The movies have not been kind to Isaac Asimov. He may have been one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of the past half-century, but very few of his stories have attained that particular form of popular validation that comes from being adapted for the big screen—and this despite the fact that movie after movie has been based on the works of his contemporaries, including Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and especially Philip K. Dick. On the rare occasion that a major studio has given one of Asimov's stories the green light, the story in question has usually been massaged into something rather formulaic and at odds with his sensibilities. Five years ago, Bicentennial Man was turned into a regular Robin Williams schmaltzfest, albeit one with loads of visual effects. And now, I, Robot has been turned into a regular Will Smith action movie, also loaded with effects.
This, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Asimov himself admitted he was a rather cerebral writer, and said his stories would need some heavy tweaking if they were ever to be translated into a visual medium like film. Most of the short stories in I, Robot, an anthology first published in 1950, were basically logic puzzles in which Asimov, having proposed that all robots would be programmed with three basic moral principles, teased out how machines of various degrees of sophistication might interpret and apply those principles. For those who like mental exercises, the stories are fun to read, but they are not all that dramatic, per se. In the 1970s, Harlan Ellison turned the book into a screenplay, which in turn was published some years later, with Asimov's blessing, after the studio decided against producing it. Ellison threw in a few ...1
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