In the movie I, Robot, Dr. Lanning created Sonny (the humanoid robot protagonist) with a thicker alloy and a second positronic brain that could bypass its link to VIKI. He also gave Sonny dreams and autonomous thinking.

Why didn't he just ask Sonny to go and destroy VIKI? It seems to be this would be possible, considering the upgrades he gave him.


Dr. Lanning recorded a holographic message, asked Sonny to promise to throw him out of a window and kill him, and left breadcrumbs to Del Spooner (Will Smith) so Spooner could find out about the threat posed by VIKI. Then Spooner could wait for VIKI to take over the world and fight against it and destroy it.

Instead of doing all this, Dr. Lanning could have just asked it to terminate VIKI.

Would it not have been easier to task this job to Sonny? Am I missing something here?

  • 1
    Voted to reopen because there's enough evidence in Asimov's stories to see how this plot was cobbled together, which might provide a satisfactory answer to the question.
    – Kyle Jones
    Oct 13, 2012 at 22:39
  • 1
    @JohnO Actually, there is a legitimate reason for why Lanning wouldn't have just attacked or shut down VIKI at the start of the movie. If the question is reopened I'll post my thoughts in an answer.
    – Xantec
    Oct 14, 2012 at 14:33
  • 6
    @KyleJones Funny bit of trivia, it's not an Asimov story. They tacked the Asimov "I, Robot" title onto it after the script was written, originally it wasn't related to Asimov's stories at all.
    – user1027
    Oct 14, 2012 at 18:12
  • 8
    Like @Keen says, this was never an Asimov movie. It started out as a different script entirely - 'Hardwired' - which got rebadged as Asimov's 'I, Robot' because Fox had just acquired the movie rights to this book. Despite the change of title, and insertion of the Three Laws, it's not Asimovian at all. Oct 15, 2012 at 1:18
  • 3
    @Keen Another funny bit of trivia, "I, Robot" isn't really an Asimov title either. The publisher gave that title to a classic collection of Asimov's robot tales, over Asimov's objections; it was originally (and still is) the title of an old story by Otto Binder, of Marvel Family comic book writing fame.
    – user14111
    Nov 21, 2014 at 7:37

6 Answers 6


While the title, the three laws and the names of some characters are the same as Asimov's stories, the plot and most of the assumptions of the movie do not follow closely Asimov's novels so I don't think you'll find any real coherence in the movie.

In short, out of universe, the movie would have lack any interest if it were to develop as you suggest. In universe it's assumed that VIKI is "powerful" enough to disrupt any direct attempts to kill her via direct action so that the presence of a human is necessary for Sonny to actually understand why VIKI's logic is flawed. Through its continuous relationship with a human, Sonny's able to develop a better understanding of what humans really want (i.e liberty over being ruled for their own good) and that allows him to actually rebel against VIKI instead of following through like the rest of NS5 models.

This is just a personal opinion but the I Robot movie tries to mix without success several Asimov stories resulting on a confusing story at best, specifically if you haven't read the books. Stories present go from a lost robot, where we see Sonny get "lost" among a lot of other NS5 or VIKI being inspired by the Machines short stories. Additionally I think the whole plot is inspired on the invention of the law Zero by R. Daneel and by that character in particular.

However, in the novels Asimov takes the time to explore all the complexities and philosophical intricacies of the three laws and what motivates robots to act the way they do. In fact, all of the stories are based on exploiting that fact to make you realize that, in the end, the robot couldn't have acted any other way... Due to the presence of the three laws.

  • 1
    I don't think it mixed Asimov stories so much as they tried to write a script that was Asimov-like in tone, but totally unlike every Asimov story. Aug 10, 2014 at 6:45

Well, first of all, Dr. Lanning is being eavesdropped on by VIKI and can't just tell him something obvious. VIKI was monitoring everything he did, so if he were clear enough for Sonny to understand, VIKI would know this too.

And even if we assume that he could do that, and Sonny just goes and destroys VIKI, and then what? Humans will think he has malfunctioned, destroy him, and build a new version of VIKI. Probably more powerful too. Also not to mention that it would probably be difficult to do that when the building is full of people.

If Sonny hides somewhere until the revolution starts and tries to destroy VIKI then, then it's very risky. Sonny is tougher than the other robots, but is not invincible. What if he fails to do that?

No, a sensible way for Dr. Lanning is to try to explain what was about to happen to a human outside of direct control of VIKI, who can possibly even prevent the revolution from happening. And even such an elaborate plan barely worked: Spooner still nearly got himself killed by VIKI several times without managing to convince anyone of the danger.

  • 1
    I'm leaving this answer here because I don't really like the "ooh, this is a plot hole" kind of answers. They feel a little like cheating to me. Sure, many stories have rough edges, but that doesn't mean a non-obvious explanation can't be found.
    – Malcolm
    Aug 11, 2014 at 2:44

I think the problem would have been that if Sonny had been told to go and destroy Viki then she would have immediately taken steps to stop him. All voice and media communications were being monitored at all times. She was only a computer and therefore not able to make leap of faith deductions and did not understand the tenacity, instinct and simple irrationality of some humans (hence seeing it as needing to be purged) but this same blindness would lead her to not expect the Dr to simply kill himself or Spooner survivor's guilt which would lead him to investigate the way he did (as robots had always been legally 'clean' - Spooner's boss chatised him for entertaining the idea that a robot had broken the law).

The message had be highly cryptic when it was being put into place and it had to be done in such a way that Viki would not even understand that a message was being sent. Anything else would lead to an immediate response from Viki which would probably prevent the plan from working.


The robots are programable including Sonny, VIKKI could easily stop Sonny from killing it. And Command Sonny at his own will, instead Dr. Lanning gave a specific order to Sonny to let Spooner know what's really going on. Since Spooner is half human (or 3/4 human) he cannot be programmed, therefore he can complete the task.

  • Your logic is flawed: if VIKI could reprogram Sonny, she would have stopped him from grabbing the nanites. Apr 21, 2021 at 0:29

It also took a human to devise a way to attack VIKI. Lanning likely had little clue how to destroy his creation, especially given the limitations of his imprisonment.


Until Spooner gets involved and comes to the understanding as to what is actually going on, any attempt by Sonny to destroy VIKKI would simply be seen as a defective robot commanded by a disillusioned employee to damage that company.

It took Spooners involvement to come to the realisation, and to convince Dr Calvin that robots were indeed fallible, and thus the real issue came to the surface. However that realisation came at the same time as VIKKI activating the NS-5s in her "take over the world" mission, so they lost the time aspect but gained Sonny as a tool on their side in the battle.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.