this began with intriguing concept of post-apocalyptic future in which robots were built to help fix earth damaged from abnormal solar radiation which has wiped out the majority of humanity. when it becomes clear the projects assigned to the robots aren't actually working, people start to turn on the robots, directing irrational hatred towards them that the planet is essentially doomed.
All that is covered in an expo-dump with still images. the movie begins with the idea that these robots are bound by two protocols; never to hurt humans and never to touch themselves (for repair or alteration) and at the start of the film, a randomly drugged up guy finds a robot repairing itself and shoots it in the head.
then we get to Antonio banderas as Jacq Vaucan, who works for the company that makes the robots, has a pregnant wife who does nothing in the film, and is tasked with figuring out who is responsible for altering the robot. this somehow leads him and the drugged up cop to Cleo, a robot that has been altered and works as a prostitute. drugged up cop, played by Dylan McDermott, for absolutely no reason goes berserk, shoots off Cleo's leg, and says he will slit Jacq's throat next time they meet.
Jacq then encounters the person responsible for altering Cleo, Dr Dupre, and they have a tedious philosophical discussion involving evolution.
It genuinely feels to me that a significant portion of the plot got excised at this point, because out of nowhere the company Jacq works for somehow thinks Jacq is the one responsible for altering the robots and has somehow betrayed his entire species. They also inexplicably have footage of a robot altering another robot, footage which never appeared at any point earlier in the film, nor do we ever see or later find out where this footage was acquired.
Now the company sends some random children to murder Dr Dupre and Jacq, but Jacq escapes with Cleo. He then gets knocked out in a car crash and Cleo and a bunch of other robots are now dragging him through the desert.
We also go back to one of the company men, Robert, who hires the drugged up cop to go find and rescue Jacq and bring him back alive, while the company is trying to kill him for no real reason. The drugged up cop finds Jacq and immediately tries to kill him for absolutely no reason, and Jacq kills him with a flare gun.
The drugged up cop's partner escapes and tells the company that Jacq was in the desert with some robots he says were "alive" for no reason. The robots did not act differently from regular robots, nor display any sign of disobeying the two protocols. Something went seriously wrong in the writing or editing in this part of the movie.
eventually they take Jacq to a place at the end of the desert where they meet the person responsible for first altering robots... and it's a robot as well. this one is apparently conscious and self-aware and has free will and is building a new robot.
The company, at this point somehow convinced that Jacq is responsible for altering ALL the robots and trying to escape and has some secret plan of some sort which is explained
The best we get is a backstory with one of the company executives describing how they made a fully conscious robot that learned everything from humans in 8 days, then became smarter than humans, so they made it develop the Two Protocols for future robots, then deactivated it.
Aside from making for interesting backstory, this is in no way relevant to the movie at all, and is never brought up ever again.
So now the company has kidnapped Jacq and Robert's wives and Jacq's newborn daughter for no reason. They then send some of their people out to the desert to get Jacq, and then for no reason at all start threatening Robert and then shoots him.
At no point is this betrayal explained. When Jacq shows up and finds Robert dying, Robert accuses Jacq of betraying all of mankind, while Jacq literally says that he hasn't even done anything and is just trying to get home. Robert then tells him they have his wife, and Jacq runs off somewhere.
The robots are now trying to use a ferry to cross over a dry river to get to a radioactive area where they can go on and live free from humans. The company people then arrive and start killing the robots, apparently thinking they are hiding Jacq or that Jacq is trying to escape with them or something.
Then Jacq appears in a car and runs down most of the company men, then gets into a shootout with the head guy. The head guy then accuses Jacq of betraying mankind. For no reason, Jacq only seems to implicate himself, by saying that humans are not his people anymore, which leads me to believe that a massive amount of the movie ended up getting cut. One of the robots, built like a cockroach, goes and kills the company guy and saves Jacq. Cleo and the cockroach then go off into the desert and Jacq and his wife go home.
ultimately, this movie spent about 50 minutes as a moody, noirish vibe somewhat reminiscent of "Blade Runner" with hints of I, Robot, after which it combusts into an incoherent mess of ill-defined accusations, nonexistent conspiracies, and several boring scenes in the desert culminating in a boring action sequence.
And it bears repeating yet again that Jacq Vaucan has not done a single thing for the entire second half of the movie, yet if you hadn't watched his scenes at all you'd think he was Jason Bourne kicking ass all over the city in a fight to clear his name.