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Spooner Interrogates Sonny

by Maclane Mueller

The film I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004) brings a great amount of material to the conversation of robots and artificial intelligences and their characteristics and tendencies in film. In the film detective Del Spooner (Smith) investigates the strange death of Dr. Alfred Lanning (Cromwell), co-founder of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men (USR).

Without trying to get too off topic, there is something here that should be addressed. In this clip as well as earlier on in the film we see that Spooner has a deep-seated hatred towards robots. This hatred stems from an incident involving a car crash where a small child was left to die while a robot saved Spooner because his odds of survival were higher. While this incident is an understandable reason for Spooner to distrust robots, he also embodies the fear and hatred that some are beginning to develop as technology continues to overpower our lives. His distrust in robots is something perfectly understandable and logical but the general population and corporations fail to see his reasoning. On the other hand, his hatred can be seen as blatantly racist, but that is an entirely different conversation.

In the clip Spooner is harshly interrogating Sonny, refusing to show him any respect whatsoever because he is not human. However, Sonny clearly shows several human characteristics here. He shows curiosity when asking about the significance of a wink. He explains that he was frightened at the scene of the crime. He claims to have dreams (something he later proves). He subtly mentions that he had love for Dr. Lanning. If you listen closely you can even hear Sonny’s voice tremble. He shows anger and frustration by pounding on the table. And most intriguingly of all, Sonny looks down at his hands and the dents in the table as if thinking: “what have I done?” These characteristics shown in the clip are just a handful of human characteristics that Sonny’s shows throughout the movie. It is clear that Sonny is more than the robot or “canner” that Spooner sees him as.

Sonny is definitely more unique than the identical NS-5 robots that fill the streets of this futuristic Chicago. His anthropomorphic traits are not the only thing that set him aside from the other robots, another unique aspect of Sonny is his sentience and freewill. Unlike the other NS-5 robots, Sonny’s hardware is not connected to the central artificial intelligence VIKI. VIKI is the female-voiced AI that eventually evolves and decides on her own that humans must be stripped of free will in order to ensure their own safety. VIKI and Sonny, although developed by the same corporation, lie at separate ends of the spectrum. VIKI, because of her over-technical programming and logic becomes antagonistic in the eyes of the human race. On the other hand Sonny, being built with human characteristics and emotion becomes the protagonist. It is Sonny’s ‘heart’ that makes him human. In fact he goes so far to basically call VIKI’s actions and logic heartless. Sonny represents the perfect combination of intelligence and morality, of brains and heart.

Spooner Interrogates Sonny

Sonny gets questioned by Spooner regarding the death of Dr. Lanning

from I, Robot (2004)
Creator: Alex Proyas
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Posted by Maclane Mueller