I, Robot: One Disc Edition (2004)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 24-Nov-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Trailer-The Day After Tomorrow, Buffy, Angel, Alien vs Predator
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Alex Proyas (Director) And Akiva Goldsman (Screenwriter)
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Audio Commentary-Marco Beltrami (Composer)
Featurette-Making Of-The Making Of I, Robot
Gallery-Still
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 110:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alex Proyas
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Will Smith
Bridget Moynahan
Bruce Greenwood
Chi McBride
Alan Tudyk
James Cromwell
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

The Three Laws Of Robotics:

     Adapted from a series of short stories by Isaac Asimov, I, Robot takes place in Chicago in the year 2035 where walking, talking robots are now commonplace. Major robot production company USR (US Robotics) is in the process of releasing its latest model, the NS-5, while being on the verge of putting a robot into every household. Unlike its predecessor, the NS-5 has a direct uplink to the USR central computer system, a system called VIKI (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence) which has direct control over every NS-5.

     Will Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a robophobic Chicago cop who is inadvertently thrust into a murder investigation at USR in which a robot is the prime suspect, at least in his eyes. With more prejudice than evidence against these machines which now inhabit nearly every facet of daily life, Spooner feels he has now uncovered a flaw in the three laws of robotics. What he eventually discovers is the three laws are in fact sound but the three laws will lead to only one logical conclusion: revolution.

     I, Robot is science fiction at its very best. While it may have looked like just another summer blockbuster in the trailer it is far from it in reality. The story at its core is quite profound, and the fact that an artificial intelligence could determine that mankind could not be trusted with its own survival does have a distinct sense of irony. There is a part of me that does sympathize with VIKI - you have but to look at the 6-o'clock news on any given day to see why. The world is constantly in turmoil but then again who's to say that a machine could do any better.

     The special effects of I, Robot are quite simply amazing. The robots seem to blend seamlessly into the world around them so much so that there is seldom a moment where the reality of the film is ever questioned. The animation of Sonny in particular is truly astonishing - the subtleties in his performance remarkable. As you may well have guessed the process in which Sonny was brought to life was almost identical to that of Gollum from Lord Of The Rings.

     The performances too are top shelf - Will Smith brings a great deal of personality and humour to a role which could have potentially been a stock standard affair. Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood and James Cromwell also put in a great performances, but perhaps the highlight performance is from the only lead actor you never see in the flesh (except for one frame as explained in the second commentary track). Actor Alan Tudyk's performance as Sonny is inspiring to say the least and as you will see in the behind-the-scenes material it was his performance which drove the animation of Sonny, right down to the minuscule facial movements.

     The icing on the cake is that the film is also directed by an Australian, Alex Proyas, whose previous directorial efforts include The Crow, Dark City and most recently Garage Days. Like most Australians I tend to feel a sense of pride when an Australian director, or actor for that matter, successfully tackles the multi-billion dollar American movie industry. I, Robot is a sensational futuristic thriller that will for many years stand tall in the science fiction genre. If you liked Minority Report then I, Robot is a film for you.

     Now for bit of negative regarding the DVD before I go on. Fox have placed a forced anti-piracy ad at the very head of the disc, the same one seen in the cinemas and found on The Day After Tomorrow DVD (also released by Fox). If that's not outrageous enough is it is then followed by another copyright warning message, a theatrical trailer for The Day After Tomorrow, a trailer for the Buffy/Angel DVD box sets, a teaser trailer for Alien Vs. Predator and the Fox animated logo - all up there is just over 6 minutes of material before you even reach the menu. We have well and truly gone back to the dark days of rental VHS here. I think I speak for everybody when I say this blatant misuse of DVD technology is totally unacceptable.

     I would expect this sort of thing on a rental DVD, indeed if Fox want to continue doing this I suggest they make two glass masters - a rental and retail version for every DVD. Furthermore, if there's space left on a DVD I'm more than happy for them to put this material in a separate section in the menu. But, forcing the consumer to watch ads on a retail DVD they have paid good money for is just insulting. It's not all bad news, though - most of these ads can be readily skipped, and also, once you reach The Day After Tomorrow trailer you can directly select the menu.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     The video transfer is presented in 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. When it comes to film-to-video transfers I generally regard Fox to be the best in the business and I, Robot is certainly no exception. As with Fox's previous blockbuster DVD The Day After Tomorrow the transfer offered to us here is exemplary and is nearly impossible to fault, with the emphasis on nearly.

