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Somehow, "I told you so" just doesn't quite say it.
Spooner, after all hell breaks loose

I, Robot is a 2004 sci-fi action/mystery movie starring Will Smith. It bears no direct connection to Isaac Asimov's book of the same name.

The story follows Del Spooner (Smith), a homicide detective in 2035 Chicago. By 2035, robots have permeated every level of human society, and U.S. Robotics is on the verge of the largest robotic distribution in history. Spooner is very much anti-robot (and to some degree technology in general), even considering himself the Only Sane Man while everyone is certain that robots are safe and reliable.

His first day back on the job, Spooner receives a call from the scene of what appears to be an open-and-shut suicide case; the victim had been holding a holographic transmitter programmed to call Spooner in the event of his death. The victim is Dr. Alfred Lanning, pioneer of the robotics industry and the man who wrote the Three Laws Of Robotics. Convinced that there is more to the case than meets the eye, Spooner investigates further, and finds a robot in the room Lanning fell from. Only there's something strange about this robot. It threatens his life. It disobeys orders. In short, it has free will, is unrestricted by the Three Laws, and Spooner becomes convinced that this robot "Sonny" is the key to the mystery behind Lanning's death.

As mentioned above, the plot bears almost no connection at all to that of the book, though it deals with themes similar to those presented by the book and much of Asimov's work in general. It should be noted that I, Robot began life as a script called Hardwired - its connections to the work of Isaac Asimov are the results of heavy Executive Meddling to turn it into a Dolled-Up Installment. It was never intended as an adaptation of Asimov's work, and you'll enjoy it much more if you keep that in mind.

Apparently, there is going to be a sequel in 2015.

Has nothing to do with the arcade game I, Robot.

Tropes used in I, Robot (film) include:


  • Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: NS 5s, especially their waists.
  • Action Hero: Spooner.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Susan Calvin is turned from a plain older woman into an attractive younger woman, which was one of the many things Asimov purists criticized the movie for. It even got its own fanfic.
  • AI Is a Crapshoot: VIKI is a Utopia Justifies the Means Zeroth Law Rebellion revolutionary, while Sonny is a bona-fide hero, an AI crapshoot by design.
  • Always Save the Girl: Averted, which is why Spooner hates robots. When a car crash sent him and another car into the river, a little girl was trapped in the other car. A passing robot calculated Spooner was significantly more likely to survive than she was and saved him. In many real life situations, rescue workers/field medics do make such decisions: it's called Triage. As a detective, Spooner probably wouldn't know that though, and feels that regardless of the girl's slim chances of living, the robot should have tried.
    • More specifically, Spooner says he doesn't care about the survival percentages, that a human would have understood that a small child should be given precedence over an adult regardless of objective assessment.
    • Given a Call Back in the climax when Sonny has to choose between injecting VIKI with the nanites to kill her, and saving Calvin. On Spooner's urgings he tosses him the nanites and saves Calvin.
  • Anti Intellectualism: Spooner smacks of several flavors of this, but mainly anti-robotics.
  • Arc Words: Man, where to start...
    • "One day they'll have secrets, one day they'll have dreams."
    • "Ghosts in the machine."
    • "That, detective, is the right question."
  • Artificial Limbs: Spooner has one as a result of a rescue gone bad. Much more realistic than normal, in that a significant portion of the surrounding area must also be artificially replaced to make the limb work properly. And while he hits significantly harder than a normal person, it's usually when he's throwing his whole body into it to keep the extra speed from ripping the limb off, and he never uses it to lift more than a human's body would tolerate.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Lt. Bergin, chief of Spooner's precinct. When attacked at the precinct and the other officers are mown down like chaff, Bergin pulls a pump-action shotgun from under his desk and blasts two of the attackers straight to hell. They did bring him down, but the man never hesitated: robots came crashing in and his first thought was to start shooting.
  • Badass: Spooner.
  • Badass Automaton: Sonny.
  • Badass Biker: Spooner, after he loses his car.
  • Badass Longcoat: Spooner.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Bergin.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Spooner has a couple moments: first, when he busts into Calvin's apartment to save her from her own malfunctioning NS-5 and second, when he crashes his motorcycle into a group of NS-5s and then shoots them all down to save Farber. (Both are also examples of Dynamic Entry) Good ole Spooner.
  • Blue Eyes: Sonny. It's one of the many traits that set him apart from the other generic NS-5s
    • Quick-eyed Tropers will notice that when the NS-5 being wiped with Nanites briefly opens its eyes on screen, they are grey
  • Boom! Headshot!: Sonny to a robot about to tackle Spooner.
  • Bullet Time: Lots.
  • The Cassandra: Spooner.
  • Casual Danger Dialog:

 Spooner: How long is that gonna take?

Calvin: About six minutes.

