Top positive review
Not at all bad...
15 December 2014
I've read a fair amount of SF down the years, but practically no Asimov, for some reason. I thought, then, that I'd be making a review uninfluenced by any considerations of how close the film was (or was not) to the book. Then the closing credits started with "Suggested by the book". Ah. So nothing really to do with the book then, not even "Based on", which is usually a bad enough sign. A quick skim of the more popular reviews here show that, sure enough, the film has very little to do with the book, barring the Three Laws.
Actually, it's still not at all bad. First, let me dispose of the two reasons why I'm not giving this 5*. Number one, Will Smith: it's not that I don't like him, but here he is playing the running, jumping, wise-cracking cop that he played in Men In Black. It's Agent J all over again, the only real difference being that he's in an SF drama instead of an SF comedy. He does it just fine, but there's still an element of "seen it all before" about the performance. Reason number 2 is that Hollywood once again lets SFX get in the way of the story. The main example is the ending. Someone went "Ooo! We can do this really cool climactic fight scene!!" The trouble is, for me, it jars against what was happening with the same participants earlier in the film. It spoils nothing if I tell you that the heroes inevitably win, but the truth is, they ought to have been dead in about 10 seconds. It left me going "Oh dear", rather than "Wow!"
Which is a shame, because the story, even if it has little to do with the book, is actually rather good, and well-handled, too. I'm not going to go into details - I wouldn't want to spoil things for you - but it builds nicely. Within the context of the setting, it's wholly plausible, each "reveal" of the next part of the plot, flashbacks included, feels natural, rather than forced or deus ex machina. The supporting cast do their jobs well, the SFX are classy, the score adds to the ambience as a good score should. It's shame the ending got a bit silly, and that Will Smith couldn't be a bit less J, but I liked it. And like it, as opposed to love it, is the official Amazon description of 4*, as opposed to 5.
It's a decent film. It won't be years before I pull it off the shelf again, for sure!