I, Robot appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I figured Robot would look great, and the DVD didn’t disappoint me.
Sharpness appeared crisp and well defined. At no time did I discern any examples of soft or hazy images; the movie always seemed very accurate and clear.
Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no concerns, but I noticed some light edge enhancement at times. I saw no signs of print defects, as the film appeared free of grain, scratches, speckles, grit, hair or other flaws.
The world of Robot went with a clean, bright setting that accentuated whites and blue/greens. Colors tended to be subdued due to this, but they always looked appropriately rendered within those confines. Given the stylistic choices, the hues seemed solid.
The DVD transmitted blacks in a deep and dark manner. Contrast appeared strong, and shadow detail was quite clear and appropriately opaque without any excessive heaviness. Overall, I, Robot provided a very distinctive picture that was always a pleasure to watch.
Even better were the film’s soundtracks. The DVD included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. While both worked well, the DTS track seemed stronger. I’ll cover my feelings about it first and then relate why I felt it outdid the Dolby edition.
The soundfield appeared very broad and engaging throughout the movie. All five speakers got a strong workout as they displayed a lot of discrete audio. This made for a convincing environment as we heard plenty of atmosphere and objects swirl actively and appropriately about us.
Segments like the car chase in which the robots attack Spoon stood out as particularly dynamic, but a mix of action sequences kicked things into high gear. All these elements created excellent feelings of place and brought the material to life well.
Sound quality also appeared very good. Dialogue was crisp and distinct. Speech showed no signs of edginess or any problems related to intelligibility.
Effects were always clear and dynamic, plus they displayed virtually no signs of distortion even when the volume level jumped fairly high; throughout explosions, crashes, and various elements, the track stayed clean.
Music sounded appropriately bright and accurate and portrayed the score appropriately. The mixes featured some pretty solid bass at times, and the entire affair seemed nicely deep.
So how did the DTS mix outdo the Dolby one? It seemed like a more involving effort. While the Dolby track was consistently smooth and engaging, the DTS version took those factors to a higher level to make the material better connected and integrated.
As often occurs with DTS tracks, bass response also seemed a little tighter and more forceful. The Dolby mix remained quite good and earned a solid “A-“, but the DTS track ratcheted things up a notch for its straight “A”; if you have the capability to play it, the DTS version is definitely the way to go.
If you hope that this version of I, Robot will improve on the picture and sound quality of the original DVD, you’ll not find any change here. Both DVDs present virtually identical visuals and audio. Since the old disc looked and sounded great, I didn’t see this as a problem.
For this new two-disc “All-Access Collector’s Edition” of I, Robot, we find most of the materials from the original DVD plus plenty of new ones. I’ll connote supplements from the first release with an asterisk, so if you fail to see that little star, it’s a new component.
On DVD One, we get three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from *director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, both of whom sit separately and have the results edited together for this track. A nice mix of topics pops up here.
We get a lot of information about the story’s evolutions and various changes, characters and their development, and a few comparisons with the original text. We also learn a bit about the production itself, with notes about sets, locations, visual design, and effects. The piece covers the movie well and provides a good overview of the flick’s major issues.
For the second commentary, we hear from production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editor Richard Learoyd, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, associate producer John Kilkenny, animation supervisor Andrew Jones, and visual effects supervisor Brian Van’t Hul.
A few sit together for this edited piece, but it’s hard to tell at times. Clearly the commentary focuses on technical topics, and it covers them quite concisely.
The main issues discussed include sets and general visual concerns, the uses of computer effects as well as practical elements, storytelling and editing, and the design of the various robots. Particulars connected to Sonny receive the most information in that latter realm, though all the droids are discussed here. The technical nature of the chat occasionally makes it a little dry, but it usually avoids those pitfalls as it offers a mostly lively and informative piece.
Finally, we get a track from composer Marco Beltrami. He offers screen-specific remarks and we also hear some isolated score, though because Beltrami occasionally speaks over the music, you’ll not find the entire score on its own.
Beltrami covers quite a few relevant topics. He discusses his approach to his work, the specifics of his Robot score and its cues, and various challenges. He also chats about the different processes such as orchestration and recording and offers a nice glimpse inside his world.
While I liked Beltrami’s comments, I must admit I don’t care for this format. Because the composer talks over many cues, the set-up won’t be satisfying for fans of movie scores.
Since the composer speaks relatively infrequently, the program becomes frustrating for those who just want commentary. I’d prefer either a commentary or an isolated score; these compromise tracks can be problematic.
