Sometimes serendipity puts two things together that belong. I was looking for something sci-fi-y to watch this morning and while digging in the I box I pulled out I Robot. I had just been thinking of it last saturday when it got mentioned at the TCLUG meeting. I thought it had been a while since I had seen it. It's a 2004 movie and I bet I haven't watched it since I got the dvd. So this morning it came out of the box and right next to it was the first movie I watched on this weeks Sunday AM double bill.
I Love Maria doesn't sound like a movie that would go with I Robot but it sure does. Both are cop stories that have robots that are trying to kill people and robots that fight each other. ILM is a 1988 low budget Hong Kong film by Tsui Hark. He co-wrote, co-directed and acts in the movie. Seems some criminal types are using a 8 foot tall robot called Pioneer 1 to rob places. The cops are as helpless as the gang is ruthless. John Sham plays a police inventor who is trying to think of a way to combat the robot. He's not having any luck. Then he stumbles upon an inept newspaperman, played by Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and a low level gangster named Whiskey, who's played by Tsui Hark. The three of them team up to win the day. The gang introduce their second robot. A robot named Maria. Maria is the spitting image of the woman who is second in command of the gang, as well as looking a lot like the robot in Metropolis. There's lots of mayhem as the police battle the robots and the robots battle each other. There's plenty of people on people action too. There's a lot of slapstick comedy, with lots of slappin', and lots of yellin'. There's lots of smashing into stuff, like walls, and breaking things, like cars and buildings. The robots look pretty good, especially Maria, who's played by Sally Yeh. Sally plays both Maria and the gangster lady. Maria is captured by the cops and Sham reprograms her to help them fight the gang. Sham and Whiskey fall in love with Maria and she keeps on blasting them with electricity. They return for more. They are idiots. It's reminds me some of the Japanese anime Lum. Because of the electrical blastin', which happens a lot. There's a lot of yellin' in that series too. Very noisey. The action in ILM picks up with the arrival of the Pioneer 3. There's a lot of stuff going on all the time and the movie is a hoot. I always have something to laugh about.
That's Sally in the pics above. The guy is Tsui Hark. Hark is an interesting guy. He got some film education at a couple of universities in Texas before returning to Hong Kong to turn the film industry on it's ear. That's not much more dramatic than it really was. He sure was a shot to the head. I enjoyed many of his early movies from the mid 80's to the late 90's. After that I had lost some interest in the Hong Kong film industry. I'd seen pretty much seen all the good stuff. Hark's Peking Opera Blues, Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, and the first three of the Once Upon A Time In China series with Jet Li are favorites of mine. All worth seeing if you haven't. Most of them can be had fairly cheaply from Asian dvd stores and internet sites.
Alex Proyas's I, Robot has some elements in common with the Isaac Asimov stories. But the main one is robots. Lots of robots. It's not actually based on any one Asimov story, it uses his concepts like The Three Laws of Robotics and parts of his stories like Little Lost Robot and The Evitable Conflict. That sort of adaptation doesn't bother me, though there are some haters over at the IMDb message boards, the movie stands alone. Will Smith is a cop who's all robophobic. He's got some guilt about a 'bot pulling him out of the river instead of a young girl. She died. He's sent to investigate the death of a robotic scientist. A scientist he knew. Did the guy kill himself or was he murdered? Will thinks a robot might have done it. Everyone laughs and calls him crazy. Robots try to kill him. Who's crazy now? Will looses his gun and then his boss takes away his badge. His boss is Chi McBride. I always enjoy that guys work. Things get weirder and weirder for Will as he unravels the clues to the murder. Will is joined in his quest for answers by Bridget Moynahan and a robot named Sonny. Like the first movie, it's a trio, one of whom is a robot. Neither of the humans falls in love with the robot in this movie. They do like him though. The three of them team up to win the day. The stunts are bigger in this $120,000,000 Hollywood blockbuster than it's poor Chinese cousin and the sets complex and vast. The CGI is pretty darn good. It's another movie to watch occasionally. Proyas is also responsible for Dark City. That's an interesting one. Well worth checking out, though not for everyone.