I, Robot appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. At all times, this became a strong presentation.
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, and I witnessed no edge hales or print defects.
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 disc 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 distinctive picture that was always a pleasure to watch.
Even better was the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. 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. The soundtrack acted as an excellent complement to the visuals.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2005 Collector’s Edition DVD? Audio showed greater depth and range, while visuals were tighter, smoother and more precise. As good as the DVD was, the Blu-ray topped it.
(Note that I thought the 2005 CE and the original 2004 DVD looked/sounded virtually identical, so comparisons between the Blu-ray and the first DVD match what I said above.)
The Blu-ray repeats the CE’s extras, and 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. Since the composer talks over many cues, the set-up won’t be satisfying for fans of movie scores.
Because 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.
New to the Blu-ray, an Annotated Guide offers a text commentary. It looks at the source novel and its adaptation, story/character choices, historical notes about robots and other scientific notions, cast and performances, sets, effects and visual design, and related topics.
On the positive side, the “Guide” gives us a nice overview of useful topics. It covers a good array of domains and does so in a rich, informative manner.
On the negative side, the presentation can be distracting. Whereas most text commentaries feature complete statements on screen all at once, the “Guide” only shows one line at a time, even if this means it cuts off sentences.
This forces us to stare at the text more often than usual, and this makes it tougher to watch the movie. That presentation issue aside, the “Guide” becomes a very good text commentary.
Next we shift to Day Out of Days: The I, Robot Production Diaries. These segments add up to one hour, 16 minutes, 33 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 75 minutes 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 five subdomains. All together, they run 21 minutes, 29 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, 58 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.
Four Deleted Scenes last six minutes, 48 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 disc. These come from Digital Domain (4:05), Weta Digital (1:47) and Rainmaker (2:51). All show scenes at various stages of effects completion, and they become a fun addition.
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 Blu-ray presents excellent picture and audio as well as a strong roster of supplements. While the movie doesn’t work as well as I’d like, this becomes a terrific Blu-ray.
To rate this film visit the original DVD Review of I, ROBOT