Moving to DVD Two, we open with Day Out of Days: The I, Robot Production Diaries. Each of its segments goes for between four minutes, 37 seconds and 16 minutes, 40 seconds; these add up to 95 minutes and 55 seconds of footage.
We get a few remarks from Proyas about locations, effects and whatnot, but the vast majority of the time, we see raw footage from the various sets. Occasionally participants will chime in from those locations, but the emphasis sticks with “fly on the wall” elements from the production.
And that’s fine with me, as I enjoy that sort of footage. Admittedly, more than an hour and a half of this material can be a lot to take in one session, as some of it starts to look a lot alike, and the lack of much annotation means matters can be a bit dry. Nonetheless, if you take the segments in pieces, they’re easier to digest, and they certainly give us a lot of fine shots from the production.
CGI and Design splits into six subdomains. All together, they run 34 minutes, 32 seconds as they present info from Proyas, Tatopoulos, Jones, visual effects supervisor Dale Fay, digital effects supervisor John Berton, miniature effects supervisor Dave Asling, miniature effects DP Bill Neil, robot movement consultant Paul Mercurio, and actor Alan Tudyk.
As expected, this area looks at various aspects of character design for the robots as well as how the filmmakers brought them to life. This turns into a compelling overview.
Sentient Machines: Robotic Behavior includes eight chapters and fills a total of 35 minutes, five seconds. It involves Proyas, MIT Media Lab Robotic Life Group director Professor Cynthia Breazeal, iRobot Corp. chair/co-founder Helen Greiner, conceptual illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, science advisor Daniel Kubat, iRobot Corp. CEO/co-founder Colin Angle, futurist Syd Mead, MIT Computer Science and AI Lab director Rodney Brooks, artist Pat Keck, Tufts University Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies Daniel C. Dennett, Intelligent Autonomous Systems Lab engineer Professor Alan FT Winfield, Cyberlife Research director Steve Grand, iRobot Corp., author Ray Kurzweil, and lead research scientist James McLurkin.
“Sentient” discusses the development of robots over the years. Though it includes some interesting material, it feels a bit scattershot and not as coherent an investigation as I’d like.
Three Laws Safe: Conversations About Science Fiction and Robots presents five subsections that go for a combined 30 minutes, 33 seconds. We hear from Proyas, Goldsman, screenwriter Jeff Vintar, Isaac Asimov’s daughter Robyn, and Isaac Asimov’s editor Jennifer Brehl.
After Proyas’s intro, the writers lead us through views of robots through sci-fi over the years as well as aspects of I, Robot. This winds up as a useful discussion.
Inside the “Filmmakers’ Toolbox”, we start with four Deleted Scenes. These last six minutes, 39 seconds. These mainly offer short character additions, but we get some alternate ending ideas as well.
Three Compositing Breakdowns: Visual Effects “How Tos” wrap up the DVD. These come from Digital Domain (five minutes, 59 seconds), Weta Digital (4:53) and Rainmaker (5:33). All show scenes at various stages of effects completion, and they become a fun addition.
Note that all of the various elements discussed above also can be accessed as you watch “Day Out of Days”. They crop up in between its chapters, so you can either check them out when connected to different parts of the production or you can watch them separately. Nothing unique can be accessed during “Day Out of Days”; all the same pieces appear in the individual sections.
For some Easter Eggs, go to the “Following Bread Crumbs” page of the “Production Diaries” and click up from “Alex’s Introduction”. Hit enter to watch a 12-second clip in which… well, I’m not sure how to describe it. There’s a mechanical cat and a shot of an explosion on a video monitor. Do with it what you will.
Perform the same routine from “Alex’s Introduction” on “You Are Experiencing a Car Accident” and you’ll see an 11-second clip of some moving toasters. Do this again on “One On One” to watch seven seconds of Sonny outtakes. Lather, rinse, repeat on “Will Smith’s Wild Ride” for an 11-second segment with another Sonny outtake. Lastly, do this from “It’s a Wrap Rap” and check out 64 seconds of goofs related to clap boards.
Although I, Robot occasionally aspires to some philosophical and emotional depth, it doesn’t have the spirit to follow through on its goals. This makes it an erratic flick, one with some good action segments but not much else. The DVD presents very strong picture and audio along with a large roster of bonus materials. Robot shows a few signs of life but lacks the consistency to make it genuinely entertaining.
To rate this film visit the original DVD Review of I, ROBOT