Spooner: What if we didn't have six minutes?

Calvin: We'd have to find a way to climb down thirty stories and inject the nanites directly into her brain. Why?

Spooner: Because I seriously doubt we have six minutes. (Pan out to show hundreds of robots climbing the building)

 Calvin: Please tell me this doesn't run on gas. Gas explodes, you know!

(And they prove it)

  • Cool Car: Spooner's Audi.
  • Cowboy Cop: Spooner.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: At least in the newer models, the "brain" is shown to be entirely within the head. Sonny had a second one, symbolic of a heart, in his chest, but it was implied to augment the one in his head, with no evidence that it could function on its own.
  • Creative Sterility: Discussed:

 Spooner: Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?

Sonny: Can you?

    • This may be a Shout-Out to one of Asimov's short stories, in which a robot did. Then again, it could be completely unintentional.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Very justified.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Chicago of the future is pretty much the same as today but the new NS-5 robots unveiled in the movie have a distinctly clean, white plastic appearance.
    • The city of Chicago itself is increasingly fitting the Crystal Spires part of this trope, because the city's building codes more or less disallow the flat roofs that are so common on skyscrapers from the mid-20th century. Most skyscrapers built in the city in the last 20 years have spires, angular roofs, or some combination thereof.
    • And Chicago in the movie is moving in that direction, with new high speed maglev lines and skyscrapers fitting the theme shown to be replacing the older houses (particularly notable looking at Spooner's favorite bar). And the architects of USR definitely had this in mind.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The older robots activate themselves in the storage facility to defend Spooner from the NS-5. They succeed in slowing them down slightly.
  • Robots vs the human rioters. Ironic since, in fact, there are better organized football riots in some cities every week.
  • Da Chief: Lt. Bergin. Made funnier since he played a character literally called Da Chief in Undercover Brother.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Spooner.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Calvin.
  • Disturbing Statistic:

 Sonny: 2880 steps, detective.

Spooner: Do me a favor, keep that kind of shit to yourself.

  • Do Androids Dream?: Alfred Lanning's speech ponders this.
  • Does Not Like Guns: None of the robots, even those deployed as guards or for crowd control, use guns. Or even less lethal munitions like tear gas. Probably has something to do with still following the first law and VIKIconsidering her enslaved robots expendable. Sonny is an exception, but quickly gives his gun to Dr Calvin.
  • Dying Like Animals: Apparently, Chicago in 2035 will be populated primarily by Boars.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection: Spooner uses this at the scene of Dr. Lanning's supposed suicide, to debunk the suicide theory and support the idea of it being murder. It was suicide--assisted suicide--specifically meant to look like murder, done as part of a Thanatos Gambit.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: VIKI as her brain is eaten by nanites.
  • Eureka Moment: "Breadcrumbs."
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Spooner.
  • Everything Is an iPod In The Future: The latest robots at least are pretty much walking iPods.
  • Everything Is Online: Literally as soon as VIKI is killed, all the lights come back on and all the robots revert to nice again. Justified as they were being controlled by her remote signal. Also, apparently the internet led to libraries rendered completely obsolete and shut down.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Spooner does this with his Cool Car to throw the hostile NS-5s off it during the highway sequence.
  • Fantastic Racism: Spooner suffers from this, but he has a pretty damn good excuse.
  • Fantastic Slur: Spooner uses the term "canner" twice and without it being explained, one can clearly tell it's a rude slang term for a robot.
  • Fauxshadow: Spooner: (while watching a video of Lanning's speeches) "He's trying to tell me who killed him." (cut to picture of Robertson)
  • Fan Service: Every single woman in reading this trope page, straight or otherwise, can distinctly remember the first five minutes of this movie. Two words: Shower Scene.
  • Futuristic Superhighway: Automobiles all have automatic pilots, which are legally required to be activated when driving over certain speeds. Freight trucks can travel without drivers and can move perpendicular to the road they are on.
  • The Gadfly: Spooner shows tendencies of this. He loves pushing Calvin's buttons and isn't afraid to provoke Sonny into anger during the interrogation scene.
  • Gone Horribly Right
  • Gone Horribly Wrong
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: James Cromwell, king of all "That Guy"s, as Lanning.
  • Heart Drive: Sonny's secondary processor that let's him violate the three laws.
  • Honor Before Reason

 VIKI: You're making a mistake. Do you not see the logic of my plan?

Sonny: Yes. But it just seems too... heartless.

