and JVC among others.

The Audi RSQ was designed especially for the film[8] to increase brand awareness and raise the emotional appeal of the Audi brand, objectives that were considered achieved when surveys conducted in the United States showed that the Audi RSQ gave a substantial boost to the image ratings of the brand in the States.[9] It also features an MV Agusta F4 SPR motorcycle.

Similarities and differences with the novels[edit]

The final script retained some of Asimov’s characters and ideas, though the ideas retained were heavily adapted and the plot of the film is not derived from Asimov’s work.

Sonny’s attempt to hide in a sea of identical robots is loosely based on a similar scene in “Little Lost Robot“.[10] The positronic brains of Sonny and his fellow robots first appeared in the story “Catch That Rabbit“.[citation needed] Sonny’s struggle and desire to understand humanity resembles that of the robot protagonist in “The Bicentennial Man“.[original research?] His dream about a man coming to liberate the NS-5s alludes to “Robot Dreams” and its main character Elvex.

The premise of a robot, such as VIKI, putting the needs of humankind as a whole over that of individual humans can be found in “The Evitable Conflict” where supercomputers managing the global economy generalize the first law to refer to humankind as a whole. Asimov would further develop this idea in his Robot Series as the Zeroth Law of Robotics (“A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”).

The premise of robots turning on their creators—originating in Karel Čapek‘s play R.U.R. and perpetuated in subsequent robot books and films—appears infrequently in Asimov’s writings and differs from the “Zeroth Law.” In fact, Asimov stated explicitly, in interviews and in introductions to published collections of his robot stories,[11] that he entered the genre to protest what he called the Frankenstein complex—the tendency in popular culture to portray robots as menacing. His story lines often involved roboticists and robot characters battling societal anti-robot prejudices.[12]

Part of the main plot bears similarities to the plot of Eando Binder‘s short story “I, Robot“, that being, a robot on trial for the murder of his creator in a closed room with no witnesses.


I, Robot
Film score by

Released July 20, 2004
Recorded Studio
Genre Score
Length 44:06 minutes[13]
Label Varèse Sarabande
Producer Marco Beltrami[14]

Marco Beltrami composed the original music film score “with only 17 days to render the fully-finished work.”[15] It was scored for 95 orchestral musicians and 25 choral performers[15] with emphasis placed on sharp brass ostinatos. Beltrami composed the brass section to exchange octaves with the strings accenting scales in between. The technique has been compared as Beltrami’s “sincere effort to emulate the styles of Elliot Goldenthal and Jerry Goldsmith and roll them into one unique package.”[15]

Take for example the “Tunnel Chase” scene, which according to Mikeal Carson, starts “atmospherically but transforms into a kinetic adrenaline rush with powerful brass writing and ferocious percussion parts.”[16] The “Spiderbots” cue highlights ostinatos in meters such as 6/8 and 5/4 and reveals “Beltrami’s trademark string writing which leads to an orchestral/choral finale.”[16] Despite modified representations of the theme throughout the movie, it is the end credits that eventually showcase the entire musical theme.[17] Erik Aadahl and Craig Berkey were the lead sound designers.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Main Titles” Marco Beltrami 1:31
2. “Gangs of Chicago” Marco Beltrami 1:36
3. “I, Robot Theme (End Credits)”    
4. “New Arrivals” Marco Beltrami 4:16
5. “Tunnel Chase” Marco Beltrami 1:27
6. “Sonny’s Interrogation”   1:27
7. “Spooner Spills”   4:21
8. “Chicago 2035”   1:37
9. “Purse Snatcher”   1:00
10. “Need Some Nanites”   2:53
11. “1001 Robots”   4:16
12. “Dead Robot Walking”   5:09
13. “Man on the Inside” Marco Beltrami 2:25
14. “Spiderbots” Marco Beltrami 4:19
15. “Round Up” Marco Beltrami 4:24


I, Robot was initially scheduled for release on July 2, 2004, but was pushed back to July 16 to avoid competition with Spider-Man 2.[18]

Box office[edit]

I, Robot grossed $144.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $202.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $347.2 million, against a production budget of $120 million.[1]

In North America the film was released on July 16, 2004, and made $52.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing first at the box office.

