I, Robot

Based on the classic short stories of Isaac Asimov, I, Robot takes us to Chicago in the year 2035. Will Smith stars as detective Del Spooner, a technophobic cop who is called upon to investigate the mysterious suicide of Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), the head of robot and cybernetic research for US Robotics. When Spooner starts to believe the cause of death is not a suicide, his prime suspect is Sonny (Alan Tudyk), a robot who might have found a way around the Three Laws of Robotics.

This movie works so well because it's based on Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics: (1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; (2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; (3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Without these rules, the story would have been your run-of-the-mill, CGI-laden techno-thriller using the star power of Will Smith to put butts in the seats at the local cinema.

Two features that Blu-ray has over HD DVD are peak bitrate and more available space, with 50GB on a dual layer disc as opposed to 30GB for HD DVD. I, Robot takes full advantage of both features, and the benefit to the viewer is a nearly flawless 1080p presentation with a high-bitrate AVC encode. Fine detail is fantastic, whether in the foreground or background. The black level and shadow detail are preserved with depth and clarity that are jaw-dropping. The contrast is overcooked a bit, but the same is true of the DVD version, so I chalk that up to director's intent.

I, Robot boasts a very good DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The mix is very aggressive with excellent dynamics and ample use of the LFE channel. Surrounds are very active as well, especially during the many action sequences. I listened to the lossy core of the DTS-HD MA track since my PS3 is unable to process the full lossless data, but I can imagine how good it must sound when fully realized. I smell an upgrade in my future.

There is a plethora of bonus features on this disc, and fans of the movie will be very pleased. The scope of the features ranges from behind-the-scenes featurettes to three full-length feature commentaries, a trivia track, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and much, much more.

I consider myself a science-fiction fan, and this film was right up my alley, as it begs the question of what constitutes life—rational thought and personality or skin and bones? Will Smith embodies the role of the hero, and I felt the emotions he must come to grips with as the film progresses. The presentation on Blu-ray is superlative and a must-own for fans of the genre. Highly recommended.

Film: 8 out of 10
Picture: 10 out of 10
Sound: 9.5 out of 10

Review System

Source
Sony PlayStation 3

Display
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Electronics
Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

Speakers
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Cables
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

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