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I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  583 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Until the recent announcement of the Will Smith/Alex Proyas collaboration scheduled for release in 2004, numerous attempts had been made to adapt Isaac Asimov's classic story-cycle, I, Robot, to the motion picture medium. All efforts failed. In 1977, producers approached multiple-award-winning author Harlan Ellison to take a crack at this "impossible" project. He accepted, ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by iBooks (first published 1987)
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Aaron Arnold
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ellison may be a notorious jerk in the sci-fi world (see the decades of controversies over the infamously unpublished anthology The Last Dangerous Visions, or even the somewhat self-aggrandizing introduction to this volume), but his screenplay for Isaac Asimov's classic ended up being really good. He turned a somewhat loose collection of short stories into a coherent story, keeping an impressive amount of the material and characterization from the original works and even managing to emphasize As ...more
May 22, 2011 added it
Shelves: educational
In the 70s, when Asimov was still alive, Harlan Ellison got tapped to write a screenplay for I, Robot; but the script that we have is 270 pages long and Ellison was not shy about calling executives idiots, so this version never got made. Some people consider that a great shame; for instance, Asimov was reported to have said that this was the first adult science fiction movie. Now, there are huge changes that Ellison made to the context here (more on that in a moment), but I can see why Asimov li ...more
Craig Childs
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
In 1977 Harlan Ellison tried to adapt Asimov's groundbreaking collection of robot stories for the silver screen. In the wake of Star Wars, science fiction was hot and studios wanted to capitalize. Unfortunately, his screenplay was never produced due to budget concerns and "creative differences". According to Harlan, though, the differences weren't so much creative as personal. By his own account, Harlan told the head of CBS Studios he had the "brains of an artichoke", and the executive swore he' ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Harlan Ellison's I, ROBOT is an interesting (if flawed) read that manages simultaneously to surpass the awfulness that is Proyas's film and fall short of Asimov's original text.

While Ellison's screenplay holds much truer to Asimov's vision than the aforementioned film, in many ways it still wouldn't make a great film. Ellison crafts his screenplay by expanding and focusing upon two of the characters from Asimov's book: Susan Calvin and Robert Bratenahl (who?). Calvin is a logical choice for a ce
David Bonesteel
Jun 07, 2013 rated it liked it
While there seems to be a lot of potential in Harlan Ellison's treatment of the classic Isaac Asimov Robot stories, I think a few more drafts would be in order, if not a complete rethinking of the concept, before it would be ready for production. In his interesting and informative introductory essay, Ellison states that he constructed the framing device of reporter Robert Bratenahl's search for robot guru Susan Calvin as a means of avoiding an episodic structure, but since this story frame itsel ...more
Becky DeVendra
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is amazing. Ellison does what Asimov did not: write a compelling story centered on a character. Susan Calvin is connected to every robot of Asimov's stories. Her childhood mirrors Ellison's own (I've read an Ellison bio) in spots which gives it the ability to emotionally resonate.

Plus, there's a great battle at the end where characters use physics like magic. Uncertainty principle for the win! Brilliant.
Crystal Scruggs
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads, scifi
Wow! At first, I was caught up in the script format. I didn't like it. Then, as I read on. I fell in love & couldn't put it down. I wish I had Asimov's I, Robot for comparison.
Néstor Rodríguez
Sep 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
DO NOT BUY if you are looking for a really illustrated screenplay. This book is 270 pages long and only has 15 full page illustrations. 15!!! That's one every 18 pages! And they are not even good, some of them are extremely dull scenes (you have one with two dudes having a drink at a bar LOL, dude, I want to see the robots or Susan Calvin FFS!). Other than these full color pages, it has some few tiny black-and-white drawings of the characters scattered all over which I think don't add much. Sinc ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The screenplay takes quite a while to really get to the more recognizable Asimov storylines, about the first half of the book is setup for the audience. Once you get to those parts, it goes quicker (since they also are a bit more interesting that the basic reporter investigating something they shouldn't trope). One part/reveal of the ending felt a lot less impactful due to not actually be given much context throughout the rest of the book, but the rest was pretty good. It did take some getting u ...more
Michael Losasso
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very intriguing screenplay that would have made a hell of a film. Greatly combines Asimov's short stories into a mostly coherent narrative that is both thrilling and compelling. Good read!
Parallel Worlds
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Warner Bros., Inc., 1978

Intended Audience: Adult

Sexual content: Mild

Ace/Genderqueer characters: Yes (Robots)

Rating: PG-13 for nudity and language

Writing style: 3/5

Likable characters: 3/5

Plot/Concepts: 3/5

Robert Bratenahl is a reporter for Cosmos magazine. When handed an opportunity to uncover the truth about the famous robopsychologist Susan Calvin and her relationship with Mayor Stephen Byerley, how could he resist? But getting Susan Calvin alone is no easy feat, and the truth may not be someth
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am a fan of Ellison and Asimov, but I did not read this until recently due to some trepidation over the idea that it was written as a screenplay. While Ellison is, to me, the closest we have to a living embodiment of the Mark Twain style author and his screenplay for The City on the Edge of Forever is sweeping and better than the admittedly solid episode that bore the same title, I did not know how to feel about the idea of the screenplay for I, Robot. In some things I am wrong and my trepidat ...more
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is Ellison’s script, written in the late 1970s, for a full-length movie incorporating several of Asimov’s classic I, Robot stories.

The essay which begins this book is not as vitriolic as some others of Ellison’s, but it pulls no punches in chronicling the script’s journey through Hollywood. The process was characterized by delay after delay. The script was supposedly “impossible” to film. At one point, Ellison realizes that a certain studio executive, with the power to say Yes or No to the
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ellison takes several of Isaac Asimov's classic Robot short stories and weaves them into the life story of Susan Calvin, told in flashbacks to a reporter at the funeral for Stephen Byerley, First President of the Galactic Federation. Consequently, Ellison avoids the traditional pitfall of omnibus movies, such as "Tales from the Crypt," "The Twilight Zone" or "Creepshow," where whatever is used to link the segments together is of no importance to the overall film.