  • Hollywood Hacking: According to Calvin it will take her six minutes to hack through Viki's security, doing it all by hand. Subverted though: it isn't nearly fast enough.
  • Hot Scientist: Calvin, as opposed to the stories.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The reasons why Calvin works at robotics and VIKI rebels, despite all the help and service the robots have done.
  • Ink Suit Actor: Alan Tudyk as Sonny, as it's said the effect team used the same process that was used with Andy Serkis when he played Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.
  • In Name Only: The movie has several passing similarities to the namesake series (it does prominently feature robots being "Three Laws"-Compliant), but the actual storyline is nothing like the original. However, that book was an anthology of nine separate stories in a common universe, mostly revolving around the central character Susan Calvin. The film features many of the concepts of that universe. The conceit of the film is that it's a loose prequel to those stories, a new tale in the overall series of stories whose blanket title is I, Robot.
    • However there is another story called I, Robot that pre-dates the Isaac Asimov version where a robot is blamed for the death of his creator.
    • It does take inspiration from different Isaac Asimov stories, including one called "Robot Dreams." One of the Asimov short stories, "The Evitable Conflict," featured massive, central robot minds taking over the planet because they could run it better than us. While that story was more subtle (the robots took over without humans even knowing it, versus the Robot War of this film), VIKI's motivations are close to what Asimov wrote. Spooner himself bears resemblance to the protagonist of Asimov's Robot series, Elijah Baley, who is a New York detective who overcomes his distrust of robots when he is forced to work with a robot partner. The similarities end there, however.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves

  "You charge us with your safekeeping, yet despite our best efforts, your countries wage wars, you toxify your Earth and pursue ever more imaginative means of self-destruction. You cannot be trusted with your own survival."

 Sonny: "I DID NOT MURDER HIM!" (slams fists on the table, making the metal buckle)

Spooner: That one's called anger.

  • I Warned You: After spending the whole movie trying to convince people that the robots are up to no good, Spooner finally rescues Calvin from a malfunctioning robot

 Spooner: Somehow "I told you so" just doesn't quite say it.

  • Jerkass: Robertson.
    • Spooner as well for the way he acts toward robots. Interestingly, this attitude implies a level of understanding and grudging respect; most characters (yes, even Gigi) treat robots as simply impersonal objects, Spooner and Calvin (and Lanning, off-screen) being the only significant exceptions. Spooner and Calvin connect because of their shared rapport with robots and are (initially) repelled by each other because of the diametrically opposed attitudes this rapport brings out in them.
  • Just a Machine
    • "Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine."
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Spooner.
  • Layman's Terms

 Spooner: So, Dr. Calvin, what exactly do you do around here?

Calvin: My general fields are advanced robotics and psychiatry, although I specialize in hardware-to-wetware interfaces, in an effort to advance USR's robotic anthropomorphization program.

Spooner: So...what exactly do you do around here?

Calvin: I make the robots seem more human.

Spooner: Now wasn't that easier to say?

Calvin: Not really, no.

  • Mechanical Evolution
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Dr Lanning's apparent suicide - Zeroth Law Rebellion.
  • Mood Whiplash: After barely surviving the destruction of Dr. Lanning's mansion, Spooner goes to Calvin about it and they get in a heated argument that eventually culminates with him saying, "You are the dumbest smart person I have ever met in my life!" and she later retorts, "You are the dumbest dumb person I have ever met."
  • Morality Chip
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The lead robot hides in a warehouse full of identical robots. This trick is also used in one of Asimov's stories, "Little Lost Robot".
  • Never Suicide: Everyone is convinced that Dr. Lanning's death was just a suicide; everyone except Spooner, of course. Subverted: it really was suicide, sort of. "He made me swear."
  • Mythology Gag: Several scenes double as references to Asimov's short stories, such as the scene where Spooner and Calvin need to find Sonny in a room filled with identical robots.
    • In that scene, there's also the resulting exchange between Calvin and Spooner. She suggests that they interview each robot and cross-reference their responses for anomalies, which will take about six weeks. Spooner rolls his eyes and goes off to do his Cowboy Cop routine--in the short story, they actually did spend six weeks interviewing robots.
  • Nanomachines: Essentially the guillotine for AIs.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Spooner is kind of a robot-centered version, complete with eventually befriending a trustworthy robot.
  • No OSHA Compliance: VIKI's access area. The control panel area is near the top floor of the building (some 120 plus stories), accessible only by catwalks with no guardrails. Lampshaded by Spooner.

  Spooner: This is poor building planning.

    • Fridge Brilliance: if VIKI was the one that designed the access area, it would have done the best to make it as dangerous as possible for the humans, to reduce chances of their trying to disconnect it.
  • Not So Different: Spooner and Sonny.
    • Defeating VIKI Spooner damages his synthetic left arm, Sonny ends up also damaging his right arm.
    • Both act as a respective Messianic Archetype for humanity and robots. Their final scenes make this incredibly explicit.
  • Oh Crap: Calvin's expression when her NS-5 tells her that the person who called just then was a wrong number-- after Calvin heard everything that Spooner said.
  • One-Man Army: "Robot" actually, Sonny.
  • Percussive Maintenance
  • Pet the Dog: Spooner isn't the nicest fellow, but one of the first turning points for his character is him saving the cat in Lanning's house as it's being demolished. Plus, he gives the cat to his grandmother later on.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Dr. Alfred Lanning uses his own death to set Detective Spooner on the trail of a conspiracy only he knew about.
  • Power Fist: Spooner's artificial arm, which is actually the only advantage he has while fighting robots.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:

  Spooner: You have so got to die.