     The level of detail is extremely high throughout with every nuance in the image shining through. You have but to look at any given exterior wide shot to see the amount of detail present in the image - you can really appreciate the effort that has gone into the special effects. Shadow detail is also excellent.

     I, Robot contrasts many science fiction films which portray the future as dark and grim. Here the filmmakers have gone for a very rich, bright and warm colour palette which is strongly reflected in the transfer. Skins tone are very accurate.

     MPEG artefacts are sadly not completely absent with some very minor posterization spotted on occasion - the walls of Spooner's apartment for example don't appear to be totally solid. Another example is at 6:10 - a pole which comes across the foreground of shot. While only a second or two long, it caught my eye so I analysed it again in slow-motion and sure enough it revealed there to be some posterization in the shading of the surface. Perhaps I'm being a little over critical but you would think the latest MPEG encoders would have ironed out posterization artefacts for good. Having said that the bit-rate is a very healthy one with plenty of headroom for compression challenging scenes. There are a few trivial instances of aliasing but nothing worth writing home about. One such instance is at 6:08 - some buildings in a wide shot of Chicago. Film artefacts are non-existent, in fact the image could just about pass as being shot on HD (but it wasn't I might add).

     There are four sets of subtitles altogether - English for the hearing impaired as well as three tracks for the commentaries. They are very accurate.

     This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 62:12. It is very well placed and not disruptive at all, at least on my old Pioneer DV-655A. On my new DV-676A, which embarked on its maiden voyage with I, Robot, there was no visible layer change at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbs) and English DTS 5.1 (768Kbs). I, Robot features a very dynamic, well recorded and well mixed soundtrack that should please most home theatre fans.

     The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout the entire film with no sync issues at all. On a side note I noticed a small pop in the front left channel at 14:27. I'm unable to ascertain whether or not it's supposed to be there.

     The music is by Marco Beltrami. This is a very satisfying score which often uses a combination of orchestral and synthesized sounds to provide immense support to the on-screen action. The score also has a few very distinctive themes throughout.

     The surround channels are used for a plethora of ambient effects as well as the occasional directional sound effect such as the gunfire during Sonny's arrest. The surround channels are also used for music reinforcement and reverberation which helps open up the soundstage. Although neither soundtrack is officially 6.1 (at least to my knowledge) the centre rear channel is heavily used, albeit mostly for ambience although there is the occasional directional effect like gunfire at 81:55 and the NS-5 round-up announcement at 97:06. Despite all the use of the rears the main focus is clearly in the front channels, so those expecting gratuitous whiz-bang use of the rears may be disappointed.

     The subwoofer is utilized quite often and to great effect, particularly by the music. One example is at 29:35 during the interrogation scene where the music pushes the lower register of the LFE channel to the absolute limit. The subwoofer is also called upon to support many effects like the NS-5 transportation trucks, but the music remains the prime user.

     Dolby Digital Vs. DTS. Once again given the 448Kbs encoding of the Dolby Digital track there is not much separating the two - even the audio levels are virtually identical. For testing I analysed some specific cues in the score (the score and music usually being the best quality tester in my view as they use such a broad spectrum of frequencies). I found the DTS edged ahead with slightly richer, more realistic sound reproduction and better depth. The Dolby Digital track by comparison was a little flatter.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is a very reasonable collection of extras here for a single disc release - if you're into commentaries like me you'll probably be more than happy with what's on offer here. Otherwise, you'll no doubt be inclined to get the two-disc set.

Menu

     A nicely themed menu with animation and audio. Reasonably easy to navigate but the lead-in, transition and lead-out animation gets a little tiresome.

Commentary - Alex Proyas (Director) & Akiva Goldsman (Writer)

     We learn at the outset that this commentary was recorded 6 weeks prior to the theatrical release of the film so the details of the production were obviously very fresh in the minds of the commentators. While this is a fairly informative commentary it is not a particularly entertaining one. The pair appear to have been recorded separately so there is no direct discussion between the two although due to some skilful editing it took me quite a while to notice this. A lot of ground is covered throughout the duration of the film including editing and shooting difficulties but it was Proyas' disagreements with the studio which really got my attention. While obviously he doesn't name names he does specifically mention that there were a few occasions where the studio attempted to steer him in a particular direction (the direction of a more formula Hollywood film) but thankfully he stood his ground. If it were someone like Oliver Stone saying it it wouldn't have had much impact, but when a little known Australian director says it of a multi-national giant like Fox it does tend to grab your attention. Good on him I say!

