I, Robot – The Illustrated Screenplay by Harlan Ellison

It has been almost 4 years since the movie I, Robot (2004) was released. I was terribly disappointed that the Hollywood movie was barely anything like the book of short stories that I remembered reading, which I explained in my review. After browsing the Internet looking for other reactions I discovered that a screenplay written by Harlan Ellison had received a glowing review from Isaac Asimov.

–edit– 4-16-2008
I just ran across this interesting NPR story from 2004 that talks about the fan reaction to the original I, Robot movie. There are a few comments from Harlan Ellison and Irving Kirchner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, as one the prospective directors. The audio story is available in Real Media and Windows Media Player formats.
–edit–

The Illustrated Screenplay is preceded by a letter from Asimov detailing his thoughts about how none of his science fiction had made it to the silver screen. He points out that he wrote the novelization for Fantastic Voyage was based on a script that took so long to finish filming that the book came out six months before the movie. I always enjoy reading Asimov’s commentary on other people’s work, especially in the Robot City series.

Next, Harlan Ellison gives us a brief background of the history behind the events surrounding the script for I, Robot that was never made into a movie. Ellison writes this with a very frank manner which I found intriguing. He made me feel the disgust that he felt after the script was finally shelved. After reading the script my feelings were even stronger.

This script succeeded in doing what the 2004 version failed to do, stay true to Isaac Asimov’s vision. Asimov identified four stories that Ellison incorporated into this screenplay, but I’ve identified five; Robbie, Runaround, Liar!, Evidence, and The Evitable Conflict. Several of these stories are covered almost exactly, while others are modified to insert Susan Calvin into them as she is the main focus of the screenplay.

I was pleased to see that Calvin was much as Asimov envisioned, not the sexy Bridget Moynahan that Hollywood insisted on. If I want to watch an action movie with a hot actress, there are plenty others to choose from. While a majority of the elements come directly from Asimov’s writing, there are many aspects to this screenplay that are unique. The main two differences are that there are aliens allied with humans in a Galactic Federation and teleportation is the primary mode of space travel.

This screenplay is not a fluffed up and full of action, but an adult oriented Sci-Fi drama. There are adult themes and situations, philosophical discussions, and harsh language. This movie would probably get by with a PG-13 rating today, but would likely have been rated R because of a few scenes back in 1978 when it was finalized. This was a truly enjoyable read, and any fan of Isaac Asimov should make it a point to read it.

2 thoughts on “I, Robot – The Illustrated Screenplay by Harlan Ellison”

  1. I find it interesting that many people moan about a project as being a piece of garbage, but they still manage to make a half billion dollars at the box office. The general public are not extremely intelligent, for if they were a fantastic screenplay like Ellison’s would find favor at the studios and be greenlit. If you want to view films based on great speculative fiction, don’t look to Columbia, Paramount et al. Most of these companies are run by agents putting together package deals. Luckily they haven’t jumped on a great novel like Stranger in a Strange Land. I hear Universal has Justin Beiber in mind for Valentine Micheal Smith!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you are a human * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Post

2012 (2009) Directed by Roland Emmerich2012 (2009) Directed by Roland Emmerich

2012 bluray

Last weekend my wife and I watched 2012 with a couple of friends. We planned on making some chocolate martinis, and I have to say they definitely improved the movie watching experience. About a quarter of the way through the movie we were wondering when the introduction of new characters was going to end. Most of them are empty with no depth whatsoever. I can’t tell you anything about the main character’s ex-wife other than she divorced him and is now with a plastic surgeon. Don’t bother watching this if you are expecting a gripping story. (more…)

Wrapping it up, the epic saga of Isaac Asimov’s Robot and Foundation Universe – PrologueWrapping it up, the epic saga of Isaac Asimov’s Robot and Foundation Universe – Prologue

Almost three years ago I set out on a massive project to read all 36 of the books in the Robot and Foundation Universe. The main thing that prompted me to start this project was an eBay auction that had a specific book I was looking for (The End of Eternity, which is loosely connected to this project) and several other books which I’ve already read. I purchased about 16 books in a lot for about $35 total. After finding this deal I decided to try and purchase every book in the series, which I eventually accomplished. (more…)

Isaac Asimov’s Robot City Book 6: Perihelion by William F. WuIsaac Asimov’s Robot City Book 6: Perihelion by William F. Wu

Robot City 6: Perhelion book cover

As I stated in the general Robot City review, Isaac Asimov’s introduction to this book contains some major spoilers for the novel. Especially if you are reading the entire robot series in chronological order, I suggest not reading Asimov’s introduction unless you have finished both this novel and Robots and Empire. There are many spoilers for the rest of the Robot Novel series by Asimov also. This review will most likely contain spoilers for any previous books in the Robot City series, read at your own risk.

Doctors on Earth were able to cure Ariel of her sickness, but her memory was lost. Derec has shown signs of a sickness also, but doctors have assured him it is not what Ariel had. They finally escape and eventually Derec, Ariel, Mandelbrot, and Wolruf decide to return to Robot City to attempt to find a cure for Derec.

This book concentrates mainly on answering most of the questions that were developed in the rest of the series. Robot City appears to have covered the entire surface of the planet at this point. Derec must find out what Dr. Avery has done to him with the help of his friends. Some things are left unanswered, which frustrated me a bit. This seems a bit fitting because the climax opens the door for the next series, Robots and Aliens.