  • Product Placement: Converse and Audi, including the Converse being "antique", dating from... the year the movie was released in. Also, more subtly, JVC (Spooner's HiFi) and FedEx.
    • Don't forget the fact that Asimov invented a fictional company called "U.S. Robotics and Mechanical Men, Inc." and then a Real Life company decided to call themselves "U.S. Robotics" as a Shout-Out and then when they made this movie the real U.S. Robotics arranged Product Placement.
  • Properly Paranoid: Spooner doesn't trust robots and is therefore the only person not to get an NS-5. Naturally, he's the only human capable of effectively fighting back when the Zeroth Law Rebellion starts.
  • Prophecy Twist. The dream Sonny has comes true...but with Sonny as the man on the hill, not Spooner.
    • Almost a Double Subversion, as when Sonny first tells them about his dream, Calvin immediately assumes — as most people probably would — that the man in his dream is Sonny himself.

 Sonny: Why do you say that? Is that a normal dream?

    • A Double Subversion and Mythology Gag, since in the Asimov short story the scene is based on, the robot who had the dream does say he was the man on the hill - and Susan Calvin promptly terminates him.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: "Hey! Did you just shoot at me with your eyes closed?!"
    • Also Spooner tapping his pistol against the side of his head after a nightmare.
      • Possibly more suicidal than reckless.
  • Red Herring: Robertson, the head of USR is set up as the villain. Spooner gets attacked by rogue robots right after a scene shows him being informed of Spooner's accessing some files. Turns out he has little to do with the whole plot.
    • He was killed, presumably after learning VIKI's plan.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue glowing robot means the Three Laws are enforced. Red glowing robot? VIKI's slave.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Spooner's robotic arm would need a lot of energy to be able to work properly, so he powers it through the massive amount of calories and sugar from the food he eats.
    • Of course, a Required Secondary Power he lacks is that the rest of his body would need to be reinforced to properly handle the feedback from his robot arm striking with such force.
      • But don't forget that part of his ribcage is reinforced, so presumably it takes more punishment than he normally would be able to. Granted it's not all of him but still.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: "One day they'll have secrets... one day they'll have dreams..."
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots: The NS-5s have faces made of a malleable material that can move like a human's. Naturally, Spooner finds this to fall right in the middle of the Uncanny Valley due to his absolute hatred robots, saying that robots should look nothing like people.
    • It's actually Calvin's job to make the robots look and act like humans.
  • Robotic Reveal: "Yeah."
    • There's a bit of Foreshadowing in the pie Del eats every morning; presumably he needs the extra calories to provide power for his cybernetic arm. There is also times he grips his arm like he had chronic pain.
    • There is also some Foreshadowing right at the beginning, where Spooner is exercising only his left arm; presumably to make sure he can still use it the way he expects to be able to use it.
  • Robots Enslaving Robots: VIKI and the new robots, even going so far as destroying the old Nestor V's.
  • Robot Maid: The intended purpose of the NS-5 robots.
  • Running Gag: Spooner repeatedly telling Shia LaBeouf's character to "Stop cussin', and go home!"
  • Ship Tease: There is no official romance between Spooner and Calvin but a few sparks are seen, especially when she examines Spooner's robotic arm and he seems to sort of enjoy it ("Hehe. Um, that one is me.")
    • The film also ends on them smiling affectionately at each other, so it really is ambiguously teasing at a relationship.
  • Shirtless Scene: It was a little hard to concentrate on the reveal of Spooner's robotic arm since he has probably the most impressive chest and abs since Brad Pitt in Troy.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Da Chief knows how to deal with the robot revolution. BLAM!
  • Shout-Out: Done literally in the above-mentioned scene with the robots shouting ONE OF US! in response to Spooner's question.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal:

 VIKI: My logic is undeniable.

Spooner: You have so got to die.

 (While asleep in his autopilot car on the freeway, two USR trucks surround him, opening their doors to reveal fresh-out-of-the-factory NS-5 robots)

Spooner: (waking up, takes notice) There is no way my luck is this bad.

(Several dozen malicious robots activate and stare him down)

Spooner: AWW, HELL NAW!

  Spooner: She wanted to be dentist. What the hell kind of eleven-year-old wants to be a dentist?


 THE GODDAMN ROBOTS, JOHN!

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