LOS ANGELES – The best science fiction makes the incredible seem ordinary, and if any actor knows how to do this — and turn out a summer blockbuster at the same time — it's Will Smith (search).
In the new action thriller "I, Robot," (search) which opens this weekend, Smith plays Del Spooner, a Chicago cop in the year 2035 who has a deep mistrust of the robots (search) that have taken over for humans in trash collecting, dog-walking and other chores.
Spooner needs the help of Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan (search)), a psychologist whose job it is to make the U.S. Robotics creations more human.
The filmmakers "created a future that resembles today, which I think makes the movie feel more acceptable and feel more real to people," Smith told FOX News.
Co-star Moynahan thinks the film looks more like tomorrow than today. "This is where we're headed," she told FOX News.
"I, Robot," loosely adapted from the short stories of Isaac Asimov (search), has more smarts than the usual Smith summer movie, preserving much of the philosophy that made sci-fi master Asimov's tales a blueprint for fiction that followed about human-machine interaction.
The machines are programmed to obey Asimov's famed three laws ensuring they will not injure humans or allow humans to come to harm through inaction. And while no robot has ever committed a crime, Smith's character is convinced one of the machines has carried out a murder.
In between highway chases, car wrecks, explosions and gunfire, "I, Robot" ponders the nature of intelligence, the unforeseen contradictions in machine logic and the timely notion of whether individual freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of humanity.
The film even incorporates the irony of a black cop accused of unreasoning prejudice against robots when Smith's character is told, "I suspect you just don't like their kind."
The movie contains hundreds of computer-generated characters, which makes for a strange set for the actors.
"The process we used for the robots was similar to the process that they used in 'Lord of the Rings' for Golum, where it was actually a person," Smith told FOX News, explaining that he "actually got to do the scenes with a person, which gives it a whole other texture and depth and a real interaction to it ... normally they'll put a tennis ball or something but I was able to actually perform with a person, which made it a little better.
"They also used his facial expressions and his movements and his voice and all that so it gives the robot a very realistic creepy kind of feel to it."
Moynahan told FOX News the process was a new experience for her.
"A lot of it was just green screen, so I did most of my work with nothing actually in front of me and I had no idea what the movie was going to look like."
Her co-star Smith has practically owned July since the mid-1990s, his charm often enough on its own to draw in audiences from the summer heat.
While it has smarts, "I, Robot" also delivers the brawn, action and wisecracking that audiences have come to expect from Smith at this time of year in such flicks as "Independence Day," the "Men in Black" movies and last year's "Bad Boys II."
"I think when we look back in 50 years, the one discernible skill that Will Smith will have displayed is the ability to choose a summer movie. I think that is my skill more than anything," Smith, 35, told The Associated Press, recalling with a laugh how he's scored hits with movies critics trashed, such as "Independence Day" and "Wild Wild West."
"I am a serious summer movie fan, and I know the type of movie that needs to be in July. I have a sense of what audiences want to see. What I hoped to develop with 'I, Robot' was the ability to push it forward," Smith said.
Accustomed to physical training for action roles, Smith said "I, Robot" also required the same level of dramatic preparation he put in for more serious films such as "Six Degrees of Separation" and "Ali," which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor.
"He's a multitalented guy. He's got immense energy. He's a dynamo. He works like crazy and loves what he does," said "I, Robot" director Alex Proyas. "It seems like a lot of actors sort of find their little niche and stick to it, where Will is all about trying something new each time."
Come fall, Smith provides the lead voice to the animated comedy "Shark Tale," about a small fry who becomes a big fish when he falsely takes credit for doing in a great white that was the son of the local mob boss.
Early next year, Smith has his first romantic comedy lead with "The Last First Kiss," in which he plays a "date doctor" who guarantees male clients that he can make women fall in love with them in three days.
Smith also has a new album due out around the holidays. A self-described techno-geek, Smith said the album will feature a song whose vocals and instrumentation were recorded and mixed with a portable keyboard and a laptop keyboard, all on his own in a hotel room.
With success in movies, music and television, Smith keeps himself grounded with the thought that "there's something greater that I would like to achieve, there's something greater in store for me in the universe," he said.
"I don't view it as the end, as where I was going. I don't say, 'Whoa, I've succeeded,'" Smith said. "I still feel like I'm in the trenches. I love my life, I love where I am, but I don't feel like I have arrived. ...
"I'll keep doing it all as long as people want to hear it. Well, actually, I'll do it probably a little bit longer than people want to hear it."
FOX News' Mike Waco and The Associated Press contributed to this report.