01 December 2007

Archival Review: I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay by Harlan Ellison with Isaac Asimov

Trade paperback, 288 pages
Published 2004 (originally 1974)
Acquired March 2007
Read November 2007
I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay
by Harlan Ellison with Isaac Asimov

This isn't the script of the dreadful Will Smith film from a few years ago, but rather Ellison's 1970s straight adaptation of the Asimov "story-cycle", which never got produced because Ellison doesn't know when it pays to be polite to people.  It's an interesting thought experiment, though-- visually, it would have made a magnificent film, as the gorgeous illustrations show, though it's hard to imagine it satisfactorily being pulled off in the 1970s.  Nowadays, though... 

The adaptation of the chosen short stories is handled quite well-- inserting Calvin into "Robbie" is an obvious but excellent choice; I was surprised but happy to see "Runaround" included, as it's one of the best "Law problem" stories, and the addition of Calvin works; "Liar!" is adapted almost exactly, which makes sense, as it's probably the best Calvin story Asimov ever wrote; and "Lenny" might not actually be in the original book, but its method of inclusion here is inspired.  All in all, it makes for an excellent (and ultimately much more optimistic than Asimov's own) vision of the future of mankind.  The world is clearly not a Asimov one, though, but rather an Ellison one, and though that bothered me at times, it's the nature of adaptations.  If there's any substantial flaw, it's that the frame story is a little too long and involved; not everything that that happens in it is particularly relevant to the story Ellison is trying to tell.  But as for Calvin, Byerley, Powell, Donavan, and the rest, this is the cinematic treatment they deserved.

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