Quick Take: Fox enters the catalog Blu-ray 3D arena with flashes of brilliance and trouble with consistency.
I, Robot represents a landmark Blu-ray 3D release for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and not because it stars the former king of summer box office returns Will Smith. Fox has embarked upon a new initiative to tediously up-convert select high profile films from their extensive catalog to 3D exclusively for release on Blu-ray 3D. I, Robot bears the distinction of being the first of these films to make its public debut.
Why I, Robot and not a higher profile Will Smith summer vehicle in the Fox library such as Independence Day, the second title expected to be released as part of the Fox Blu-ray 3D catalog initiative? In case you had forgotten or simply chose to ignore, I, Robot is laced with visual effects and CGI-created characters, and is only eight years old. Those artificial elements combined with extensive use of action set-pieces and large, sometimes cavernous artificial sets are perfectly suited to creating natural dimensionality.
Though I, Robot is not as memorable as Independence Day or several other Will Smith popcorn flicks, its visual effects and CGI robots stand the test of time remarkably well compared to its modern counterparts. Sonny’s initial escape still amazes, and the robots attacking Smith’s car is fuel for my inner action and adrenaline junkie.
I, Robot is one of those films that I often forget about entirely, yet cannot stop watching when stumbling onto it by accident. Will Smith is not the reason, either. It’s simply a fun movie to kick back, enjoy, and more recently draw loose comparisons to Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
How does I, Robot kick off Fox’s catalog Blu-ray 3D initiative? As well as you can possibly hope given it was not shot natively in 3D and has been cropped down to 1.78:1 from 2.35:1.
Let’s start with the bad. Inconsistent use of depth and 3D plagues I, Robot. Some scenes, mostly those involving dialogue and character exposition, look identical to the Blu-ray 2D version – as if no attempt was made to add even a smidgen of dimensionality. Meanwhile scenes were an obvious effort has been made to utilize 3D almost look like a different film in comparison.
The introduction of Will Smith’s character as he walks the streets of futuristic Chicago suffers from a little too much 3D. By this I mean the people walking the streets appear as cardboard cutouts walking on different planes. It’s a little too layered and comes across as unnatural.
Where I, Robot in 3D earns its stars is when the background is pushed a great distance away from the camera. Hallways, foyers, tunnels and warehouse-sized rooms make the best use of 3D in adding believable depth. There are quite a few scenes in I, Robot that fit this category and stand out from the pack.
As most films rely on the climax to deliver the best goods, so does the 3D presentation. The final battle with V.I.K.I., the artificial intelligence controlling the robots, might as well has been storyboarded to be shot in 3D. V.I.K.I.’s chamber is a good 100 stories tall and the camera is actively moving around the space and taking advantage of the vast expansiveness of it. This sequence in 3D makes the disc worth purchasing, even if the rest of the film is a hit-and-miss experience.
Fox has created a V.I.K.I. inspired new 3D Blu-ray menu to get viewers in the multi-dimensional presentation to follow. I wish the components of the visuals were somehow interactive, but it’s hard to complain about getting a new menu when Fox could just as easily recycled the old one.
The incredible 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix on the Blu-ray 3D presentation is the same from the previously released 2D version of the film on Blu-ray. It most certainly did not require any additional work.
Beyond the Feature
I, Robot is packaged with a lenticular 3D sleeve that you will definitely want to ensure is included if picking up the title second-hand. It also comes with customary Blu-ray 2D and DVD presentations, with the DVD and standard definition bonus features being housed on a separate second disc.
The 3D presentation is the prize here so no new bonus features are included. To give you an idea of how old the bonus features are, one of them is to catch new episodes of Arrested Development… on Fox. I would have liked to see a short new featurette addressing the decision to dip into the catalog for Blu-ray 3D releases and some technical insight into how the effects were achieved. For now that information will have to be acquired via your Internet search engine of choice.
Technically “new” are Blu-ray 3D trailers for Prometheus and Immortals. The full suite of bonus features include:
- Commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
- The Making of I, Robot
- Still Gallery
- Trailer: Arrested Development
- 3D Trailers: Prometheus and Immortals
Did I, Robot really need a conversion to 3D? Not really, but it did present ample opportunity for Fox’s engineers to get the best out of the format without the benefit of having the film shot with 3D cameras. It’s not a consistent 3D presentation, an issue that might plague future catalog Blu-ray 3D titles from Fox. But it does offer up some 3D sequences worth taking a few moments to skip to and watch multiple times on end.
– Dan Bradley
Shop for I, Robot on Blu-ray 3D for a discounted price at Amazon.com (October 23, 2012 release date).