If you took the look of Minority Report, the existential questions of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) and threw them in a blender with chapters from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Star Wars - Episode Two: Attack of the Clones, and Blade Runner … then asked Will Smith to combine his characters from Men in Black, Bad Boys and Enemy of the State … you'd come up with something a lot like Alex Proyas's latest film I, Robot.

Smith is famous for showing up in July with blockbuster action films. Usually he arrives on July 4, but this year he's a few weeks late. The extra time did not help. Proyas's movie is flashy, fast-paced, and the story is promising, but the script, by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, Batman Forever), feels sorely undercooked and the special effects range from decent to severely unconvincing. Smith looks lonely and stranded throughout the film—he's the only interesting human character. Everyone else seems designed to make him look smart, and they do that by saying unintelligent, dull, or merely expositional things.

It's too bad. The story sets us up to consider important questions about humankind's technological ambitions, the definition of personhood, the tendency of the masses to believe what the media or the government tell them, and the need for democratic people to stand up against powers that deceive them. As a result, the movie's more memorable moments become forgettable, overpowered by glossy but routine adventure sequences. You can almost hear the studio whispering in Proyas's ear: "More chases! More guns! More explosions! Less talk!" Perhaps the most unsettling thing about the film is the fact that a story about subversive technology and media would employ product placement ...

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