Unsurprisingly I’m a giant nerd. I’m the guy who went on for three or four posts about naming things in fantasy. For once though I shall build rather than attack. I just read I, Robot.
Now I will admit I saw the movie first years ago, this wasn’t a problem as the two have nothing in common but robots.
For those not in the know I, Robot is one of Isaac Asimov’s most famous novels. I don’t know if it was the one in which he invented the Three Laws of Robotics or just the one that helped formulate them, but it’s a rather famous and influential book.
I personally loved it.
There is no way they could make a movie out of this.
No really, the book is almost entirely devoid of plot, or even consistently recurring characters. Instead it’s a series of short stories of the history of robotics. What the book did well was build a sense of mystique and wonder around its subject matter. The robots started off mute and sorta dumb, they developed into smarter and smarter beings until they were actually running the world as metallic gods. They were benign gods, but they were directly influencing our life events because of their ability to manipulate the information we have to work with. Now I don’t personally like the idea of any sort of benign dictatorship, but it was a logical outgrowth of the three laws and actually shows how if given too much power a being operating under the command:
“No Robot shall harm a human, or through inaction allow a human to come to harm”
Can become rather dictatorial, choosing to essentially crush certain businesses and cause certain people to be fired. All of this was of benefit to humanity, but it strips an element of free will away.
More than anything though, what I, Robot did was create a sense of discovery and advancement. The feeling that you were watching great things unfold and the world change in a million subtle and unsubtle ways. This is what great science fiction does, it builds a sense of wonder and mystique, it leaves you with questions instead of answers. 2001 A Space Odyssey was such a good book not because of it’s linear easy to understand plot, but because the whole time you get this feeling of discovery and wonder, a glimpse at the process of human advancement. That’s why the use of classical music was so appropriate for the movie.
Star Trek built its loyal fan base not because the original episodes were great serial adventures with high production values and good writing. Instead Star Trek spoke to people because of it’s ability to give us a sense of wonder and joy about the future. It made space seems huge, potentially dangerous, but ultimately so worth it.
Heck even Star Wars, which is mostly re purposed adventure movies, left you with more questions than answers.
What’s the Force?
How did Vader become Vader?
What lead to this empire?
Now I’ve heard Lucas might make a prequel trilogy, I hope he does and knows to leave some mystery to the universe, and that the answers he provides have to be awesome. Like imagine how disappointed you’d be if you discovered that Vader, instead of being a great fallen hero twisted to the dark side, had actually been a whiny kid with ego issues.