Ellison's introductory essay is
Barry Davis
Written in collaboration with Isaac Asmiov before his death, described by Isaac as the first adult science fiction movie ever made. Sadly, it has yet to be made, was torpedoed by Hollywood brass. This edition came with the Will Smith 1CI, Robot 1D DVD, not related to it at all. Introductions by both Asimov and Ellison. Asimov admitted that he cannot write for the screen, writes for the mind, was very pleased with Ellison 19s work.

Ellison follows Susan Calvin through her life, weaving a number o
Barry Davis
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
written in collaboration with isaac asminov before his death, described by isaac as the first adult science fiction movie ever made. sadly, it has yet to be made, was torpedoed by hollywood brass. this edition came with the will smith “I, robot” dvd, not related to it at all. introductions by both asimov and ellison. asimov admitted that he cannot write for the screen, writes for the mind, was very pleased with ellison’s work.

ellision follows susan calvin through her life, weaving a number of t
David B
Dec 28, 2013 rated it liked it
While there seems to be a lot of potential in Harlan Ellison's treatment of the classic Isaac Asimov Robot stories, I think a few more drafts would be in order, if not a complete rethinking of the concept, before it would be ready for production. In his interesting and informative introductory essay, Ellison states that he constructed the framing device of reporter Robert Bratenahl's search for robot guru Susan Calvin as a means of avoiding an episodic structure, but since this story frame itsel ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant screenplay written by a master of the craft and based on a book that was once considered unadaptable. Written by Harlan Ellison and based on the short stories of Isaac Asimov, had this screenplay been produced, it would have been the Citizen Kane of science fiction; and would have given other great films of the genre, from 2001 to Star Wars, a run for their place as great science fiction films.

The introduction is written by Harlan Ellison and he describes the tumultuous struggle he
James Phillips
Harlan Ellison did a very good job of putting some of the short stories that appeared in Asimov's "I, Robot" into a cohesive screenplay. Of course the story was tweaked some but kept the core ideas of the short stories from that collection. Unfortunately, I don't think this will ever get made into a movie. It really had it's best chance when it was originally written. Read Ellison's forward on how the movie deal fell apart: a funny little story. However, I do think it would work well as a 3D ani ...more
Andrew Hackler
This screenplay by Robert Ellison gives a well written character drama inspired by Asimov’s novel. This is an interesting turn on a Robot centered book and in some ways challenges the action-packed sci-fi norm. This screenplay follows a reporter as he follows a now aged pioneer in the robotics agency. The largest problems with reading this work is with the expectations the genre places on it. This work focuses on the emotional bonds that man places in inanimate objects and the empathy we have in ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
A wonderful screenplay! Its easy to picture the scenes and actors on a large screen. Written by a true master!

This story crosses the whole "I, Robot" series, not just that particular story. This is nothing like the Will Smith movie (that was just one story out of the series). In true Ellison fashion, you may figure out some of the story, you'll have no idea how you get there!

This is a must read for any sci-fi fan!
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the version that would have been made into the movie that had Will Smith in it.

What sets this version apart from the other versions is that it stays truest to the work of Asimov and blends the stories of the I, Robot book into a cohesive narritive. The other films focused on one aspect and then ran with it.

This is the script they need to pick up 10 years from now when they do the re-make of the film.
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This would likely have made for a great movie. I hesitate to say it definitely would, having seen the squandered potential of A.I., but at its worst it would be good. Great concepts, complex characters, and a mystery through line stitching together several of Azimov's short stories from the classic book. Makes the Will Smith movie seem even worse... and it was already terrible.
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Asimov fans, robot lovers, sci-fi fans
Recommended to Deb by: my older brother
I've never read a screenplay before, but it was not difficult to read. Being somewhat familiar with Asimov's robot stories, I recognized the characters and I appreciated the way the stories were woven together. This is WAY better than the movie with Will Smith (whom I like as an actor). It truly is a shame that this was never made.
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at what might have been. The structure weaves together elements from Asimov's stories in a way that's mostly satisfying. Ellison does take a few liberties, but with good reason and to good effect. the result is certainly far truer to the source material than the Will Smith action spectacle that did get made.
What I learned from this book:

CU means closeup. Ext CU means extreme closeup. BG means background. Oh, and although Will Smith's movie was entertaining, it should not have been the first film made.
David Allen
Jan 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Ellison's unproduced screenplay of Asimov's "I, Robot" makes for surprisingly good reading. He takes a "Citizen Kane" approach, focusing on Susan Calvin to make several of Asimov's unrelated stories part of a whole. Would have been a rarity: a mature SF drama.
Philip Gelatt
Got about 30 pages into this, found it very interesting from an adaptation, as well as screenplay format, standpoint.

Never read the actual book though and don't know that I have the patience to read this all the way through.
Mar 25, 2015 added it
It's probably a good thing this screenplay didn't come to life. It didn't do the original novel justice and the really sad part is that it was less interesting than the I'Robot film that actually was made.
Hunter Johnson
I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, by Harlan Ellison. Not the screenplay for the Will Smith movie, but an unfilmed screenplay that sticks to the original stories more closely.
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Harlan Jay Ellison is a prolific American writer of short stories, novellas, teleplays, essays, and criticism.

His literary and television work has received many awards. He wrote for the original series of both The Outer Limits and Star Trek as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; edited the multiple-award-winning short story anthology series Dangerous Visions; and served as creative consultant/write
More about Harlan Ellison...

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