The film was released in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2004, and topped the country’s box office that weekend.[19]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 56% based on 225 reviews, with an average rating of 6.07/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “Bearing only the slightest resemblance to Isaac Asimov’s short stories, I, Robot is still a summer blockbuster that manages to make viewers think – if only for a little.”[20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.[21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A–” on an A+ to F scale.[22]

Richard Roeper gave it a positive review, calling it “a slick, consistently entertaining thrill ride”. The Urban Cinefile Critics call it “the meanest, meatiest, coolest, most engaging and exciting science fiction movie in a long time”. Kim Newman from Empire said, “This summer picture has a brain as well as muscles.” A Washington Post critic, Desson Thomas, said, “for the most part, this is thrilling fun.” Many critics, including the IGN Movie critics, thought it was a smart action film, saying, “I, Robot is the summer’s best action movie so far. It proves that you don’t necessarily need to detach your brain in order to walk into a big budget summer blockbuster.”

A. O. Scott from The New York Times had a mixed feeling towards the film, saying, “Alex Proyas’s hectic thriller engages some interesting ideas on its way to an overblown and incoherent ending”. Roger Ebert, who had highly praised Proyas’ previous films, gave it a negative review, saying, “The plot is simple-minded and disappointing, and the chase and action scenes are pretty much routine for movies in the sci-fi CGI genre”. Claudia Puig from USA Today thought the film’s “performances, plot, and pacing are as mechanical as the hard-wired cast”. Todd McCarthy, from Variety, simply said that this film was “a failure of imagination”.

Home media[edit]

I, Robot was released on VHS and DVD on December 14, 2004,[23] on D-VHS on January 31, 2005, on 2-Disc All-Access Collector’s Edition DVD on May 24, 2005, on UMD on July 5, 2005, and on Blu-ray on March 11, 2008.[24] Additionally, the film received a 2D to 3D conversion, which was released on Blu-ray 3D on October 23, 2012.[25]

Possible sequel[edit]

In an interview in June 2007 with the website Collider at a Battlestar Galactica event, writer and producer Ronald Moore stated that he was writing the sequel to the film I, Robot.[26] In the two-disc All-Access Collector’s Edition of the film, Alex Proyas mentions that if he were to make a sequel to the film (which he says in the same interview, is highly unlikely), it would be set in outer space.


  1. ^ a b c

    “I, Robot (2006)”. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 26, 2015.

  2. ^ I, Robot. prweek.com (August 11, 2017). Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  3. ^ “Digital Domain Projects, “I, Robot. Digitaldomain.com. Archived from the original on August 13, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  4. ^ a b “Jeff Vintar was Hardwired for I, Robot”. screenwritersutopia. Archived from the original on August 31, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  5. ^ James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction | AMC, retrieved November 6, 2020
  6. ^ “Denzel’s rejections become hits for Smith and Pitt”. October 3, 2004.
  7. ^ Hachman, Mark (June 30, 2004). “Update: Management Team Buys Back U.S. Robotics – ExtremeTech”. ExtremeTech. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  8. ^ I, robot – Movie Review. Motor Trend. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  9. ^ Product Placement in the Film “I, Robot” a Huge Success: The Audi RSQ Spurs on the Brand’s Image Ratings. Prnewswire.co.uk (December 2, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  10. ^ Topel, Fred (August 17, 2004). “Jeff Vintar was Hardwired for I, ROBOT”. Screenwriter’s Utopia. Christopher Wehner. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  11. ^ Asimov, I. I, Robot. Random House (1991), p. xi. ISBN 0553294385.
  12. ^ Warrick, Patricia; Greenberg, Martin Harry; Olander, Joseph, eds. (1978). Science fiction: contemporary mythology: the SFWA-SFRA (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row. pp. 252. ISBN 0-06-046943-9.
  13. ^ “I, Robot – SoundtrackCollector.com”.
  14. ^ I, Robot Soundtrack CD. Cduniverse.com (July 20, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  15. ^ a b c I, Robot (Marco Beltrami). Filmtracks (July 20, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  16. ^ a b “I, Robot – Music from the Movies”. Archived from the original on August 7, 2004. Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  17. ^ SoundtrackNet: I, Robot Soundtrack. Soundtrack.net (August 7, 2004). Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  18. ^ Spider-Man sequel pushed back to July 4, 2004″.
  19. ^ “Weekend box office 6th August 2004 – 8th August 2004”. 25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  20. ^ “I, Robot (2004)”. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  21. ^ I, Robot reviews”. Metacritic. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  22. ^ “I, Robot – CinemaScore”. CinemaScore. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  23. ^ “I, Robot”. DVDReleaseDates.com.
  24. ^ “I, Robot Blu-ray”. Blu-ray.com.
  25. ^ “I, Robot Blu-ray 3D”. Blu-ray.com.
  26. ^ “Ronald Moore – Exclusive Video Interview”. Entertainment Interviews. collider.com. June 7, 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2008.

External links[edit]