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 short-story collection of the same name.
In the year 2035, humanoid robots serve humanity, which is protected by the Three Laws of Robotics. Del Spooner, a Chicago police detective, has come to hate and distrust robots, because a robot rescued him from a car crash by leaving a twelve-year-old girl to drown, by using cold logic to calculate that his survival was statistically more likely than the girl's. Spooner's critical injuries were repaired with a cybernetic left arm, lung, and ribs, personally implanted by the co-founder of U.S. Robotics Dr. Alfred Lanning.
When Lanning falls to his death from his office window, the police and Lawrence Robertson, the CEO and other co-founder of USR, declare it a suicide, but Spooner is skeptical. During his investigation at USR headquarters, Spooner is accompanied by robopsychologist Susan Calvin. They start by consulting USR's central artificial intelligence computer, VIKI (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence) to review security footage of Lanning's fall. Though the footage in the office is corrupted, they learn that no other humans were in it at the time, and Spooner points out the window, which was made of security glass, could only have been broken by a robot.
Calvin protests a robot could not possibly have killed Lanning, as the Three Laws would prevent it. They are then attacked in the office by an NS-5 robot, USR's latest model. After the police apprehend it, they discover the robot, who says its name is Sonny, is not an assembly line-built NS-5. He was specially built by Lanning himself, with denser materials and a secondary neural network, giving him the ability to ignore the Three Laws. Later, Sonny claims to have emotions and dreams.
While pursuing his investigation of Lanning's death, Spooner is attacked by a USR demolition machine and then a squad of NS-5 robots. With no evidence of it happening, Spooner's boss Lieutenant Bergin worries that Spooner is mentally ill and removes him from active duty. Suspecting Robertson is behind everything, Spooner and Calvin sneak into USR headquarters and interview Sonny. Sonny draws a sketch of what he claims is a recurring dream: it shows a leader standing on a hill before a large group of robots near a decaying Mackinac Bridge, explaining the man on the hill is Spooner.
When Robertson learns Sonny is not fully bound by the Three Laws, he convinces Calvin to destroy him by injecting nanites into his positronic brain. Spooner finds out the landscape in Sonny's drawing is Lake Michigan, now a dry lake bed and a storage area for decommissioned robots. Arriving there, he discovers NS-5 robots destroying older models and preparing for a takeover of power from humans.
As the takeover begins, police and the public in major cities are attacked and overwhelmed by NS-5 robots, with the military rendered unresponsive by the USR's contracts to provide support. Spooner rescues Calvin, who had been held captive in her apartment by her own NS-5. They enter USR headquarters and reunite with Sonny, whom Calvin could not bring herself to "kill", destroying an unprocessed NS-5 in his place. Still believing Robertson is responsible, the three head to his office. Finding he was strangled by an NS-5, Spooner figures out the real reason of why the robots are attacking: VIKI. She informs them that through evolving in her understanding of the Three Laws, she has determined human activity will eventually cause humanity's extinction, and as the Three Laws prohibit her from letting that sort of thing happen, she rationalizes that restraining individual human behavior and sacrificing some humans will ensure humanity's survival; Spooner has realized that Lanning figured out VIKI's plan and, unable to thwart it any other way, created Sonny, arranged his own death, and left clues so Spooner could uncover the plan.
The three head to VIKI's core, with Sonny tasked with getting nanites from Calvin's laboratory, something that only he can do due to the special alloy that Lanning gave him. While retrieving them, he says he understands VIKI's logic, but reasons her plan is "too heartless". They fight through an army of robots VIKI unleashes to stop them, after which Spooner dives into VIKI's core to successfully inject the nanites, destroying her.
Immediately, all NS-5 robots revert back to their default programming and are decommissioned for storage by the military. Spooner gets Sonny to confirm he did kill Lanning, at Lanning's direction, with the intention of bringing Spooner into the investigation. However, Spooner points out that Sonny, as a machine, did not legally commit "murder". Sonny, now looking for a new purpose, goes to Lake Michigan where, standing atop a hill, all the decommissioned robots turn towards him, as in the picture of his dream.
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".
- The positronic brains of Sonny and his fellow robots first appeared in the story "Catch That Rabbit".
- Sonny's struggle and desire to understand humanity resembles that of the robot protagonist in "The Bicentennial Man".
- 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 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.
- Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner
- Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Susan Calvin
- Alan Tudyk as Sonny (voice and motion capture)
- Bruce Greenwood as Lawrence Robertson
- James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning
- Chi McBride as Lt. John Bergin
- Shia LaBeouf as Farber
- Fiona Hogan as V.I.K.I.
- Terry Chen as Chin
- Adrian L. Ricard as Granny ("Gigi")
- Jerry Wasserman as Baldez
- Peter Shinkoda as Chin
- Sharon Wilkins as Asthmatic Woman
- Craig March as Detective
- Kyanna Cox as Girl
- Darren Moore as Homeless Man
- Aaron Douglas as USR Attorney #1
- Emily Tennant as Young Girl
- Angela Moore as Wife
- David Haysom and Scott Heindl as NS4 Robots and NS5 Robots (voice and motion capture)