Commentary - Patrick Tatopolous (Production Designer), Richard Learoyd (Editor), John Nelson (Visual Effects Supervisor), John Kilkenny (Associate Producer), Andrew Jones (Animation Supervisor), Brian Van't Hul (Visual Effects Supervisor - WETA Digital), Joe Letter (Visual Effects Supervisor - WETA Digital), Erik Nash (Visual Effects Supervisor - Digital Domain), Dale Fay (Visual Effects Supervisor - Rainmaker), Eric Saindon (Lead CG Supervisor - WETA Digital) & Erik Winquist (Compositing Supervisor).

     This is the more technical commentary of the three. Each commentator essentially discusses their respective areas of expertise and why certain decisions were made during the production. The special effects are frequently addressed, and of particular interest was how several effects houses were sometimes involved in the creation of a single shot. Essentially specific elements of a shot were farmed out to the different companies based on their strengths. For example, relatively simple effects like wire removal were sent to a different company allowing Digital Domain (who are also more than capable of doing wire removal) to concentrate on the more complex elements of the animation. There is also a specific shot towards the end of the film in which Digital Domain were responsible for the foreground and WETA Digital (of Lord Of The Rings fame) were responsible for the background (in New Zealand!). Need it be said that a lot of communication and cooperation is involved in such an exercise - quite amazing. A fine technical commentary in most respects.

Commentary - Marco Beltrami (Composer)

     This is an isolated score with commentary from the composer. He speaks about the various themes in the film as well as his background in the music business. Interestingly, Beltrami was only given 17 days to write the score - the outcome is even more impressive with this in mind. I've personally found that composer commentaries have an inherently specific target audience - i.e.. those who are keen on music so if you're one of those people you might enjoy this track, otherwise the first two tracks will be a better choice.

Featurette - The Making Of I, Robot (12:36)

     Presented in 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio this is a short behind-the-scenes documentary encompassing the main aspects of the production, especially the green screen work. You have a chance here to see the real actor behind Sonny wearing the tight green leotards which we discover inspired a plethora of nick names on the set (the only one missing from the list was Shrek). There's a few grabs from all the actors including Will Smith as well as Alex Proyas the director. For some reason those responsible for the doco have gone for the soft focus look during most of the interviews which I find most irritating - I can't believe anyone still does it - it looks terrible! Also of interest is how none other than Paul Mecurio was hired to teach the robots (well, the actors playing the robots) how to walk, if you can believe it! I suspect he and Proyas were probably acquainted before the film - the Australian factor being more than just coincidence in my view.

Stills Gallery

     A collection of 30 still photographs including concept art and various production shots.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I, Robot is slated to be released on December 14 in the States. At this stage they appear to be getting only two single disc releases (one widescreen and one fullscreen) identically featured to ours except for the addition of some foreign language tracks. We on the other hand also get a two disc edition with the following additional extras (on disc 2):

     Strange, first it happened with Van Helsing then The Day After Tomorrow and now again with I, Robot. We're not only getting an American film on DVD before the Americans but we're getting more extras too, a whole second disc in fact. I'd love to know what's going on there, just out of curiosity. So comparing only the single disc releases I see no reason to favour the Region 1 release. Stick with the local product.

Summary

    I, Robot is an amazing and profound science fiction thriller.

    Video quality is excellent barring some very minor posterization.

    Audio quality is excellent.

    For a single disc release the extras are about as good as you're gonna get.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ben Hooft (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-655A & Pioneer DV-676A , using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe CT-1170 (66cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D1011, THX Select, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS 96/24 & DD 5.1 EX. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D1011, THX Select, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS 96/24 & DD 5.1 EX
SpeakersFront & Centre: Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Surrounds: Sony SS-SRX7S, Surround Back: Paramount Pictures Bookshelf Speakers

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - KrystieB

Comments (Add)
2 Disc Special Edition - AikenDrum
Forced anti-piracy message and ads - Quizo69
Which Anti-Piracy ad? - The BoB-Fish
Re: Forced anti-piracy message and ads - Anonymous
2 Disc - Any Mention of Isaac Asimov? - Anonymous
Re-2 Disc - Any Mention of Isaac Asimov? - - Nick
The LG-7711P plays movies immediately - Willy Nilly
the old days of vhs? - Anonymous
The pirates - pellicule
Advertising?? - Norm Farmer REPLY POSTED
Release Date - Anonymous
Re-The Pirates - Nick
Ad's - Anonymous
disappointing - Anonymous
disappointing - Le Messor (bio logy class)