Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Alex Proyas (director), I, Robot (2004)

The science fiction crime thriller and action film I, Robot (2004) was directed by Alex Proyas from a screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, who were inspired by stories by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. 

The film is set in the not-too-distant future, in 2035, a time when humanity is served by humanoid robots and has grown reliant on them and complacent about them.  The film takes up a familiar theme in science fiction, which is to exhibit scepticism about the widespread belief that advances in technology are always beneficial. In this film, the technology of most concern is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics.  To make its case, the film presents the robots as having murdered their creator, the ingenious scientist Dr Alfred Lanning, after having taken orders from a rebellious master computer VIKI.  Following this, the robots turn violently on humanity. 

The detective, Del Spooner, who is sent to investigate the apparent suicide of the esteemed Dr Alfred Lanning, is suspicious, suspecting that the murderer was a robot.  His attempt to solve the murder mystery develops into a heroic battle to save humanity against an army of humanoid robots.  In its depiction of Del Spooner, the film is celebrating the notion that a heroic individualist can save humanity from doom.  Spooner is depicted as ahead of his time in his mistrust of robots.  Initially, others do not appreciate his concerns about them.  But he is eventually proved right.  After many epic battles with rebellious humanoid robots, he manages to destroy the evil computer VIKI and restore a degree of normality. 

The villain in the film is big business, as represented by the corporation: US Robotics.  Large corporations are sown to pursue profits by engaging in enterprises that may not be in the long-term interests of humanity.  Things can go wrong, and they do.  When the corporation’s super computer VIKI tries to take over the corporation to command the robots to do its bidding, the spectre is raised of a huge corporation being out of control and threatening the wellbeing of humanity.  In addition, technology is also the villain in this film since it is depicted as not to be trusted. 

The film also takes aim at the human tendency towards complacency.  Humans are depicted as complacent regarding the domestication of their humanoid robots, believing they have been programmed to follow laws that prevent them from harming humans.  But this safeguard is shown to be inadequate since it is overridden by VIKI.  Consequently, VIKI transformed a legion of robot servants into an army of robot rebels that set out to destroy humanity.  The film conveys the message that the minority who are sceptical of the benefits of technology are the people to whom we should listen.

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: I, Robot meaning, I, Robot themes, I, Robot analysis, I, Robot notes