After “The Crow” and “Dark City”, Alex Proyas changes style and signs “I, Robot”, a summer blockbuster worn by Will Smith. A painful and conflicting experience for the director, who finds it difficult to combine with the demands of Fox.
I, Robot : artificial intelligence rebels
The plot ofI, Robot is based on the work of the writer Isaac Asimov, inventor of the laws of robotics, as well as on the concept of a script by Jeff Vintar entitled Hardwired, in which a robot kills a human. Released in 2004, the feature film by Alex Proyas takes place in Chicago, in 2035.
Traumatized police officer following a terrible accident, Del Spooner (Will Smith) hates artificial intelligence to the highest degree. A few days before the marketing of his new robot model for the USR company, the creator Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) dies after falling from his office at the top of the building of the firm. Shortly before his death, he records a video to ask Spooner, with whom he had befriended, to take charge of the investigation.
Very quickly, the inspector refutes the thesis of suicide. His suspicions are heightened when one of the last USR prototypes named Sonny (Alan Tudyk) goes on the run after being found at the scene of the possible crime. With the help of robopsychologist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), Spooner will attempt to understand Sonny’s motives, who seems to feel emotions and experience feelings.
Bruce Greenwood, Chi McBride and Shia LaBeouf complete the cast ofI, Robot. Grossing over $353 million worldwide, the film is a box office success. A commercial success which does not, however, make Alex Proyas want to continue collaborating with Fox.
Numerous interferences between Alex Proyas and I, Robot
Third feature film by the filmmaker, I, Robot adopts a tone as well as a turn that is clearly more consensual than The Crow and Dark City. The presence of Will Smith is obviously not unrelated to the fact that the film takes the shape of a summer blockbuster, but is not the only reason. Alex Proyas has to face the demands and remarks of 20th Century Fox. Then directed by Tom Rothman, the studio asked him in particular toinsert more jokes, like he entrusts it to the site CHUD in 2009.
I, Robot was not a special case within Fox at the time, since feature films like Daredevil Where Die Hard 4: Back to Hell, to name a few, are relieved of certain scenes in order to attenuate the violence with the aim of reach a wider audience. A situation that Alex Proyas saw on the set ofI, Robot, reason for which he refuses to work thereafter with 20th Century Fox.
When a rumor claiming that the filmmaker would be in charge of Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer begins to circulate, he denies by assuring that he would never have considered making it, despite his attachment to superheroes. He asserts to MTV in 2008 :
Because it’s a Fox movie. And I’m determined never to work with them again because of my experience on I, Robot.
Towards an extension of Dark City ?
A year later, for the release of the disaster film Predictions, in which Nicolas Cage tries to prevent future cataclysms, Alex Proyas reconsiders his remarks. Asked by Den of Geek, he explains that he is not against the idea of working again one day with Fox, adding:
It’s not that I oppose the studio. It’s the regime, the people who currently run it who are totally… let’s say: they’re not the filmmakers’ friends. And I’m not the only one to say that.
Since then, Alex Proyas has experienced a stunning commercial failure with the indescribable and memorable Gods of Egypt. With a budget of $140 million according to IMDb, the film earned just $150.6 million at the worldwide box office, including just $31 million in the United States. The director then focused on three short films, far from big studios, produced with his company Mystery Clock Cinema : Phobos, Strange Nostalgia and Mask of the Evil Apparition. The latter is part of the universe of Dark City, which Alex Proyas would like to develop in the future through a series. During a discussion for the Popcorn Frights Film Festival, Alex Proyas says, quoted by Bloody Disgusting and Large screen :
Dark City currently captures my full attention, because we are in the midst of developing a series Dark City. (…) I have to re-analyze everything in order to build a whole new story. I have to refresh my memory and manage to remember what we did, what worked or didn’t work, and re-evaluate my own film, so it’s a very enriching experience. that I had never known.